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Stewardship - Inspire December 08 - a money savvy Christmas

STEVE PIERCE offers some top tips to help you get a grip on your Christmas spending

Over Christmas we will spend £12 million on Brussels sprouts alone! We buy billions of them in the week before 25 December and I am told we will each eat 14 sprouts over the festive period.

There’s always someone worse off, however. In 1647 Oliver Cromwell cancelled Christmas completely – and spare a thought for the 270 people who spent Christmas Day 2005 completing their tax returns.

Yet Christmas is and can still be a very special time. Don’t let familiarity with the first Christmas story rob you of its joy.

In Matthew’s Gospel we see a scene where the wise men arrive in Bethlehem filled with joy.  They shared their journey’s purpose with Mary and received her hospitality. They knelt, they worshipped and they gave their gifts – gifts with meaning; gentiles fulfilling Isaiah’s promise (Isaiah 60:1-7).

This Christmas, instead of losing the baby with the bathwater we can reclaim Christmas for faith, family and friends.

Try this challenge: off the top of your head take a guess at what your household spends on Christmas. The average cost last year was £907 – that’s per family member!

For around 40% of us this will be financed by credit and 17% of us are still paying for last Christmas. The 12 days of Christmas can easily become the 12 months of stressmas. 
Money worries are responsible for much of the stress at Christmas. Get a grip of money then, and you will be freer to celebrate Christmas and experience its joy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Set a Christmas budget. It’s not too late to find out what it really costs and whether that is what you want to spend. Only a third (36%) of us will make a budget but nearly three quarters of us will keep to a budget if we make one. Use the Christmas budget planner at
  • Buy with cash. Paying with cash feels like real money. Plastic doesn’t; it encourages us to spend more.
  • Plan your buying. The thought really does count so be realistic about presents. We spend over £1 billion on unwanted gifts (that’s around £35 each) and a third of us feel under pressure to buy expensive gifts. Impulse buying can be costly and last-minute panic buying is the biggest single cause of Christmas stress for a third of us (34%).
  • Count the cost of credit. If you have to use credit, work out how long it will take to pay off that credit fully. Remember, credit is not simple so don’t be embarrassed to ask advice about borrowing. The bloke lending money at the door is not always your best deal. Credit unions give members low cost borrowing and encourage saving.  Is there one near you? Ask around.
  • Give alternative gifts. Consider giving or asking for these offered by a number of charities. It helps us to learn to value living more simply.

This is one couple’s experience: “We were clearing out a room last summer and found a bag of Christmas presents from the previous year. We didn’t know they were there; we had not missed them and did not need them. So this year my husband and I asked relatives to make a donation or send an alternative Christmas gift to a charity instead of presents for us.

“We didn’t feel we missed out even on Christmas Day. It also prompted some who would not usually donate to charities to make a contribution, and see who could find the most interesting thing to buy for the Third World.”


  • Develop some new family traditions. Eg make your own chocolates and deliver them to friends each Christmas Eve.
  • Put the waiting back into wanting. Make Advent count for something at church and at home using wreaths, candles and the nativity story.
  • Instead of presents for older family members, do something together such as a walk, meal or special night out.
  • Make a shared decision, as a church or family, to make a financial gift to charity.
    Give Christmas Day an international flavour by inviting someone from overseas who lives alone in the UK, such as a student, and participate in their food and traditions.
  • Send just one Christmas card to the church congregation and have a church Christmas card wall.

If you have debt worries, free, confidential and impartial advice is available from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service: freephone 0800 027 4995.

Steve Pierce heads up Stewardship Money, part of the Christian charity Stewardship ( You can e-mail

Statistics courtesy of Experian (Nov 2005); Credit Action (Dec 2007); Daily Mirror (21/12/06

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