Fancy depressing yourself just before Christmas? I obviously do because when I saw a report on the Which website headed “Families forced to cut back on Christmas spending” I went to the source to find out more.
The charity Family Action http://www.family-action.org.uk/standard.aspx?id=17206 has interviewed 22 of it’s “service users” (parents to you and me) and have estimated “…that the minimum acceptable Christmas costs £182.00”. They elaborate that “far from luxury, this cost represents a Christmas with a few trimmings and traditional element”. One hundred and eighty two pounds. That got me thinking, how much have I spent in the past on Christmas? For me, Christmas was a time of military precision. We had the larger house in our extended family, so naturally everyone would come to us. I would be planning the event well before the day, ensuring everyone had a bed to sleep in with a proper duvet and pillow – so much so that when we “downsized” I was shocked to discover how many pillows I had accumulated over the years. We had a z-bed and proper flocked double lilo for overspills. I would make the Christmas pudding beforehand, always being moaned at for not putting in the rare silver sixpences. Mum would make the cake, sometimes handing it to me to ice. Shopping would start early so that everything would be available on the day – Christmas morning “special” biscuits, alcohol, bubbly to open presents with, bubbly at the dinner table, turkey heavy enough for the table to require extra structural support, large turkey plate for turkey (used annually), table decorations, food heaters so stuff wouldn’t go cold on the table, special piece of mdf to extend the table, Christmas tree (shopping centre sized), room decorations which would often mean trekking out to pick greenery and a day spent in construction. Then I’d prepare the running order for the day, turkey on overnight, timings in writing, food prepared the night before, husband permanently at the washing up bowl, teas and coffees for everyone, it was truly a military operation. Did I enjoy it, yes, I did, it was an achievement ensuring everyone had a good time.
I won’t even begin to describe the last family Christmas we had which I decided would take the theme of a “Caribbean Christmas” complete with a 8ft handmade papier mache palm tree. I think you’ll agree, I had the luxury of time and money in order to achieve all this.
So what of this year? Like 3 out of the 22 families interviewed, I will be working, so time for making fripperies is limited. Also space is now severely restricted, so much so that I have already blown part of the £182 budget on a “narrow” 6ft Christmas tree (£19.99 Sainsbury’s – should have gone to Poundland), although quite where it is going to go is another matter. I will be a family of four, because my gorgeous niece and husband are coming to spend the day with me and my lodger will be there too, so I’m going to try to follow the principal of a Cut Price Christmas and see how I get on. However, about 75% of the budget has been spent on mine and my husband’s Christmas present, but …… excuses, excuses. I discovered that prisoners are allowed to have a guitar inside with them, having seen the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, we decided that to pass the time it would be a good idea for Mike to learn the Uke – seeing as how prison has bought out his musical side! And I purchased one for myself so we can spend the long lonely nights, when we can’t afford to go out, jamming! It was that or he could purchase something from the prison shop for me and I really don’t want any shaving foam or HMP rizzla’s.
If you go to the bottom of the Family Action article, they have even itemised the gifts and food and drink that can be purchased on that budget. I’m going to have problems there. Sorry Steff, I don’t do Yorkshire Puddings with a turkey. Mind you, if I did, purchasing them from Tesco at .49p for 15 does sound like excellent value, I’m not even sure I could make them for that amount (and even if I did, they wouldn’t rise, I have issues with Yorkshire batters). Mind you, I’ll not be purchasing Bisto gravy, that has to be made from scratch with the turkey stock. How I’d achieve the £4.68 target of One bottle of Blossom Hill white I’m unsure. One bottle will do just ME for just Christmas day….. I do still have my homemade Merlot which worked out at about £1.60 a bottle, so on that basis I can make about 3 bottles available. I notice there is no bottle of single malt on the list and just 3 tubes of Maltesers in the Chocolate department. I don’t like Maltesers. I wonder if Poundland stocks a slab of dark 100% coco Green & Blacks….
It will be a more frugal Christmas for us and for many others too. But when you remember that this time of year is made special by being with the ones you love, I would far rather spend nothing this year in exchange for having my husband at home with me on Christmas day.