The delightful Mimi returns with the second post in her Christmas preparation series – in which you’re encouraged to plan ahead and enjoy later.
In February, I am continuing my quest to be ready for Christmas in plenty of time. When I first wrote here in January, I explained about how rushed and hurried and disorganised I felt last Christmas. I wanted to make room for a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas this year, by being ready for the start of December. Last month I touched on reflecting back on the Christmas past to make sure that this year we don’t end up missing doing things we wanted to do, or being committed to things that drain us rather than fill us with joy.
This month I have two tasks on my to-do list that I hope you will join me for. The first task is all about money. This year I want to give myself the gift of not worrying about how much Christmas is going to cost. There are a few approaches to this, and hopefully, amongst these, you will find one that suits you.
It’s not all about the money but…
The first thing to do is to try and get a rough idea of how much Christmas cost you last year. You don’t have to comb your bank statement for every Christmas related purchase (unless you want to!) but it is worth jotting down roughly how much you spent on
- Christmas Food/Drink
- Entertaining – if you throw a Christmas drinks party or similar
- Christmas Gifts
- Christmas Cards
- Decorations – including a tree if you buy a live one
- Everything else
The purpose is not to make you feel bad or daunted by the sums. Instead, I want you to just think about each area and see if you feel happy with that. Are there areas you would like to spend less on? Are there areas you would like to spend more on? For example, you might decide that you want to buy only organic or locally produced food this year. Perhaps the extra money for that could come from sending your cards early. But sending them second class, or maybe shortening your card list, or choosing to send e-cards instead.
Maybe this year there is a group of family or friends you could suggest doing ‘Secret Santa’ instead of buying gifts for all. As a family, you may suggest a spending limit, or you could choose to make homemade gifts instead.
If you throw a Christmas party each year, maybe you could make it a cocktail and canape party or an afternoon tea rather than having to do lots of catering. Better still, why not make it a pot luck party, as most people will always ask ‘what can I bring?’
A little bit each month
Once you have a rough idea of how much you would like to spend in each category, it is time to add it all up, and then divide it by ten. In an ideal world, that is how much you need to tuck away each month. This could be into a savings account, with a savers union, or in a jam jar (if you have the discipline not to raid it!). However I know that life isn’t that simple for everyone, and that just may not be doable. What I would suggest it if you can’t save one-tenth each month, is to save what you can. Just make sure you put it aside as soon as you receive your monthly income.
I have started using a few pounds from my housekeeping each month to buy savings stamps to put in a little card at my local supermarket. Many supermarkets offer this scheme, and some offer incentives of an extra pound or two for each completed savings card. The trick is here that you can, of course, use it to buy your Christmas groceries. Or you can use it to pay for your usual grocery shopping in December. The cash you have saved doing that can then pay for one of your other categories of Christmas spending.
One last approach to try is for your Christmas gifts is to try to buy some each month throughout the year and save them away. I don’t know about you, but I never buy ‘Christmas Gifts’ of the kind you see in all the catalogues that get printed each year. I am more likely to buy something I think the person would like at any time of year. It really takes the pressure off, and it is a pleasing feeling to have a cupboard or drawer in use as a Christmas gift treasure chest. One word of warning here, keep a small list or notebook in your bag with what you have already bought and for whom, so you don’t accidentally end up buying more than one gift for the same person!
Plan your best December
The other thing I want you to do this month is to have a good think about December. Not necessarily Christmas itself, but the month of December. For me, the whole point of getting ready for Christmas early is so that I can enjoy Christmas, but also so I can enjoy December. Rather than rushing about being frazzled, I want to be present, to enjoy the month. So what does your ideal December look like for you? Remember sweep aside the entire notion of Christmas preparations…because they will already be done.
Make yourself a list, or an inspiration or mood board. Are there some books you would like to read? A particular walk you would like to go on? Would you like to see the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square? And then sing carols at St Martins In The Field? Take yourself or a friend to afternoon tea? Imagine how lovely it would be if you could decide to knit a pair of socks or crochet a small blanket in December. Not for a gift, just for you.
On Pinterest, there are several ideas for advent craft along (not necessarily advent themed, just to do over the course of advent) if you are looking for some inspiration. Perhaps you would like to commit to a daily yoga practise, or to write a letter to a different friend each evening. Dream your perfect December. In the coming months, we will sow the seeds to let it bloom.
I would love to hear what plans you have for your own simple, slow, savoured December. Do share them in the comments below!