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How not to break the bank this Christmas: Four experts advise

Not quite ready for Christmas yet? You can do it without throwing money at the problem

Four experts advise on how to reduce costs this Christmas.

Karl Cronin

Money Advice and Budgeting Service, North Connacht and Ulster

Navigating how to have a debt free Christmas comes down to avoiding wasteful expenditure. One tip is to gather a list of spendings on Christmas and break it down among gifts, food, clothing, socialising and prioritise that list. Once that list is done, set yourself a budget based on what you can afford to spend. This should be the income that you are certain to have for Christmas, don't rely on a bonus you might get over Christmas as that's not guaranteed.

Once you’ve that down shop around for the best value of things in terms of gifts, clothes, food items.

Keep to your list. Don’t be tempted by sales or special offers, especially on Christmas week. You tend to see a lot of decorations and perishable items become drastically reduced but if it’s not on your list you don’t need them. It’s only a bargain if it’s something that you’ve identified that you need and you’re getting it at a special price and offer rate.

Remember shops only close for a few days. No need to stock up on perishable items like creams and milk and cheese. More often a lot of them will go to waste. You can buy these items as you need them.

It's never too early to plan for Christmas. Once Christmas 2021 is out of the way, start your savings early for Christmas 2022. For example; if you know Christmas costs you €1200 in 2021, try to budget €100 a month. You can save vouchers and use them all at Christmas time. Try and avoid borrowing for Christmas as being in debt over Christmas will take the enjoyment out of it. Remember that there are utility bills that will have to be paid in January, which is just around the corner so try to set money aside for them.

There is a lot of pressure to come up with the perfect gift. Secret Santa is a great way to approach Christmas gifting. You get to spend a bit extra on buying one gift as opposed to spending little amounts on numerous gifts. Often with the latter, they are not necessarily things people want as you're tied to a certain budget.

It is important to think practically when it comes to gifts for kids. There is a lot of focus on toys but books and clothes would be just as nice. (Remember to size up if you’re buying clothes.) Things to do with hobbies and interests will be far more beneficial in the long run.

For more tips please contact: National MABS Helpline 0818 07 2000 / MABS website: mabs.ie.

Denise O’Connor

Architect and design consultant

One of the first things people should do is take a look at what they have. So often with Christmas decorations, everything gets tucked away and they're easy to be forgotten about. You can use this opportunity to do a big clear out and donate anything you don't want to keep. Try and whittle down and see what you have and what you can work with.

The thing about Christmas is the shops are full of shiny and sparkly stuff and you end up spending a whole lot of money and building up your house with unnecessary things. Be simplistic and even pick two colours. Red bobbles and the lovely green tree, impactful and simple.

For decor on the day, buy glasses and plates you can enjoy all year around. Avoid at all costs anything specific to Christmas. You don't want to buy a set of plates that are Christmas themed because then you're very limited on what you can use them for. Novelty things like Christmas cushions will have a shelf life. There is so much lighting stuff that people could do without, some of these things are really expensive and difficult to store.

You can repurpose the things you already have, such as using ribbons to stream bobbles together and make garlands for your hallway or around the house. Try and make your own wreath, those things are really expensive but we have enough foliage in our own backyard or the local park. There's so much arts and crafts decorations that can be done with kids that makes it so much more personal.

Christmas time is so much about the atmosphere and you can do an awful lot by lighting candles and playing music. Resist the temptation to go overboard on the aesthetics. You'll be delighted when it's time to take it all down.

Trish Murphy 

Psychotherapist and Columnist

It's one thing to set a budget for Christmas but somehow the pressures of Christmas can permeate through carefully curated lists. How do we overcome the pressures and costs that come with Christmas? The hardest thing is to be honest about it and that's difficult. You worry that people may perceive you differently, yet the minute you're honest everyone sees the truth of it and there's no problem.

Just say: “We don’t have extra cash so we’re giving low-budget presents.” It’s hard to take that step and we might feel a bit exposed but the minute we do, everything is sorted.

We love giving and get so much out of giving. However, we shouldn't try to match how much we value someone to a gift. The intention behind it is to be generous. However, if the cost is harming you, that's really not good. We have to trust that the gift is not the thing. It's not the value that you have in a person.

Clodagh McKenna

Chef, TV presenter and author

Food can be a really expensive aspect of Christmas for everyone as we do our best to have a magical Christmas dinner, filled with new recipes and all our favourite bits. However, sometimes we overdo it with all the different sides and vegetables. We tend to cook six different sides and have different platter foods that we can't reuse the next day. Try and limit your sides to how many people are on the table and carefully consider portion sizes. Have foods that people actually enjoy as opposed to traditional Christmas staples that people might not fancy.

Another way to reduce costs in regards is to use up all of your food. If you have loads of turkey leftover, consider making it into a turkey curry or stew. Or leftover vegetables into a nice vegetable soup.

Try alternatives too, instead of getting a whole turkey perhaps try and get a turkey crown or turkey breast. An alternative to a Christmas turkey is this bacon wrapped turkey filled with potato and herb stuffing recipe which totals up to about €9.

BACON WRAPPED TURKEY FILLED WITH POTATO AND HERB STUFFING

Serves 4

Ingredients:
650g turkey breast, butterflied (ask your butcher to do this)
butter, for greasing
7 smoked streaky bacon rashers pancetta (2x70g packs) or thinly sliced streaky bacon

For the potato and herb stuffing
50g butter
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
400g potatoes, peeled and diced
150g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon fresh thyme and sage, finely chopped

Method:

1 Make the potato stuffing by melting the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, once melted stir in the onion, and garlic, cover and sweat for 2 minutes. Then remove the lid and stir in the potato, thyme, sage, and breadcrumbs. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often so that it doesn't burn. Remove from the heat stirring often so that it doesn't burn. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before stuffing the Turkey.

2 Butter and season a sheet of tin foil (large enough to cover the turkey breast. Lay five long pieces of string over the foil, ready to tie the breast together. Arrange the streaky bacon down the middle of the foil, on top of the string.

3 Lay the butterflied turkey breasts between layers of cling film and, using a rolling pin, bash out a little to flatten evenly until about 5cm thick. Spoon the stuffing on top, down the centre of the meat, and press the stuffing using the back of a spoon.

4 Lift the turkey onto the prepared tin foil (with the bacon), pull up the sides at one end, tucking in the short end, then tie the string tightly so that the stuffing is encased. Repeat with all the strings. Wrap up tightly in the foil, then turn the roll over so that the streaky bacon is on the top.

5 Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/ gas 5.

6 Transfer to a rack in a roasting tin and season. Roast for 1¼ hours. Insert a skewer into the middle - if the juices run clear, it's cooked.

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