I’m dreaming of a cheap Christmas – How to cut costs for cash-strapped parents – Christmas stockings

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Christmas is expensive – so I’m going to do a few posts on what I’m doing to cut costs this Xmas.

Christmas stockings are a bit of a nightmare.  You think they’re going to be cheap because they’re only a few low-cost gifts, but by the time it’s all added together they’re hugely costly.

Watch out for the term “stocking fillers” – it usually refers to either stuff that’s far to expensive to go in stockings (anything up to £15-£20 is now described as a stocking filler for some bizarre reason) or utter rubbish.

I’ve even seen overtly grown-up stuff described as stocking fillers – who, exactly they’re expecting to wake up on Christmas morning to find a box of “The world’s hottest chilli peppers” or a “grow your own cocktail kit” at the end of their bed, I’m not sure…

Here are my top tips:

1)  The stockings themselves.  Buy a Christmas stocking and it’s £10 before you even start.  Also, you’re then defined by the size of the stocking itself – you’ve got to fill it, and of course, the companies selling the stockings are the same companies flogging you stuff to fill them with – so it’s in their interest to give you something over-sized.

Use ordinary bags and decorate them with wrapping paper and tinsel – the children won’t care.

2)  Wrap EVERYTHING.  Wrapped presents are more fun – If you wrap every little thing in the stocking, then opening every little thing is a fun job.  Tipping your stocking out onto the bed takes 1 second and if nothing is wrapped, the children will be left thinking “is that it?”  The kids will feel they’ve had more if they’ve spent more time unwrapping, and they’ll have to take notice of every gift.

3) Buy second hand on ebay – Not everything, but some items.  Toy animals for example aren’t wrapped when they’re new and can cost £5 each easily.  You can pick up the same toy on ebay in bundles of 10 or so  much cheaper, and then sprinkle them in among the presents.

The same goes for trading cards (Match Attax are very popular in our house this year – on ebay they’re going at a couple of pounds for fifty).

4) The main point (from a parent’s point of view) of a Christmas stocking is to keep the children from waking you up when they wake at 4am, so you’ve at least got a fighting chance of keeping the main present opening back to a time when the rest of the extended family are awake.  Stuff that can be used right now (preferably quietly) wins every time.  Top Trumps, crayons, (small) lego toys and puzzles are all great.

5) Set a treasure hunt.  I don’t mean a set of clues arranged around the house (although if you’ve got time…)  I mean separate out your gifts and leave them throughout the stocking.  a bag of chocolates, Lego, or a set of cars or soldiers are all more fun per £ if it takes a while to hunt them all out from among the other toys in the bag.

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