With the Christmas countdown in hyperdrive (this a bit late sorry as some people started theirs in August), and with so many Christmas tips going around, with the help of some other African finest mums I’ve compiled some of our top tips for getting ready for and enjoying Christmas. Happy counting.
In no particular order (apart from no. 1)
1. Don’t forget whose birthday it is
This great tip from one of our mums for me is first and foremost, and puts all other tips in perspective. It’s Christ-mas not Me-mas or You-mas or Anyotherperson’s-mas, so don’t get offended if you don’t get a gift, or by the type of gift you got. It’s Jesus’ birthday, not yours. If Jesus is not at the very least somewhere in the mix of these celebrations you’ve missed the point, and all the seasonal stress is really for nothing.
2. Make a budget and stick to it
Having a budget is relatively easy, it’s the sticking to it that can get very sticky. Have in mind a maximum amount you are able to spend and do your best to stay disciplined in not exceeding it. We know it’s hard but it’s better to come out the other end of the season and not have to soak garri (with no groundnut or milk), or live on beans on toast for the whole of January just because you’ve spent everything for the benefit of a couple days. A beautiful companion for this tip is to put aside a little throughout the year. One of our Africanfinestmums puts money away from January each year. It could be as little as the price of a weekly cup of coffee from your favourite cafe. It’s not much, but it comes in super handy when it’s gift buying time or to offset any last minute surprises like finding out on the 22nd of December that your in laws are coming over for Christmas (8 people in total, 4 of which are kids).
3. Make a plan
Make a plan for how you would like to spend it, what you will likely end up doing and then be on the look out for things that will help you successfully achieve it. Quick example, if you’re the one hosting Christmas lunch/dinner and you have a rough idea of how many people you’ll be hosting, if you see any good deals on meat, drinks, snacks, non perishables grab them. One of our mums tip was STOCK UP! There are some things you can stock up on bit by bit all through the year, then for others make a concerted effort from October onwards. Trust me, as long as you have a freezer or storage, that food won’t go to waste. If you wait until the last minute chance is you’ll find yourself wrestling with someone else in the food aisle for the last chicken in the whole store.
4. Use coupons and/or codes
Kinda works well with no. 3. Be on the lookout. 10% off here, 20% off here is not to be sniffed at. Alongside this shop around and be savvy with it. 10% off on something that was 110% last month of the stated price this month is 100% of the price. Those type of shops we see you, we’re not falling for it this year. Black Friday is tomorrow! Now that this phenomenon is spreading beyond Stateside shores, there’s still time (a few hours) to grab yourself a great deal. Again, be savvy, but take advantage if and where you can. If you miss it, too bad, no hope for you, you might as well go and cry now.
Just kidding, if you miss “Black Friday” don’t panic, many stretch it out the whole week and for a few days beyond. There’ll still be other deals to spot and take advantage of before Christmas, and in the January sales. Check out links to a few great deals at the end of this post.
5. Give the gift of wrapping paper
This is perfect for babies up to 1 year (you can probably stretch this to 18 months). It’s easy to make such a massive deal over, “Oh, it’s their 1st Christmas, I want it to be perfect bla bla bla…..” Don’t believe the hype, all that baby cares about is the shiny wrapping paper they’ll get to rip off. He/she doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about anyway so use that to your advantage. Wrap anything and they’ll love it (the wrapping paper). If you want you can recycle any of the leftover baby gifts you received post birth, or a cheap age appropriate toy. The point is you don’t have to spend a lot, you really don’t.
6. Give gifts that are essentials
Save spending on big essentials until birthdays or Christmas. For example my kids get their bikes at Christmas fullstop. I buy the size that will last for hopefully the full year so even if I splash out a bit on the bike I know the use they will get from it will be well worth the money. Got to stretch those coins! If the bike breaks down we patch up as much as we can at the repair shop and keep going. Avoid buying kids everything they want when they want it. I’ll admit my kids aren’t great fans of this, because they want what they want, but hey! remember tip 1, “It’s not your birthday, it’s Jesus’ birthday”, so suck it up and be thankful you are getting things you actually need. If the same toy or gadget keeps coming up in conversation throughout the year, then you know they really want it and can probably get good use out of it, then that might be a candidate for the Christmas gift list.
7. Use the Santa story to maximum effect
If you have children of the Santa believing age make that story work for you. Use it to encourage good behaviour, use it to explain why they didn’t get that super expensive-will only use for 1 week then will break and it can’t be fixed-toy. “You weren’t a good boy/girl when you did this/that and Santa found out”. “Santa couldn’t make it down the chimney because he was too big this year”. Obviously don’t use the bad behaviour excuse if they’ve been well behaved. That would just be lying and Mummies and Daddies don’t do that.
