What I Spend on Christmas: The civil servant earning €50,000 who’s spending €700 on her daughter’s presents
The average Irish family spends €2,700 over the festive season, but what about the savers and splurgers? As part of our series, 'What I Spend on Christmas', we speak to a civil servant who earns €50,000 a year
“I tend to be fairly conservative in my spending. I had my daughter very young so there were some extremely tough years getting through school and college and building a career so some of the habits I formed early on have stuck.
I buy pretty much all my own clothes on sale and love going to swap shops and repair anything good so I keep it for years. I do invest in some things that will last, as I think spending €200 on some good leather boots that will last five years makes far more sense than dropping €70-€80 each year having to replace worn-out ones.
I do spoil my daughter a bit, however — she is in college and works part-time. I pay everything college-related, from fees to her materials and transport but I see it as my job and I never want her to have it as hard as I did. She isn’t overly demanding either.
Saving from January
I always have the Christmas period paid up before November. I am paid every two weeks and starting each January, I buy a gift card each time I am paid, usually €20. I buy a mix but mostly I would get M&S, All4One and Argos, as I can get a lot of the gifts come December with these.
I also save a separate account in my credit union where I put €15 a week and draw it down for shopping on December 1st. I don’t like being in debt so I don’t put anything on the credit card if I can possibly help it. I also, when I have a few bob spare, I put money in a literal piggy bank, which I open in January as total selfish splurge money. There’s usually a couple of hundred in there for the sales and I buy nice things to freshen up the house and a couple of nice dresses for myself.
My family is pretty small. My dad passed last year, so it’s my daughter, myself, my mum and my sister. My sister and I each tell each other what we want to a max of €50 and then spend another €25 on a surprise item. We spoil my mum a bit, particularly since losing dad — I’ve spent €250 on her and my sister will spend the same. From me, she is getting hair vouchers, a coat and perfume. We also are splitting the cost of a video security system but that is more for our peace of mind.
For my daughter, I can go a bit overboard — I’m spending €700 on her in total. €300 of that is a pair of boots she is in love with that I couldn’t find here and this includes having them shipped. They are good quality boots so I don’t mind too much spending the money on them as she will get loads of wear.
I’m giving her €100 in vouchers for the sales, and the rest is made up of bags and perfume and little treats. My friends and I don’t do gifts — we just organise a big brunch out on the first weekend of January and give cards so that keeps things reasonable.
Decorating and beauty
I have recently done up the house so I will need new decorations. I’ve made some as I have an unusual colour scheme and for the rest, I’ll just use the things that work from what I have already. I’ve had a fake tree for the past few years and I think this will be its final outing — I will pick up a new better one in the sales.
I don’t really do a lot of beauty things and Christmas won’t change that. I always have Shellac on my hands and toes and I will get something Christmassy done on them this week, which will cost €50 and last me to the December 20, when I will get my fingernails redone only for €30. I’ll get my eyebrows tinted too — this will be €10.
I always style my own hair and dye it at home. I will treat my daughter to a blow-dry for her Christmas party which will be €30.
I got a new jumpsuit in the Black Friday sales that I’ll wear for a night out with the girls I have planned. And for Christmas day, I have a cute dress I bought last year that I want to get a few more wears out of.
The food and drink
I don’t do a big shop for Christmas as it is just the two of us, but I will be spending about €150 on the food and wine for my mum’s when we all go out there to eat. I got six bottles of wine in a 25% off deal so that came to €42, and I have ordered the rest in M&S — this is where the gift cards will come in handy as I have all this covered already.
My daughter is too old for the “kid’s” Christmas events so we will go for a nice meal together and see a show — this will probably come to about €120 with drinks.
I don’t do too many nights out. I have a girl’s night that I am budgeting €100 for. I will meet friends who are home for Christmas on random days for lunches which will come to about €20 each time — €50 if we have a couple of drinks after, but most of my friends have young kids so they are not likely to stay out late.
I know I spoil my daughter but she is my only child and there were years that were very lean so now that I can give her nice things I choose to do so. I budget well and have the money there to cover me for the Christmas period well in advance. I know it might not be a usual way of going about it with the gift cards but I find it very effective and there is usually a couple leftover that I use on myself in the January sales.
This article was originally published in December 2019