The 12 tips of Christmas for frugal shoppers
There are 67 shopping days to Christmas, but frugality author Jackie Gower isn't counting.
A former "Christmas nutter", Gower has dialled back Christmas with the anti-retail zeal of a reformed shopaholic, so the arrival of Christmas displays in stores inspires only contempt in her.
Gower started her journey to minimalist living 12 years ago when she started writing under the pseudonym Penny Wise for the Simple Savings trans-Tasman thrift club.
She now has 12 Simple Savings Christmas' under her belt, and says now is the time for families to plan a better, less-costly Christmas this year.
Santa is allowed to be stingy (2004): "This was the year I joined Simple Savings and learned I was spending a lot more than most people on Christmas gifts, particularly Christmas stocking fillers," Gower says. "This was the year that Santa stopped putting gold-plated goodies like DVD's and games in my children's stockings and started shopping at the $2 Shop instead. Did they notice the difference? You betcha. Did they care? Nope."
Give the gift of time (2005): "Handmade gifts show you think the person is important enough to make time for them. It is also a handy coincidence that making gifts is cheaper than buying them." Gower says non-crafty types can make "personalised vouchers" pledging specific services. "Nothing shows a person how much you care for them like scrubbing their toilet."
The season of festive spirits (2006): Gower says: "This was the year I learned how to make my own Christmas booze, and, oh it was fun!" Kiwis spend a fortune on Christmas booze when all they need is a cheap bottle of vodka and a few basic pantry ingredients to whip up mock-Baileys or Kahlua for a fraction of the price. Recipes can be found on the Internet.
Decking the halls on a budget (2007): "This was the year I stopped spending a fortune on new decorations every year and the kids and I made our own decorations instead," Gower says.
It's okay to ask for help (2008): "We have family traditions and standards to live up to and it's easy to crack under the pressure of trying to create the perfect Christmas for everyone else." Get real. "Nobody really cares about how spotless the house is, or whether this year's Christmas pudding is as good as Auntie Elsie's last year. They just want to relax and have a good time!" Accept help when offered, and ask for it, if you need.
The Important Stuff (2009): "Think back to your happiest Christmas ever. What do you remember most? Bet it wasn't the presents!" Gower says. "Creating the perfect Kiwi Christmas is not about spending tons of money, it's about the atmosphere and the company. The best things about Christmas actually cost nothing at all."
Bring people together (2010): "We encouraged Simple Savings members to throw a good old fashioned street party to bring people together for Christmas." The result was 112 street parties in Australia and New Zealand.
Home made gifts are OK (2011): "I'm not a crafty person by any stretch of the imagination but this year the budget was particularly low so I decided to bite the bullet and give gifts I had made myself. The kids and I made peanut brownies, shortbread angels and Christmas trees, and rum balls. We packaged them all up nicely and I was amazed to discover that not only did they like them, they seemed truly touched and liked them even more than anything I could ever have bought them!"
Being organised pays off (2012): Planning Christmas early gives you control. "Get a pen and paper and get your brain in gear," Gower says. Do all the thinking and planning now, and you'll be the picture of serenity in December.
Give the screens a rest (2013): "Enjoy them this Christmas with your loved ones and show them the best games don't have to come from a store. Get the board games out or a pack of cards and teach the kids some games," Gower says. "Anything that doesn't involve getting square eyes."
People who love you don't want you to go broke (2014): "If the thought of more debt or the threat of overspending is already putting a damper on your festive spirit, now is the time to take action and make this year different," Gower says. Whittle down your gift list. It's okay to give "whole family" gifts. "Year after year we allow ourselves to fall victim to marketing, to peer pressure, to buy more than we can afford, when in truth, all we need to do is be like the three wise men - choose our gifts with meaning, give them with love and give only what we can."
Plan for Christmas 2017 now (2015): "You can save a lot of money by hitting the Boxing Day and New Year sales and stocking up for next Christmas," Gower says. Gift wrap, decorations and presents can all be picked up cheaply, but "Remember a bargain is only a bargain if you were always going to buy it!"