The average Irish family spends €2,700 over the festive season, but what about the savers and splurgers? We speak to a 42-year-old newly self-employed yoga teacher who earns €40,000
"My saving style is pretty sensible, to be honest. My savings have taken a little bit of a battering since becoming self-employed over two years ago, but I plan to build it up again significantly in 2020. The trick is to pay into your savings accounts with the same regularity and seriousness that you would a utility bill or any other bill, then see what you have left to spend — not the other way around.
When I was in employment, I had a Christmas saving plan with the staff credit union. I saved €50 a month and on the first week in November, I got a cheque for €60o. Of course, I don’t have that anymore and I really missed it this year. In early November, I took €500 out of my general savings and vowed to plan better for next year. I am going to use a spare savings account that is currently empty and put in €50 every month until I have €500 next November.
As I am self-employed, I don’t get a bonus unless I want to pay one to myself! I did buy a pre-loved designer bag in instalments over a three-month period, timed to arrive two weeks before Christmas, so that was my gift to myself for working so hard this year.
I don’t have a credit card. I paid myself late November as usual and I am not due to pay myself again until New Year’s Eve. I may decide to pay myself early, say around the 27th, but that can only happen if my clients pay me on time — it doesn’t always happen when you are freelance.
Family-wise, I only buy for my husband, mam, aunt, uncle, sister, and one niece. I do have half a dozen other siblings and a dozen nieces and nephews, but they are grown up and spread around the world. What to get my uncle is the biggest headache every year. For my mam, I get stocking fillers plus an experience, like afternoon tea or a spa treatment. She is at the age where she has every object she needs — anything else is just clutter. She would rather have an afternoon out with her daughter.
I hit Kildare Village with the €500 and got the majority of my presents. I buy for two close friends and their kids, plus my husband and the family members as above. I have a lot of birthdays around this time of year, but unfortunately, the €500 didn’t cover those as well, so they are coming out of my ordinary expenditure.
My husband’s big present (season tickets to his football club) cost over €200 and I had already paid for that in October. I have no clue what he is getting me this year. Usually, we spend the same amount on each other roughly. His birthday is very close to Christmas, so it’s expensive for me!
I don’t have children so apart from my godchild, my friend’s son and my youngest niece, I don’t have kids to buy for. I would spend about €150 on these three gifts.
We started buying a real tree a few years ago as it seems to be more environmentally friendly than fake plastic trees, so this costs around €40 a year. Every year, I pick up a couple of Christmas tree decorations, spending €15-€20. I would like a beautiful wreath for the front door, but they are so expensive, I might wait to see if they are reduced nearer to Christmas day.
I love scented candles and I treat myself to The White Company or Paul Costelloe, but I rarely pay full price. I usually buy candles in January and put them away with the decorations for the following year. These would cost €20-€30.
Beauty and fashion
Beauty wise, I timed my nails and brow appointment to fall seven days before Christmas day. I have had some bad experiences in the past nearer Christmas where the salons are rushed off their feet and I have ended up with smudged nails and bad haircuts. I left it too late to book to get my roots done so they will be painted on! I do my own hair removal and tan. My beauty appointment will be around €30.
I realised recently I hadn’t many nice clothes for all the social events over Christmas, so I bulk ordered from Zara and Mango, spending about €150, which enabled me to put a few new outfits together to combine with my existing winter wardrobe, which was pretty well invested in anyway.
The aforementioned new/preloved bag is front and centre of every outfit! I have two sequin pieces from previous years that can be rolled out if necessary. I have stuck to a palette of black, navy and purple so it’s easy to mix and match. I will also be repurposing some of my summer and autumn skirts with fine knits and boots.
Food and drink
We usually do one big food shop around 23rd or 24th. We would spend an extra €100-€130 on food and drink. We get lots of gifts of chocolate etc so I actually don’t like to overbuy because I will just eat junk food because it’s there. I am a vegetarian so usually spend €10 alone on my Christmas dinner meat substitute, plus vegan sausage rolls and mince pies, as well as the regular sort. We do tend to stock up on wine and bubbles but probably not to the extent that I see other people do.
I had some business lunches early in December for self-employed people who don’t have a Christmas party. The irony is I dislike staff Christmas parties, but I resent not having one to go to!
The ten days before Christmas, I have lots of plans with friends and my husband. Dinner after dinner, brunch, afternoon tea, you name it. It's mostly eating out and one big night out where I will be driving anyway, so no drink. I budgeted around €150 for these — that way, I am not scratching my head afterwards wondering where my money has gone to.
Travel and the January sales
I don’t have to travel outside of Dublin over Christmas so I will drive or take a bus. I have spent two Christmases abroad and there is nothing like a nice empty departures lounge on Christmas Eve and arriving to empty streets in Paris. I recommend Christmas in Paris at least once!
I always hit the sales on the 27th but I don’t feel you get bargains like you used to. I keep a bit of budget aside to go in, it’s part of my Christmas routine. I have been known to exchange some gifts I received as presents too.
I do go to Brown Thomas, but I don’t queue up — I did in the past, but I end up impulse buying or buying for the sake of it. I think the first and the last day of the sales are best for bargains, but now that the shops open on St Stephen’s Day, I miss the first day as I don’t go in.
Having worked in retail in the past, I did more than my share of working Christmas Eve and to me, opening on the 26th is just unnecessary and I don’t support it. The retail staff should not have work hanging over their heads on Christmas Night.
What I've learned
After totalling up everything and adding in the inevitably huge heating bill for Christmas, I am a bit surprised that I am over the €1k mark. I definitely need to rethink my savings plan for 2020. €1k is the amount to aim for. Or maybe I should just go on holiday, and buy gifts at the airport on the way home — that sounds like a better plan!"
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