Tag Archive | Christmas planning

Christmas Countdown – A Homemade Advent Calendar

There are only 34 nights sleep until Santa comes.

Over the next month, leading up to Christmas, I will try and write something regularly, to show you how we celebrate Christmas in this house. I will write about how I prepare, plan and how we enjoy Christmas on a budget. I will also cook Christmas recipes, that not only taste nicer than the shop bought versions, but are far less expensive to make and I will write as many useful bits of information and Christmas tips that I can think of, to help you on your way. Today I thought I’d talk about Advent Calendars:


Advent Calendars

There are so many different types of advent calendars, usually with pictures of pop groups or TV program characters covering cheap chocolates, but children love them and they are part of Christmas.

When I grew up, we had just one calendar that we used year after year.  It didn’t have chocolates, it just had a different ‘window’ that you opened each day.  In fact the number ‘one and two’ windows had been torn off years before, so we didn’t even get to open them.  But how we all loved the calendar, it was so exciting as when the calendar came out, it was the start of Christmas.

One fond memory I do have, is that number ‘15’ was a large barrel that opened and revealed Santa telling us it was only ten days until Christmas.  I have three sisters and I remember all the arguments that we had, deciding who would open this door!

When my first daughter was born, my Sister made an Advent calendar as a present for us.  She stitched little pockets on it so we could pop a sweet into each day for the children.  It really is beautiful and still looks as good as new:

This calendar was the start of a family tradition in this house.

When the children were tiny we started by putting a chocolate in each pocket, which they opened each day leading up to Christmas, but as they became a little older, we put a little piece of paper in each pocket instead.  The paper had a really easy ‘clue’ written on it, which helped them to find the chocolates that I hid in a different place each day.  The children had such fun finding them, in fact when they had their friends to play, they too would join in with the clues.  I would always buy some chocolate coins and put them in a ‘Treasure Chest’ for them to find.

As my daughters got older, the clues got harder to reflect their age and we still do this now.  The only difference now, is my youngest daughter is dairy intolerant so chocolate coins are obviously out.

Last year was the first Christmas after my daughter was diagnosed with a dairy / lactose intolerance and I really didn’t want her to miss out on our family tradition.  Instead of chocolates, I kept my eyes open throughout the year, for lots of little bits and bobs that were in the sales and reduced, but things I knew my daughters would use rather than just throw away.  I bought pens, pencils, rubbers, pencil sharpeners, sweets my daughter could eat etc., and wrapped them all up individually.  You may think this cost a lot of money but it didn’t really as I bought them all reduced for approximately 10p per item. So the whole calendar probably cost less than two good quality Advent calendars.

This year I have done exactly the same and I wrapped all individual advent presents and sat and worked out the advent clues.  For the last few years I have put a brain teaser in each pocket that they must work out first before opening a clue to where the present is hidden.  Even as teenagers they still enjoy doing this.  I find most of the brain teasers on the internet, there are millions to choose from and I just make up clues as to where the presents are hidden around the house.

The preparation for the advent calendar does take some time, but it is a lovely family tradition.

I would really love to hear about any family traditions that you have at Christmas.  So please tell me about it by commenting at the bottom of this post.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Christmas Countdown – 35 ‘Sleeps’ Till Santa

I’m sorry to mention the ‘C’ word, but yes, Christmas is just around the corner.  In fact there is only 35 nights sleep until Santa comes.

At this time of year, people seem to be in a bit of a whirl, as there are so many things to do or buy and places to go.  I firmly believe that if you take time to sit and plan, you not only save money, but you can save time and all the Christmas stress.  Christmas should be a lovely time to enjoy, but too many people spend Christmas worrying about spending money that they just haven’t got.

