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Cut Back this Festive Season…Without Losing Cheer!


Neon Merry Christmas

by Hayley Doyle


’Tis the season to be jolly!

And stressed.

And anxious.

And overwhelmed.

And, and, and…


Our eyes become too big for our belly, don’t they? Like Hansel and Gretel, we’re lured

towards a plethora of metaphorical (and real!) gingerbread houses that we feel the urge to splurge

because “it’s Christmas”. However, merely minutes into the New Year, we feel bloated and sick. So

is it really worth spending that much money on it all?


It’s a difficult one, isn’t it? Christmas is laden with tradition. There’s the pantomime, isn’t

there? Something you did every year as a kid, and now take your own children to see. Santa’s

grotto. Ice-skating. Mulled wine and fancy cheeseboards followed by attending the outdoor light

show. The annual catch up with your uni friends, your school friends, your partner’s work friends.

The family get togethers and the other family get togethers. As each event comes and goes, it’s no

surprise that your purse feels lighter, and your heart perhaps heavier. This isn’t the point of

Christmas though, surely? Is it time to change our mindset and break the pattern?


There’s plenty of advice out there on how to cut down on consumerism at Christmas. It can

tend to sound a little twee, though, if we’re honest. Crafting is lovely, and of course therapeutic, but

it’s also very idealistic rather than realistic. Knitting your own scarf isn’t cost effective at all and

can be very time consuming for those with full-time jobs or a young family. Home-baked goods are

second to none and always welcomed with cheer, but not everybody has a flair for nailing a gluten-free chocolate-chip cookie. And have you ever tried to do a craft with a toddler? Not only do you

end up making the damn craft yourself, but the toddler will no doubt find danger while your fingers

are covered in glue and you’re left to tidy up the glitter instead of making a snack, resulting in

chaos.


But there’s no need to get all Bah Humbug about Christmas, even if we’re all being forced

to tighten our belts this year more than ever. Here’s some genuine advice. Because Christmas is

awesome and nobody should ever feel like they’re missing out.


Dim Sum and a Pub


Don’t turn down an invite to see your pals. Instead, suggest that you all avoid Christmas Menus that

certain restaurants offer. Ha! It’s not an offer at all! It’s robbery! So many places fancy up a festive

sixty-seven courser, with promises of sprouts, cranberry and fig, but the outcome is usually dripping

with disappointment. Food arrives cold, or obviously re-heated, and because many of these menus

demand you order in advance, the bustling season creates mishaps and mistakes, resulting in one of

your party left waiting for their food whilst everybody else’s gets cold(er). So don’t fall under the

spell of holly-embossed menus, a roast dinner that’s not a patch on what you can muster up at home

and dry Christmas pudding. Go to a cheerful place that’s serving their food fresh, off their usual

delicious menu, such as Chinese, Indian, Lebanese or Thai, then pop over to the nearest pub for a

vin chaud. You’re with your favourite people, so eat and be merry!


Watch ‘em… Watch ‘em ALL!


It happens every year, doesn’t it? You get to January and say, “Agh, no! I never watched Elf, I

didn’t have time.” Months leading up to Christmas, you indulge in excited chitter-chatter about your

favourite festive films, the ones that remind you of being a kid, watching with your siblings in PJs,

like Santa Claus: The Movie or Home Alone. Or the ones that make you weep like The Family

Stone or that Emma Thompson scene in Love, Actually. Then what happens? You don’t make the

time to sit down and watch them because you’re out, spending money! You don’t need to go and

watch a special screening of It’s a Wonderful Life in a fancy cinema with overpriced nachos. Watch

it from the comfort of your own home with a giant bag of tastier, cheaper nachos! It doesn’t matter

if you’ve seen the movie a hundred times, re-watching it is referred to by scientists as the mere

exposure effect’. This means familiar things are easier to process and we have a tendency to

develop preferences for things if we've already been exposed to them.


A study by the University of Southampton discovered that nostalgia can manifest itself physically as warmth and comfort, and films create nostalgia if you have special memories attached to certain titles, helping you to reminisce about times gone by. Now, if that doesn’t sound super Christmassy…!


