The Little Lilypad is a lifestyle blog mostly written by a mum to two beautiful, cheeky and entertaining daughters. It is sometimes written by the Man on the Pad or our baby bloggers and occasionally we accept guest posts. There is frequently talk of shoes and clothing (we love fashion and savvy shopping), chocolate (who doesn't love chocolate) education and swimming (we love this too). It is hopefully helpful, sometimes funny and always honest.
I have seen so many Facebook posts over the past few days of people who have taken their trees down and their house is "back to normal". I still have too many Christmas treats and chocolates in my house to accept that Christmas is actually over and after taking a number of hours to painstakingly decorate it, I want to enjoy it for as long as I can.
BUT and it is a big but, my Mum always had superstitions about leaving at least one decoration up until the 12th day after Christmas. Since Victorian times, tradition states that you should do it on Twelfth Night. (obviously not suggesting my Mum was around in Victorian times - hoping now that she isn't reading my blog this week). In real terms though, that’s January 5, with January 6, aka the Feast of the Epiphany, is the very last day on which you can take them down.
If you have a real tree, I am guessing that it may have gone to a tree recyling plant by this stage or you have a very glamorous looking twig in your lounge but the Twelfth Night represents the true end of the festive period. In those Victorian times and even before, families used to celebrate this date by eating even more cake, dancing and playing games. (sounds like my 2016 Christmas to be honest!!)
So if, like me, you are clinging onto the last bits of Christmas for a couple more days, light another cinnamon scented candle, drink a little more mulled wine, dance to cheesy music and eat a mince pie. The Victorians would have.
Christmas is a great time of the year spent with friends and family, enjoying the festivities, and having fun. But it can also be a costly one, especially if you have children. While there’s nothing wrong with using a credit card if you need to, there are ways to help you have a debt free Christmas and avoid paying for it well into next year.
We have said it before and while it isn't the most exciting solution, the key to a debt free Christmas is to budget for everything – and stick to it. Parents in particular have the urge to go a bit nuts on their kids at Christmas and there’s nothing wrong with that but try to do it in a structured way. Look at what you can afford to spend, divide it up across the various areas such as presents, food and social events and work out what you can spend on who.
Save reward points
Many of the big supermarkets have reward points systems and you can save these up for Christmas to help with the cost of the food. Alternatively, some do swap systems, such as Tesco, where you can exchange £5 for £10 to spend in certain areas such as kids clothing.
Take control & know when to stop
Debt is a very personal issue and it can become increasingly difficult to talk about to those around you but it is better to take control than to stick your head in the sand. No one wants to be paying for Christmas presents long after the decorations have come down so for some people an IVA may enable them to get back in control of their money. It is imperative to get good advice from a company like Creditfix who have discrete and professional staff that work with individuals to find the best way to manage your debt problems.
Grab a bargain
Shopping early might seem like cheating but it is great way to get the bargains. Events such as Black Friday may seem hyper-commercial but there can be some good deals to get.
If you missed the bargains, all isn’t lost as you can still save money by shopping around, especially for the expensive items. Use comparison sites to look at the price across different stores and don’t forget online ones. Whenever I find something I like online, I then open a new tab and the website + voucher codes in the search bar and it is amazing what comes up, from free delivery codes to first order discounts.
Check voucher sites
Following on from searching for codes, voucher sites are big business and are available for more than just food. Check them out, sign up for emails and watch out for those discounts that are time sensitive or limited in number – you can save a serious amount of money with them.
Use credit card rewards
Likewise, some credit cards reward you for using them through the year so why not save up these rewards to use at Christmas and reduce the cost of the festive season.
Make handmade presents
Kids love to make things and family members love to receive things the kids have made. So why not use the excuse of cold, rainy days to make some handmade presents and save a bit of cash? Small kits like friendship bracelets are also great for their school friends.
Send photos as presents
Family or fun photos of the kids are a great present, especially for family who live away from you and don't get to see your children growing up day by day. Picture frames are inexpensive and can be decorated by the kids to add to the personalisation.
So while Christmas may be the season of giving, it is also a time to remember that being festive doesn't have to be expensive too.
Do you have any money saving tips to add to this list?
There is no escaping the fact that Christmas is looming and with a Santa experience available everywhere from the supermarket, school fetes or local garden centre, how do you choose the best place to go? We were invited along to Hatton Adventure World to experience their Enchanted Christmas Kingdom this year, so we gathered all the family up for a crisp November morning and set off in search of Santa and his reindeer.
Christmas Shopping Markets
Before you even step inside Hattion Adventure World, you get to walk through some fabulous Christmas market stalls that are just there for the festive season. The stalls change week on week and you don't need to pay entrance to the park to enjoy the shopping experience either. There was so many fabulous Christmas themed gifts from handmade plaques and personalised pictures through to our particular favourites of gorgeous scented soy candles from Wicks of Water Orton. There wasn't a cash machine working on site during our visit, so it is definitely worth making sure you have some cash available if you want to shop in the market area.