Over the next month, leading up to Christmas, I will try and write something  regularly, to show you how we celebrate Christmas in this house.  I will write about how I prepare, plan and how we enjoy Christmas on a budget.  I will also cook Christmas recipes, that not only taste nicer than the shop bought versions, but are far less expensive to make and I will write as many useful bits of information and Christmas tips that I can think of, to help you on your way. Today I thought I’d talk about the biggest subject:




We have a Christmas present budget and we stick to it. We save the money for Christmas presents the year before we need to buy them.  This way, we know exactly what our Christmas budget is, when we plan our present list on the 1st January each year.  I have a list of names that I carry in my handbag.  I know exactly how much I have to spend on people and who I have or have not already bought for.  This way I can buy presents in the January and summer sales and get more for my money, or buy a special gift that I know will be loved, when I see it.

Some people may think this is excessive and feel that they couldn’t do this, but it works for us.  We have two large families and this year alone, we have 35 family members and close friends to buy for.  A few years ago it was more than this, but we decided to stop buying for children when they reached 18 years old, as it was costing far too much money.  We felt terrible at first telling our friends and relatives this and yes, we did get one or two people that didn’t understand, but I think that said more about them than us.

Christmas is especially hard with the pressures that we parents have to face, when other children are having hundreds of pounds spent on them at Christmas. However, before you spend lots of money on your children’s presents, ask yourself why you feel the need to do this?  Is it because it makes you feel like you are a good parent by keeping up with the ‘Jones’, or is it just to see their faces on Christmas day?  I bet you still won’t feel the same when your credit card bill comes in January and they have forgotten the expensive present you bought for them.

Personally, I actually think smaller children just like lots of presents, regardless of the price.  When my children were little, I quite often bought charity shop toys throughout the year for hardly any money and cleaned them up and they looked like new.  Nobody knew, it was our secret and my daughters loved them.

However, teenagers are a different story altogether.  You can’t get away with ‘charity’ or cheap presents with them.  In fact there is so much pressure on these kids to have designer ‘this’ and designer ‘that’, I do feel for them.  I try to teach my teenagers that ‘designer’ is for  people who can’t see past labels, however, this message just isn’t getting through.  They are being brainwashed by their peers and they think that ‘designer’ is best.  Let me give you just one example:

‘Vans’ are approximately £45 to buy.  I’m sorry but in my eyes they are a pair of plimsolls , sometimes in a bright colour or with a pretty pattern on.  However, ‘Vans’ do have something that plimsolls don’t have….they have a little label that sticks out and says the word “Vans” and this is why the teenagers want them. When I look at the label, what it actually reads to me is:

“I am an ordinary pair of plimsolls that fool teenagers and young adults into lining my pocket with money”

So teenagers want to fit in and they have expensive tastes.  You can argue with them until you are blue in the face, or you can compromise, which to me is the easier solution.  Set your budget and tell them that this is all you are spending on them and let them decide what they want.  You may get a few ‘huff’ and ‘puffs’ but that’s fine, as  it will be out the way before Christmas day.


Consumer Rights

As we make a lot of purchases at Christmas, I thought it would be beneficial to have a look at some of your consumer rights when you purchase products in the UK.  Below is some good advice taken from the Martin Lewis website, which you can find here:


  • You have more rights when you buy things online or by telephone, due to the Distance Selling Regulations.  This gives you the legal right to return goods back within one week for a full refund EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT FAULTY.   This covers the ‘Buy it now’ option on eBay provided you are buying from an actual trader.  You do usually have to pay for the return of the goods though.  If you have proof that you agreed a delivery date when you purchased your goods and don’t receive it by this date, you have a right to a refund.  If you don’t have proof then they can argue it was delivered in a reasonable time.
  • Goods bought MUST BE of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time.  This is a quote from the Sale of Goods Act 1979.
  • If there isn’t a fault then you have no legal right to return the item, though some shops will allow you to do this, so it’s always worth asking.
  • Receipts aren’t vital to have when you return faulty goods, you simply need to prove the purchase, a bank statement should be fine.


 Thank you for reading my blog today.