Click Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe…


The temperature hasn’t even had a chance to drop and your inbox is filled with enticing gift ideas

and promotions to Hurry Now, While Stocks Last! FOMO is out in full force around this time of

year and even the strongest of us can fall victim to it because we’re bombarded. Rather than

agonising over whether you can fit that event into your diary or afford that gadget, the solution is

very simple. Click unsubscribe. Keep on the lists of businesses you genuinely need, rather than feel

obliged to be. Your mental health matters! A constant distraction of feeling like you can’t do or

can’t afford is not good for you. Besides, you might even find yourself with an urge to go and craft

if you have a clearer headspace!


Shop Your Home


I know, I know, I know. The window display at M&S looks ahh-mazing. Shopping for baubles is

crazy fun, especially now that you can buy a bauble of literally anything. A popcorn maker! Santa

doing a Tree Pose! Lobsters singing carols! This feels a bit like Mum saying, “Look, but don’t

touch,” but think about the fun bauble you bought last year, and the year before, and the year

before…You don’t need to keep purchasing. Shop your home first! Look at what you have before you part with your money. Those decorations only get used for three weeks a year. And the same

school of thought can be applied to gifts, too. Admit it. At the back of your sock drawer is that

lovely bath set you just haven’t got around to using, perhaps because it’s not your preferred scent.

Remember when your aunt bought your son that Peppa Pig jigsaw, only to discover your friend

bought them one too? Yes! It’s hiding in your wardrobe. With the unlit candle and pair of brand new

leather gloves, the tag still intact. Now, wrap ‘em up and stick ‘em under your tree. They’ll make

great gifts for people without you spending a penny. Your home is a pretty decent shop, right?

Seriously, you could probably start inviting customers inside.


Santa is NO Secret


The poor guy. He spends his whole year knee deep in snow (other than the fortnight he spends in

the Caribbean in January, obvs) and delegating intense engineering, creative and strategic work to

his thousands of hard-working elves, then travels the globe in the space of one swift night to deliver

presents to children. And us adults belittle his work by doing a load of Secret Santas! It’s daft. You

decide on an amount of money, usually small enough to keep everybody happy but not big enough

to buy anything half decent, and then go out and buy somebody a gift without them knowing it’s

from you. This has become a popular modern tradition in both the workplace and between families

to keep costs down, but when you’ve got the gang in the office, the gang at school, the gang on your

side of the fambo and the gang on the other, it all suddenly becomes very expensive. You end up

buying a bunch of cheap-ish novelty, unsure whether anyone will even like it (because of course,

you’ve been lumbered with having to buy for the IT whiz who never speaks and your husband’s

Uncle Pete), and in return, get a sackful of things to live in your sock drawer until your Home Shop

next year. So skip the secrets and let the real Santa do his job.


But! “Christmas Won’t Be Christmas Without Presents…”


Grumbled Jo, lying on the rug… Is the opening to the classic novel Little Women by Louisa May

Alcott. True. The rip of the wrapping paper, the awe of the prize! There are plenty of ways to still

gift without wasting money on useless tat or gimmicks. After years of being frowned upon,

shopping second-hand is now super trendy, thank goodness. You can find terrific bargains in store

or online, plus this way of shopping is sustainable. Home-made coupons are a great idea too;

offering to babysit for an evening, breakfast in bed, cinema trip, a tank full of petrol (perhaps one

for UAE residents rather than UK residents!), free pass day, games night… be creative! Family gifts

can be enjoyed together, too, such as a board game that everybody can play, a coffee machine or a

fancy box of chocolates.


So keep your Christmas playlists rolling, light the candles and kiss under the mistletoe. Feeling

festive is right there for the taking, and it’s price tag isn’t as terrifying as you’re made to believe.

Whether it’s being around your favourite people or snuggling up with your favourite snack and telly

show, don’t allow your spirit to be dampened by spending less this year. You won’t be the only one

making these choices, either.

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