MoneyTimes - December 7, 2011

Posted by Jill Kerby on December 07 2011 @ 09:00



It’s less than three weeks to Christmas and no matter how dismal the economic scene, it is still a holiday that most people enjoy and will celebrate, no matter how tight their budgets.  The average spend this year is expected to be about €630.

Coming one day after the delivery of the 2012 austerity Budget, it may feel counter-intuitive to load up your wallet and hit the shops, even if it is Christmas. But those of us lucky enough to still be employed and to have some disposable income are being counted on not to ruin the holiday – let alone the businesses – of our local shopkeepers and merchants.

Making a list, setting a spending limit per gift, not taking anything but cash or a debit card with your to the shops and not both, should help you stick to your own Christmas budget. Giving yourself plenty of time and not being rushed is another way to keep control.  Try to avoid borrowing more than you can afford to repay in the new year. Where possible, the credit union is a far, far better alternative to borrowing from a moneylender who can charge up to 188% interest for their short term loans.

The best of Irish crafts and food have been on display at The Great Craft Fair at the RDS in Dublin for the last five days and this is my 30th year attending. Craft show are being held all over the country right now and should be added to your shopping destinations, along with the local bookstore, florist, jeweller and sweet and wine shop. If Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme is correct, ‘fiver Friday’ events are also happening in shops near you between now and Christmas – watch out for them.

There are reams of gift ideas at this modest price and sometimes buying ‘themed’ gifts is a great way to control your spending while delivering something that is really thoughtful.

For example, for €5 (or not very much more), you can stock up on sweets and chocolates that can be rewrapped in your own bright paper and a ribbon; sweet smelling soaps (especially Irish made ones), kitchen accessories for cookery fans, scented candles and small picture frames, filled with an old family photo can be given to everyone on your list.

Books, film dvds and music cds are always welcome gift, especially if you take care to choose one that matches the beneficiary’s personal interest or hobby.


Of course for many people, budgets can only stretch to the Christmas feast and tree and something from Santa for the children. Their other gifts have to be, literally, priceLESS.

One of the consequences of the Celtic Tiger years is the huge volume of ‘stuff’ that many of us accumulated. Over the years writing this Christmas column I’ve suggested inexpensive or no-cost ways to fill stockings and to put under the Christmas tree.  These are still my favourite, and everyone I speak to who gives and receives any of them says they remain the ones they most enjoy and have the most meaning:

 PriceLESS Presents this Christmas:


-       Christmas baking is always welcome. A little plate or box of Home made biscuits, decorated shortbread, cakes, puddings and sweets are so special. Include the recipe in the accompanying Christmas card.

-       Mini hampers of sweet or savoury or a selection of both. Use an old bread basket if that’s all you have.

-       A small stack of ‘themed’ dvds, cds can be matched to your loved one’s interests:  action movies for the kickboxers in the family; romantic chickflix for the soft hearted; comedies and documentaries suit most everyone.  You can give away little music collections the same way (and let everyone download to their own MP3 players.)

-       Old photos: Find an old photo (from babyhood, even) and use an old picture frame or make one yourself. Use photos to make extra special hand-made Christmas cards to keep forever.

-       Precious Exchange. You choose a personal item you cherish and give it to someone you love who has admired it, or who you know would also cherish it.

-       Presents of Time: Give your gift recipients your time for Christmas.  You can offer a gardener hours of spade and digging time. Parents with young children can escape overnight or for a weekend if you take care of their children. An older person can be given a monthly outing, or you can offer a ‘carer’ some respite hours for themselves. Do you have a skill to teach or give?  A few hours of baking or cookery lessons? Dog grooming or walking?  Piano or other music lessons?  Leaving Cert grinds? Help with tax returns or car maintenance? 

Whatever you give – give it with love and some care. Newspaper, red wool or twine and a piece of fresh holly or ivy is the (nearly) expense-free way to wrap every present you give. There’s no need to spend even a little fortune on wrappings that end up in the bin.

Finally, if you can – as a family or individually – try to give to your favourite charity.  Every charity has been experiencing a sharp fall in donations since the great recession began.  Everyone I know who has sent a beehive, let alone a goat (via Bothar, Goal, Concern, etc) to a need family in the developing world has remembered that cost and gesture.

The school children who fill shoeboxes of little presents for other needy children can’t wait to do it again the next year as do every Christmas volunteer at our great national and local charities for the poor and homeless here at home.

Who says all the joy has disappeared from Christmas? 

0 comment(s)

Leave a comment

Subscribe to Blog