8. Spend it with loved ones
It can be the most wonderful time of the year, so as much as possible spend it with those you do love and avoid those you can’t stand. It should be a crier to be miserable on Christmas Day so try to protect your sanity and joy. If you do have to spend it with those who drive you crazy, why not make an effort this year to try and bury the hatchet, approach then with genuine heart and effort to get along better. If they’re still being a ****head and you tried, then leave it alone, let God deal with them.
9. Keep calm and breathe.
It’s just 1 day of the year. We can get so wrapped up in trying to make it perfect, (talking to mums here) that we overstretch, overwork and over panic ourselves. In that type of state the turkey is more likely to get burnt, we’ll forget someone’s gift and only remember on the night of the 24th, or the day will go by and we’ll find ourselves shattered, irritated and angry. Is that what Jesus would want? Even if it doesn’t go like clockwork, it won’t be the end of the world. Just breathe, eat cake, have a glass of wine, fry some chicken, eat the chicken you fried…. you catch my drift.
10. Build traditions that will last.
Christmas is a great opportunity for building traditions. It doesn’t have to be something big, but the memories and joy can last well beyond this Christmas. Let me share one example. Many many many years ago on one particular Christmas, some of my cousins and I (we must have been touched by the spirit) decided to use the little pocket money we had to buy each other and our parents gifts. This wasn’t at all planned or co-ordinated but somehow we came together that Christmas and discovered it wasn’t just the parents who had bought the gifts, but we had as well. We had such fun buying the gifts, wrapping them up and giving them that this has now spiralled into a big family tradition that even our own kids are enjoying now. Picture between 30 – 50 people (depending on the year), exchanging gifts (mostly small things like a brush, inexpensive jewelry or scarves), dancing away into the early hours of the morning, having competitions for made up games, cooking together and indulging in a variety of delicacies, enjoying each others company and laughing all night. Just one example but an awesome tradition grew from much smaller beginnings.
It could be baking, wrapping gifts together, setting up Christmas decorations, playing and singing along to the same Christmas album every year, playing a particular board game, spend the day watching soppy Christmas movies. There are so many things you can do. Enjoy creating those traditions!
11. Attend a Carol service or 2
There’s nothing like a great Carol service to make you just want to leave the stresses of day to day life and just go and hang out with God and the angels. Not only are carols great messages of love, sacrifice and the birthday boy Jesus, they provide a great opportunity to pause, reflect on the year gone by, talk to and reconnect with our Creator, remember this life is much bigger than just us yet we have a really important role to play in our homes, community and wider world.
No matter where you are there’s sure to be a Carol service planned somewhere close to where you live. If you have never been to one, or haven’t been in a while why not think about it this year. You don’t even have to sing well, it’s the joining in that counts.
12. Teach kids the art of giving.
Train a child up in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Christmas is a great time to teach this. The commercialisation of Christmas can encourage children to think about “me, me, me, me” which isn’t great. Think of little things you can do to help your children think about others, recognise that there are others either going without or going with very little this Christmas. It could be giving to a shoebox appeal, helping out in a homeless shelter, going to spend some time with a neighbour or family friend who lives on their own.
13. Let the kids help
Make it a real family affair, turn into something fun for them. Things like putting up and taking down Christmas decorations (recycle these as much as possible), setting the dinner table, writing and making Christmas cards, help with cooking (for smaller kids this can be limited to mixing or tasting). Smaller kids love helping out, and true they get easily distracted (and in some cases their help might end up creating more mess for you to clean up afterwards), but if you start them early in terms of helping out it’s better for them, better for you. Mums delegate as much as possible to both your hubby and the kids, and be careful not to reclaim the things you’ve delegated (for some reason we’re really good at doing that).
14. Know thine self, help thine self
Keep it simple as much as you can and make your life easier. One of our finest mums suggests getting pre-paid gift cards for adults. This takes the stress out of trying to decide what to get them, and they can choose to use it to shop even after Christmas when things are much cheaper. Also do online shopping if and when possible to avoid the crazy shopping period. “Jingle bells, Jingle bells” blaring out in every shop, shiny shoes, dresses, jewelry and all that fun stuff calling out your name as you walk past them. Items on display just begging you to reach out and touch, just once, because all it takes is one touch and it’s all over, you’ve just got to have it. Help! Get the picture?
Also, if you have small kids, if you can, avoid taking them on your Christmas shopping trips. Taking them with you is not a good idea at all. They’re 1 million times worse than you in terms of giving into the temptation all around, and in the inevitable chaos you’ll end up buying overpriced, unnecessary items you’ll regret later.
So that’s our (by no means exhaustive) list. Thanks for counting down with us. Hope it helps you plan, participate and enjoy this Christmas even more.
A few deals (in the UK)
- https://www.tkmaxx.com/uk/en (TK Maxx or TJ Maxx is one of my favourite shops for last minute deals at really great prices. You can get really cute gifts for less than £10).
- https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/black-friday-and-cyber-monday-alert-service This is a great website for money saving tips.