“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Alfred Lord Tennyson
The city is so peaceful during the holidays. A wonderful time to rest and to reflect. This is my favourite time of the year. I love making Christmas time special with pretty decorations, delicious home-cooked meals and thoughtful, yet inexpensive gifts. I believe the gift is in the thought, not the pocket, and spending time with your friends and loved ones is the most precious gift of all.
Making this time of the year extra special doesn’t have to cost you a lot. I make all our meals from scratch, bought with items that are on special, which means our Christmas menu is different and so colourful each year. A lot of the other items that we use at this time can be recycled for example cloth napkins with embroidered Christmas motifs and candles for decorations that grace the table but don’t have to be lit. Flowers for your table décor can be gathered from your garden or bought very cheaply.
We were quite lucky a few years ago in that we managed to buy a very beautiful Christmas tree with about 2 bags full of very pretty ornaments for nearly next to nothing: the tree was on display and on sale just after a Christmas day. I sometimes manage to buy an extra set of Christmas paper serviettes for half the price, just after the holidays as well. We also use inexpensive wrapping paper and homemade cards for all our gifts and always re-use the gift bags we do get from time to time. If you are looking for marked-down gifts you can find these just after the holidays, and keep them for the following year. I have found that if you only look for ways to buy things cheaply, or do as much as you possibly can on a budget, you can.
Plus, we avoid making Christmas time about things. I sometimes despair just thinking about how commercialised Christmas has become over the years, and how spending so much money has become so easy. Christmas time should not be about spending, at least not for me. At this time of the year, I focus on rest, quiet reflection and relaxation, and spending time with family and friends. You can have just as good a time at home, surrounded by the people you love, that you would in an expensive restaurant, hotel or resort. I’ve been told so many times by well-wishers that I ‘cannot relax at home’ but yes, I can. I can spend some time reading a book or a magazine, watching a movie, going for walks or possibly for a swim, snoozing lazily in the afternoon, cooking and baking, visiting family and friends, playing cards or games or with my pets, going to church or a carol night, assisting a local charity of choice – none of this costs money, yet it makes me happy.
We also make sure we don’t overspend during the holiday season. We pay off all that is due, before it is due, and we budget to spend what we can afford to spend on gifts from what we have left over, and no more. It is so easy to overspend during the festive season as this is probably the biggest spending season of the year. Sale and special signs are bright red, huge and plastered everywhere, and everything looks so lovely and so appealing. The temptation to buy more than what you need, or can afford, may be hard to resist. I tend to avoid malls and shopping centres at this time of the year, buying only what we need to get us through the months of December and January. I probably budget the most carefully at this time of the year and make sure we have enough for our necessities, and also possibly emergencies, until the next payday comes along.
Otherwise, January can be a very depressing month. After all that good cheer in December, I have seen people struggle to buy groceries and have enough money for transport to work and back; I have seen people down in the dumps during this time, unable to pay for sudden car repairs or fix blocked drains. I don’t want to be in that place because it’s not a happy place. I don’t want to have to worry about money in January. I don’t want to have to reach for that credit card to pay for food and for my transport each day. So I make it stretch, from an early payday in December all the way to what seems like a ‘late’ payday in January. Without a budget, and a curb in your spending, this can be a very long wait. Don’t make it a long wait. Enjoy January. It is a new beginning, and a time to welcome the New Year with renewed vigour and anticipation of all the good things that we hope are yet to come. I wish all my readers a wonderful New Year ahead. May it bring us all good health, and happiness in our journey of frugal living!
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