Christmas can be a scary time for single parent, especially if it is new to you. Here are our handy hints on how to budget for Christmas as a single parent:
Have an age-appropriate chat with your children and talk to them about the meaning of Christmas and what has happened, and how things may be different than previous years. This is not to be a killjoy but to set realistic expectations, especially for older children.
Do not get deeper into debt for the sake of the festive period. You cannot replace an absent parent by over-giving with money, so resist overspending to compensate. Stay away from expensive catalogues and repayment plans with high interest rates.
Make a list in advance. Work out what presents and the cost for each person, cost for wrapping paper, decorations, food shopping, travel to places, and so on.
Do not shop off-list!! This is especially true for food shopping where you may be duped into buying a lot of frivolous extras that no one will miss, but that will sky rocket the costs.
Make sure that you prioritise your income for the most important bills and necessities for the months of December and January. For example, rent/mortgage, electricity, heating, council tax, fuel, etc are very important to keep on top of.
If food for the Christmas week is very important in your household, cut back a little for the few weeks on the run up, by choosing cheaper or more home cooked versions so that you can spend a little more later. Be realistic. You may not actually need a turkey and all the extras when your children would prefer something else.
Where possible, agree a spending limit your ex partner, or arrange different presents that are both needed, or even share the cost of one better present if the situation is amicable.
Discuss with family and friends in advance that you only want gifts for the children, or limit the presents for adults to homemade ones or only up to a set value. Suggest a gift per family, such as games, a homemade hamper, or discount voucher codes for something they need.
You could also arrange to gift things that you are good at. Are you fantastic at ironing/bookkeeping/painting/cooking/beauty treatments/childminding? Whatever your particular forte, could it be offered as a gift by giving a handmade or printed certificate of the time you will donate to someone.
Give homemade. There are wonderful sites on the internet offering ideas and directions of how to make low cost items that are stunning to give as gifts.
Understand that you do not have to pack the few weeks off school with endless costly activities. Plan ahead to work out a whole host of cheap or free things to keep everyone busy at a fraction of the cost.
Everyone loves coupons, so keep an eye out throughout the year for voucher codes that you can redeem to make the spending a little lighter in December. You could save up the points you receive from various supermarkets and shops and use them to buy gifts, for example.
Get smaller items from cheaper pound shops if you must buy them, or scour charity shops for suitable gifts.
Make your own present rules. Get one present per child. Keep an eye out in advance for when prices are reduced. For some teenagers or older children, they might even be happier waiting to buy a better version of the present when it is in the sales.
And for next year…..work out how much you have to save up throughout the year in order to afford all of the things that you want to. Work backwards to create a figure of what you will want to be putting aside weekly for next year’s celebrations.