Tuesday 23rd July 2024

The pressures of setting a Christmas budget

Christmas Shopping

As you know, Christmas is just around the the corner. I’ve written previously about buying your Christmas presents early and keeping spending to a budget. I’d like to now talk about setting that budget, and how difficult it can be when you’re pressured to go over it.

I used to be friends with this girl: let’s call her Alice*. Alice and I were buddies when we were about 24. We hung around a lot, but we weren’t like best buds. We would hang out at the local pub drinking cider and black, and eating Quavers – like classy ladies.

One morning in November, Alice called me out of the blue. Our conversation went something like this:

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Alice: ‘Hey Rosie, how much were you planning to spend on me for Christmas?’

Me: ‘I don’t know. Why?’

Alice: ‘Because I’ve seen something that costs about £25 that would be perfect for you, but if you’re not spending £25 or more on me, I’m not getting it for you.’

I’d have been super embarrassed if I’d bought her a box of Roses and she’d bought me a TV.

What could I say? I was intrigued; what was this £25 piece of perfection that I could miss out on? So, of course, I told her that I would spend £25 or more on her. On Christmas morning, I opened the massive Soap and Glory gift set that she’d purchased for me. I genuinely love Soap and Glory, so she’d done a good job. However, the whole situation left me feeling a bit rubbish. My family and I have never really been big spenders on presents. Christmas and birthdays have always had a strict spending limit, mostly down to the fact that we’re quite a big family.

On average, I spend around £15-£20 per person. I’ll spend a little more if there was something they’d absolutely love, but not much more. I spend around double that on my partner, and less on some others (who I’m not that close to, but still get a gift). I get as much as I can for my budget; for example, we’re a family of book lovers, so I might get my brother a couple of very good-condition used books for the cost of one of them if it was brand new. I should add, this is my budget now – when I’m earning the most I ever have – albeit supporting an extra person at the same time (see my female breadwinner article for more on that). When I was 24, I had just moved back to the North East from London. I had bought a house, and I worked part time on the phones in a call centre. I was borrowing money from family left, right and centre to be able to pay for essentials (like the afore mentioned cider and black/Quavers). People were lucky not to be getting ‘love’ for Christmas, let alone a £25 gift.

I get so much fun out of making £15 worth of gifts look like £25 that everyone is a winner!

So, I know you’re all dying to ask, did I spend £25 on Alice? As you know, I’d promised to do it, even though I couldn’t afford it and I’d be spending substantially less on my family. Of course I didn’t! I worked out what £25 worth of gift would look like, went to charity shops, sales, even looked through my own stuff for unused gifts, and put her together a box of presents that looked expensive and, more importantly, that she loved.

I always feel very uncomfortable with this idea of discussing how much money people should spend on gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have been super embarrassed if I’d bought her a box of Roses and she’d bought me a TV, but that’s the roulette wheel you spin with gifts. You shouldn’t give something just to get something back that is of equal value. The purpose is to show someone you like them, it’s not some sort of seasonal bartering event. If it’s something you will love, who cares if it cost £1 or £100?

Also, I get so much fun out of making £15 worth of gifts look like £25 that everyone is a winner! Stick to your budget, stay happy, and enjoy the season!

*Not her actual name…

Rosie Earl

Uber-geek and tv addict. Keen writer and professional trainer in the financial sector. Rubbish at maths

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