The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: December review

Photo: Christmas tree detail

Photo: Christmas tree detail

I was worried that Christmas might blow our budget completely. But we had agreed to cut any extra spending to a minimum so December passed the acid test. Savings over 50% on the normal weekly shop. Last year I was careful and struggled to shave £5.00 off our bills. This year I was wanton, trying every strategy I could think of for lowering our bills whilst still living comfortably.

Our Christmas menus were loosely based around the goose (a present from my mother) and a half leg of organic ham that we cured and smoked ourselves. This made the ham a real bargain. The remains were frozen in chunks to be used for other meals in the future. Small packs of goose meat were also frozen to be added to game pies. The slow cooker bubbled away for a day creating a superb goose stock from the carcass.

We also set a maximum limit for presents. I’d been squirreling away little bits and bobs throughout the year so filling the Christmas morning stockings wasn’t a problem. We didn’t have time to send many cards last Christmas so had a couple of boxes just pleading to be filled in.

I was also lucky. Finding good crackers in the Tesco sale just before Christmas and a living tree in a pot for a fiver at the Tesco garage. Our old tree was bought for ten quid a few years ago and is now to big to drag into the cottage. The great thing about a smaller tree is that I could decorate it in half an hour. The only problem was searching the dingy attic for the small Christmas tree decorations and the mini lights.

The amazing thing was that we enjoyed each treat far more than the lavish flamboyance of past. Each mouthful of the wedge of Stilton was relished, and the fresh fruit savoured. Our vegetables (organic and on offer were snapped up a week before Christmas and stored in the barn. They were fine and tasted as fresh as if they’d been bought on Christmas Eve. It didn’t feel like a budget Christmas at all.

Our ceiling on the cost of the presents forced us to find luxuries for each other for under £25.00. Danny’s favourite present was a cashmere beanie from my mum. It folds easily into a pocket and is very warm when he needs it. My best present was from my mum too, she has the knack. I now own my very own pair of fur (fake) lined Wellington boots. Perfect for this chilly weather.

We were lucky too. I was given a brace of pheasant just before Christmas and a wonderful bottle of pink champagne when I fixed someone’s computer. I also discovered that the left over ingredients from last years Christmas cake, just slightly out of date made a superb cake this year. Our best ever.

So we’ve completed the challenge (initially the target was to save 25%), doubled the savings and will continue it forever as in the end we’ve really enjoying the ducking and diving.

In a couple of days time I’ll outline the strategy that worked best for us in 2008 and announce our new challenge for 2009.


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10 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Linda

    Your Christmas sounds great!

    Our decorations are still up as they look so pretty!

    Hi S.O.L

    I’m intrigued by your pantry list! Thanks for the link – looks interesting.

    Hello JuliaB

    Good luck with selling your house and all the best for 2009.

    Hi Melanie

    It was a bargain and it has a great shape too.

    Hello Pamela

    I’m very impressed 12 gifts for under a fiver!

    Hi Gem

    Those crackers sound like great fun! Thanks for sharing.

    Hi Martyn

    What a brilliant idea! You’ve inspired me to try that next year.

    Hi Sara

    Happy New Year to all at Farming Friends too.

    Hi Amanda

    It was much easier to save money when we started to enjoy the challenge. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Oh my goodness you did SO well! Well done, a real inspiration for everyone.

  3. farmingfriends

    Well done on all that saving. You are truely an inspiration. Happy new year to you all at the cottage smallholder.
    Kind regards
    Sara from farmingfriends

  4. Moby & I got a terrific blast from making our own Christmas cards; I decorated my ‘Fluke’ ukulele which has a triangular, vaguely Christmas-tree shape, photographed and printed it and she cut out the pics and pasted them onto card. Inscribed ‘Merry Xmas’ with a silver glitter paint pen, they looked most fetching. Proper ‘Blue Peter’, as one recipient commented…
    M.
    x

  5. A new commenter here! We had a “good life” Christmas this year. We made hats from newspaper and my parents made the Christmas crackers from cardboard and newspaper. My mother wrote the mottos! We had so much fun; shouting bang when we pulled them, and giggling at the mottos. We enjoyed it so much. Gem xx

  6. Several years ago my mother and older sister decided to only buy presents for the children in the family but then produced gifts for everyone leaving some of us feeling very uncomfortable having taken them at theier word. We now assume that they will produce something and so Christmas has become a real challenge to offer each person the most thoughtful gift you can. Small and useful is how it is turning out and involves being very aware of each other. My gifts were all hand made and in total cost me less than £5 to give about a dozen gifts.

  7. I wish I was as organised as you are! It sounds like you had the best Christmas ever. We managed to get a few last minute bargains, although I didn’t scrimp on the turkey – organic and worth every penny. I also did a little sales shopping, so we have enough cards, wrapping and crackers for next year! Unfortunately, due to the housing market crisis we have still not sold our house. However, I spent yesterday afternoon moving furniture around and now our house looks completely different. Almost as good as moving! I really hope everyone has a fantastic and fruitful 2009.

  8. melanie

    A fiver for a living tree, what a bargain!

  9. You are a beacon of hope for all showing the way forward for all to aspire to savings in 2009.

    I have my pantry list altogether now and I am hoping to post about it this week end with a few menu planners as a taster. I have also the link to the everydayfoodstorage.net (in the side bar,who at the moment are in a week of you tube/pod casts of showing you how to use basic food storage. And how to maximise savings! For sure I will be watching a few of those.

    cant wait to see your up coming post for 2009

  10. Well done. Perhaps its an age thing as well – I just got fed up with that sinking feeling after Christmas when I realised how much money had gone on unwanted presents and food. We thought quite carefully about how much we would actually eat, allowed the odd treat inc an organic turkey and smoked salmon, I made several batches of cranberry sauce over the holidays, and have managed, I think, to make the whole period festive without waste. Another bonus is that we’ve not put on weight. The last of the decorations and greenery will come down today – I’m actually looking forward to a sense of spareness!
    Looking forward, too, to your 2009 posts.

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