Christmas is coming…

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I know, I know, it’s September, it’s horrifying that there are already Mince Pies in the supermarket. However, one thing I cannot recommend enough is to start budgeting for Christmas now. Actually I’d recommend budgeting for Christmas all year round to avoid a skint January and February but if you haven’t done so yet, it will still help to start thinking about it now!

Now, lots of people will think I sound like a massive misery now but the reality is that Christmas is just one day of the year. It’s never worth getting into serious debt in order to buy the most expensive presents for everyone in your life.

Christmas comes but once a year but it does come every single year and it is more than possible (and frighteningly easy) to get into serious cumulative debt every year to try and have the “perfect” Christmas.

Call me old fashioned but I think Christmas should be about time spent with loved ones not who spent the most money on whom.

To this end I’ve devised a Christmas budget spreadsheet.

ChristmasBudgetPlanner

You can download it here. There are full instructions on the first sheet and different sheets for different festive expenditure. Use it, see if you can afford your planned Christmas now and adjust if necessary. Be totally honest about how much you’re likely to spend at Christmas parties (i.e. if, like me, you work in Publishing don’t budget £10 for drinks at the Christmas party! You know you’ll be spending potentially three times as much so be honest!)

If after doing this you realise that you can’t afford to buy everyone in your extended family a present, consider DIY gifts that you can make that keep you within an affordable budget. I made Chilli Jam for my extended family a few years ago for less than £3 a jar, which was good since my Mum is the youngest of ten!

I will be posting a DIY gifts series in the run up to Christmas but you can start planning now. The other thing I do all year round is pin gifts to my Pinterest Gift board that I can look at before people’s birthdays and Christmas to plan things I could make for them.

Be creative with your planning this year and avoid the January money blues!

For more great ideas on how to save for Christmas or any other finance advise check out Martin Lewis’ website: www.moneysavingexpert.com

Build a Fort Kit (UK style)

Build a Fort Pic

A long time ago, or so it seems, I talked about making a “Build a Fort” kit using UK sourced items but based on this DIY here.

If you would also like to do this, you will need the following:

– A lantern (I got this wind-up and solar powered LED lantern from Tesco for about £5)Build a Fort Kit 8

– Two single sheets or blankets (I used these, also from Tesco)

– 4 metres of ribbon for creating loops (I bought mine from Wilkinsons around Xmas but any haberdashery type shop or even pound shop should have some ribbon, mine was pale blue to match my colour theme)

– Pegs (I used the blue ones from this pack from Wilkinsons and covered them with decorative tape)

– Suction cups (I used these from Wilkinsons and removed the hooks)

– a sewing machine or you could hand sew this, it’s just a matter of time.

– a bag to put everything in (I used a cloth shopping bag)

First step is to decorate your pegs if you would like them to be a bit more interesting:

Build a Fort Kit 6

I used two different kids of decorative tape, one with chevrons, one with stars and then left some plain blue. This probably took me half an hour to do one evening in front of the tv.

I cut 12 ribbons to 20 inches in length:

Build a Fort Kit 2

You will also need a length of ribbon roughly twice the length of your blankets.

Some were a little shorter but it doesn’t matter. I pinned a 20 inch ribbon in a loop to the corners of both of the blankets:

Build a Fort Kit 3

And then one to each edge in the centre of the blankets:

Build a Fort Kit 5

However, knowing that the boys I was making this for have large built in cupboards in their playroom with sheer surfaces, I wanted to give them another option for making a fort, which is where the suction cups came in.

I took the bag of suction hooks and pulled each hook off which left me with a load of suction cups with a convenient hole in the middle:

Build a Fort Kit 9

I then threaded a suction cup to each of the loops I’d added to the blankets:

Build a Fort Kit 11

I then took the extra long length of ribbon that was left over, attached a suction cups at each end and tied a knot to keep it on.

Build a Fort Kit 12

The I popped everything into the cloth bag and tied the handles together with the ribbon that came with the two blankets:

Build a Fort Kit 14

My cousin came over the next day and we visited Didcot Railway Centre for their Thomas Day. I gave the boys their present just before they left and they were both very excited to get home and start using it!

Monogrammed Sharpie Mugs!

I pinned this tutorial way back in June last year to my Gift Ideas Board. I finally got around to doing this yesterday for Tom and Beth (two of my best friend’s) Christmas presents. Time got away from me a bit this Christmas, I’m aware it’s quite late in January!

You will need:

  • Mugs (I got mine from Amazon but I think Asda or Wilkinsons would have been cheaper!)
  • Oil Based Paint Pen (I used a gold, oil based paint Sharpie)
  • I didn’t have scrapbook stickers like Stacey did so I thought I’d just use ordinary address labels. As I discovered later, these aren’t really thick enough but I couldn’t find any proper stickers to use and I preferred being able to choose the font of the letters.
  • Oven

I typed the letters I wanted to use into Word and then played with the fonts until I had the ones I wanted. I printed these onto address labels and then cut them out. I held the letter against the mug to decide where I would position it before I peeled the back off and then stuck it on firmly.

Starting Mug

I dotted all around the letter, I concentrated on the edges of the sticker to start with and then randomly dotted away in a rough circle:

Halfway Mug

I left the mug to dry for 20 minutes or so and then I peeled the sticker off. That’s when I discovered that the paint pen had bled through the sticker a bit. It wasn’t horrific but it wasn’t perfect either. Since I’m a perfectionist I spent 5 minutes just scratching the excess paint off (I didn’t have any rubbing alcohol to clean up with, anyone know where to get that in the UK?!)

I then baked the mugs for 30 minutes at 170° C. When the time was up, I switched the oven off and left the mugs to cool for another couple of hours.

I’m so pleased with the final present (even if it is basically a month late!):

Finished Mugs

I’ve asked my friends to let me know how they get on with washing these in the dishwasher if they decide to risk it!

I’m also planning to make a geometric shapes one using masking tape, I’ll post it when I find five minutes.

I enjoyed this project because it didn’t take forever and looked really great as a finished product. The actually painting probably only took 20 minutes per mug plus 5 minutes for cleaning up around the edges. Once the mugs were in the oven I could go off and do whatever else I needed to and just come back when the timer went to switch the oven off.