by Hayley Doyle
’Tis the season to be jolly!
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
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.