30 November 2011

OK, we know that if you're planning a career break and aren't loaded, money is going to be a concern.

Most career breakers spend months (sometimes even years) saving up for it.

And at times like Christmas, it can be really hard to carry on saving money. So here are some tips for you, on saving money without being a Scrooge.

Gifts and cards

  1. Do Secret Santas where you can. Fortunately these are really popular now. Buying one gift instead of ten will save you lots of money. Suggest it if no-one else has yet.
  2. Make gifts if you can... If you're crafty, arty or can cook, a homemade gift can often be a cheap way of spreading joy.
  3. ...But beware of hidden costs. Sometimes the kits can end up costing a lot, or you can end up spending a lot on packaging.
  4. Give vouchers for things you can do. People will be grateful to have their lawn mowed, dog walked, car washed or dinner cooked. 
  5. Make the most of special offers... Whether it's 3 for 2 on gifts or free delivery, these can save you quite a bit of cash.
  6. ...But use them wisely. Often they're designed to make you buy more than you need, or can suck you into impulse purchases.
  7. Cut the cost of wrapping by not buying ribbons or bows, and getting cheap or plain paper (or even using magazine pages). Make your own gift tags out of old cards or postcards.
  8. If friends or family live far away, buy light things. Postage costs can sometimes be as much as the gift! For international post, printed papers and small packets are cheaper to send.
  9. Agree new present rules with family or friends. It's fine to suggest a cap on how much is spent, or to agree with family that you'll just do presents for the kids from now on. You'll often find that people will thank you for suggesting it!
  10. Be brave. It's hard to be the first in your group to suggest a Secret Santa or price cap, but it could help everyone, not just you. If you're really brave, you can always say 'I'm not getting you a present this year, so don't buy me one'.
  11. Cut the card list. We're not saying don't send cards - just send them to the people who you know will be really chuffed to receive them. Which isn't going to be everyone on your list.

Going out

  1. Stop drinking. If that's not going to happen, drink less! The cost of alcohol, especially when you go out, is one of the big things to put a dent in your budget. If you can't bear not to drink, have wine or beer and try to drink slowly. 
  2. Have a drop before you go out. This goes against all 'drink less' advice, but if you have had a crap day and need to take the edge off, a tiny glass of something before you leave the house might stop you downing a large Chardonnay as soon as you get to the pub. 
  3. Drive. It will stop you drinking, and if you give your friends a lift, they will put in for parking (hopefully). If you go somewhere with no public transport, it will save you taxi fares too.
  4. Don't feel obliged to accept all invitations. If you're lucky enough to be popular, you might get invited to a lot of do's. You don't have to go if you're watching the pennies.
  5. Check the menu before you eat out to make sure it's within your budget. Set menus are really good value but remember to add drinks and tips.
  6. Never eat out with people who split the bill equally. It makes it impossible to stick to a budget, and you'll end up subsidising everyone else.
  7. Try to resist buying new clothes. There's a lot of pressure from the media to get a new party outfit (if you're a woman anyway) but you probably don't need to. If you're desperate for something new, buy something like a scarf or tie.
  8. Pitch in at parties or get-togethers If you're asked to bring something, then do. Bringing a dish is still cheaper than eating out - and allows you to take leftovers home!
  9. Don't be embarrassed about budgeting. You don't have to tell everyone your plans or financial situation, you can simply say you are on a budget so don't want to waste money.


  1. Don't feel obliged to host. Even if you do it every year. Especially if you do it every year.
  2. Ask people to bring stuff. This will help your guests because they'll know exactly what to bring, and you won't end up with 10 boxes of chocolates and no wine.
  3. Don't buy too much posh stuff. At this time of year we're indundated with offers of 'luxury' this and 'finest' that, but most of the time, the ordinary stuff will do. In fact, it's often the same. Check the supplier codes!
  4. Don't over-cater. People always have too much food at a party, and there's often drink left over too. People don't eat as much at crowded gatherings as they normally do, so you don't have to feed everyone mountains of stuff.
  5. Use your leftovers. If you throw food away, you might as well be chucking your money in the bin. If you can't cook or make a turkey sandwich, at least give your food away - it won't save you money but it will earn you some karma points (or a favour from a friend!).
  6. Don't buy more decorations. Just use what you already have! Or get broken-off branches for free from whoever's selling Christmas trees, to decorate your mantelpiece. 
  7. Relax. You don't have to do or be anything special. People are coming because they want to see you, not to admire your decorations or to get wasted (if that's the case you need a new social circle!).


Final tip

Don't confuse economy with meanness. Saving money is about spending it carefully so you have more for the things that matter. That's not mean, it's eminently sensible!

Have a great Christmas - and if it gets too much, start planning your getaway by looking at all our career break projects here.