Zoobee's Christmas Cracker Show
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas at Hatton without Zoobee and his marvellous magic show. We have seen Zoobee a few times and every time is different and the Christmas Cracker Show doesn't disappoint. We won't tell you what happens as we don't want to ruin it but the jokes are as funny for the grown ups as much as the children!
No visit to Hatton Adventure World is complete without popping in to see (and feed) the farmyard animals and they have been given the festive treatment with tinsel and decorations around the farmyard too. The children love to feed the animals (but you need to double check as there are signs saying that not all the animals should be fed).
Writing A Letter To Santa
All children love to write their letters to Santa and if your little ones haven't done so already, they can sit on a toadstool and write their list in the Arts and Crafts tent area before taking a trip to see the big man!
Christmas Decorations Making
Hatton are all about children making memories and the Arts and Crafts area gives them a chance to make their own decoration to hang on your Christmas tree or personalise your own Christmas card or wreath. My girls loved this area and we actually went back again after we saw Santa as they wanted to make more things, after walking around for a few hours it was nice for us to sit down in the warm for half an hour or so too!
Ooh we forgot to mention that upon arrival you are told that elves have (carelessly) lost the reindeers and you are tasked with trying to find them. They are hiding around Hatton find all  of them and you get to win a Christmas thank you prize! (which is chocolate so that works for us). While we were hunting the reindeer locations we actually came across a real one ....
One of the things I really liked about our day out at Hatton was that it wasn't overly crowded and as you are able to book a slot to see Santa, there are not huge queues (and bored children). The approach and entrance to the grotto is very twinkly and you could see the excitement building in the children's eyes.
Children don't sit on Santa's knee anymore but Hatton had provided a wooden chair to sit on next to Santa. My youngest was a little shy so I got the chance to sit next to him too!! Santa must see A LOT of children but he was so welcoming and engaging with the children, making them laugh and even raising a smile from the 11 year old!
The look on the children's faces when they were told their key meant they could pick any present they wanted was only surpassed by their expression when they saw the toy workshop and all of its offerings.
So overall, what did we think?
Hatton Adventure World has enough to do to fill a whole day out, so if you are used to paying a couple of pounds for a quick visit to see Santa in a local grotto it may seem a little expensive. However the earlier you go, the cheaper it is with prices increasing up to £19.95 in Christmas week. The prices here are on the gate prices, and the website says there are discounts if you book online in advance.
A month today is Christmas Eve ... how is that possible?
We are 11 months into the year and the children are keen to believe that the elves have been working hard all year, although I am still unsure as to how this actually works when the children only seem to write their lists in the last few weeks but I suppose that is all part of the magic isn't it?
For many parents Christmas can be a mix of emotions from the excitement of sharing Christmas with the children to the stress of actually affording to pay for the gifts and festivities.
So how do you afford a magical and (financially) stress free Christmas? Here are our top tips.
Make a list and check it twice.
Having a plan is my top tip! This includes creating a list of everyone you need to buy for and setting a budget. You then know what you need and then don't deviate from it! If you can agree present budgets with friends and family that is even better because no one likes feeling awkward when your gift is significantly more expensive (or cheaper) than theirs.
Budget, budget, budget
I am not talking about finding a way to make your pay packet last all the way through December and I know it is easy to say now we are in November but putting away a little bit of money every month can make life a lot easier when it comes to present buying at Christmas time. I am acutely aware that a lot of families don't always have disposable income to put £50 in the savings account every month, especially when you get requests for school trips or the children need new shoes but there is always an option of playing a couple of pounds with games online. I was asked by Lottoland to take a look at their site and as I am usually a bit cynical about the lottery, I wanted to take a look. The interesting part is that you are not actually purchasing a lottery ticket, instead, you are betting on the outcome of the lottery. This was a totally new concept for me as it is a form of betting that gives you the opportunity to play along and bet on lotteries that are not normally accessible to us. There is the EuroMillions, Irish Lottery and Powerball which is the American lottery which had the £1 billion jackpot ealier this year! So even if you played this for £1 a week, the chances of adding more pennies to your Christmas savings pot definitely has better odds than sitting in your piggy bank.
Christmas shopping may be fun but it’s a lot more interesting and a lot less stressful when you don’t have to battle the crowds. Most people now shop online in order to obtain bargain prices on gifts but that’s not the only thing that can be purchased online. Stocking up on your entire Christmas food order online and having it delivered will definitely help eliminate the stress of Christmas supermarket shopping.
Give an IOU to your other half or best friend
Instead of paying December prices, offer to take your partner or best friend shopping in the January sales. It means that you get a day out together at a fraction of the pre-Christmas cost. This is an especially good idea if you wanted to buy a joint present for the house (this does not mean a vacuum, in case my husband is reading this!!)
Whatever you are buying, make sure that you are getting cashback whether this is through an online site (there are so many to choose from) or with your own bank account. It makes total sense toget cashback on the gifts you are buying and you can start to put this into your 2017 Christmas fund!