*this post is part of a paid collaboration with PARK #ad
I love Christmas! The amalgamation of traditions as a couple, creating our own brand of magic! It’s my favourite time of year. Unless deviating to choreograph the Easter bunny I pretty much think in tinsel. Our festive family events and routines are so warm and familiar to us now that I’m determined, whatever the circumstance, Christmas will always feel like coming home….
We have five children, each growing up alongside their very own advent elf. Their years marked with visits to Santa, the panto, craft projects, gingerbread houses, classic Xmas songs and the (tear in your eye) nativity play. The visits to shops adorned with fairy lights, fresh mince pies, outside markets and carol concerts . The advent calendars counting down to the big day with acts of kindness and trinkets of anticipation. We have four Christmas trees and each year our clan are encouraged to chose new a decoration for theirs, so that when they finally fly the nest they will have a box of goodies from childhood, a foundation, a sense of belonging, the warm fuzzies even after we are gone.
Like many families, we have our own Before Xmas routine. First, a treasure hunt to find the eve box key, a magical adventure leading to a chest of goodies, new pjs, hot chocolate sets and a film or activity to help the rest of the day pass more quickly. We leave a mince pie for the big man himself and we sprinkle reindeer food on the porch. Before they close their eyes on the 24th, we read ‘‘the Night before Christmas’ just like I did as a child, it’s cheesy but it’s real… all these activities form the basis of our memories, we know them by heart but of course, they didn’t happen all at once.
We didn’t wake up one Xmas and decide to ‘go big’, it grew, each year a new idea added until we found ourselves here, and while, I do sometimes wonder where the line is between materialism and creativity, I 100% wouldn’t have it any other way.
It might surprise you to know I didn’t always feel positive about the festive season. For a long time I hated it. Living in and out of other families, each doing things differently, always on the fringe, I wasn’t sure how to make Christmas my own…… until I had children. So while many may consider us OTT, it’s not surprising that given free rein to at last create magic, I went a bit wild. I’m unapologetic, we plan all year and balance it out in other areas of our life….but I won’t lie, it comes with a price tag.
Discussing the amount you spend at Christmas seems almost taboo, we often see photos on social media of gifts piled high, parents judged for spoiling, but how can anyone know for sure the value of every item or indeed the other spends that make up the festive season as a whole. There will always be some who spend less and there will always be those who spend more but as I’m working in partnership with Park, I thought I’d share our budget with you.
In 2020 I made an effort, as I always do, to buy throughout the year. Stocking fillers total £50 per child and are purchased a handful at a time. By September, they’re all complete and I can move on to the Xmas pjs. There’s a formula. I plan ahead, I buy gradually, I store away and I keep tally. We save our supermarket vouchers for the Xmas shop, sometimes we put bigger items on the credit card and pay them off over the coming year…. but 2020? 2020 we went debt-free, we knew big changes were on the horizon and needed to enter the New Year with a clean slate. It wasn’t easy. I got a job, took on lots of freelance work and we didn’t buy each other anything. We cut down the food shop and were actually thankful that Covid restrictions meant we could forgo expensive outings and theatre trips.
Next year we expect to downsize, we won’t have the room to store gifts and, without last years debts to clear, we are instead planning with Park.
For over 50 years Park have been Helping families like ours create sparkle and magic at Christmas. By choosing from a range of products including Love2shop vouchers (accepted at over 20000 U.K. stores ) and high street gift cards you spread the cost over the year.
I think we can all agree that 2020 was the year of the unexpected and I’m determined not to be caught off guard again. Christmas 2021 will be just as magical as ever and knowing it’s been paid for in advance, who knows?! Maybe I’ll be able to treat myself for once too!