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Keep Christmas Cheap: don’t let money worries spoil your celebrations

I’ve been a Christmas addict all my life.  Ever since those massive week-long family gatherings at my grandparents’ house as a child, those magical times when we’d post our letters to Father Christmas (not Santa; it was Father Christmas when I was a little girl) through the air vent in Nan’s kitchen chimney and then wonder excitedly how he’d get through the tiny slats, I’ve always had a lot of love for all things Christmassy.

Ask my former colleagues at SecureTrading what I was like at Christmas… “annoying,” they’d probably say, because I used to start listening to Christmas compilations in September (mind you, none of them ever complained when on 1 December every year, I would personally treat them all to a chocolate advent calendar; and they all enjoyed the Christmas parties I used to arrange for them every year, too).

So this year, it breaks my heart to admit that for the first time in my life, I’m dreading Christmas…

The first, and main, reason that I won’t enjoy Christmas this year, is that my darling Nan died just before Christmas last year.  Her funeral was on 21 December; we trekked down to London in the bitter cold, just 4 days before Christmas, and after the funeral my Grandad gave me back the present I’d bought Nan, as there was no point it being in his house.   So this Christmas I’ll be thinking about Nan, wishing – like I do every single day – for one last hour with her, one last chance to say “I love you”, one last opportunity to make sure she knows she’s my best friend in the world and that I miss her more than words can possibly describe.

The other reason I’m dreading Christmas this year, though, is money.

One of the greatest joys at Christmas, for me, is giving presents to my loved ones and making them happy.  I’m just one of those people that loves giving gifts.  Gifts for Christmas, gifts for birthdays, gifts for the sake of giving gifts.

But this year, unless I get a little Christmas miracle, my loved ones won’t be getting any presents from me.  Because, as a new business (and this is common to pretty much all new businesses, I think), I’ve not made enough money to pay myself a regular salary.  I pay myself whatever I can get away with – enough to cover the bills – but I’ve not been able to put anything away for Christmas.

I’m in a better position than a lot of people, I hasten to add; there are families out there that are really struggling, facing having their homes repossessed, unable to feed or clothe their kids, and really generally feeling the pinch more than I am.

But this isn’t a “who’s more skint?” competition.  The fact is, Christmas is a difficult time of year for a lot of families, and with the recession hitting the UK, this Christmas is likely to be extra difficult for a lot of us, one way or another.

I was having a bit of a moan with one of my clients a couple of weeks ago, about the cost of Christmas, and the client mentioned that she’d like to increase her marketing activities in the run-up to Christmas but wondered how it could be done without drastically increasing the budget.

It occurred to me; it’s not just consumers that are affected this Christmas; it’s businesses too, especially small or young businesses without massive marketing budgets to back them up.  And believe me, if you’re in business you really want to be increasing your marketing when there’s a recession looming, not reducing it.  But if you’ve got no money for advertising, how do you manage?

It was like a lightbulb going on in my head.

Christmas is coming… recession… businesses should increase marketing… businesses can’t afford to advertise… consumers want to save money… we’re all in the same boat…

The result of the lightbulb is Keep Christmas Cheap, which I’ve spent the past two weeks designing, building, and populating with content.

Keep Christmas Cheap is part campaign, part community, and it serves two main purposes:

  • It aggregates products under £20 (gifts, decorations, food and drink, party gear etc) and “how-to” articles (recipes, craft ideas etc) under one roof, in easy to navigate categories, so that consumers can get ideas for buying cheap Christmas products and share ideas for making their own;
  • It also offers a way for businesses to advertise their products and services at ridiculously cheap rates (by “ridiculously cheap” I mean a one-off fee of £10 per page) to an audience that is actively looking for ways to keep Christmas costs down.

I’m launching the site in a very low-key way over the next week or so, to gauge interest and get some visitor stats together, before going for the big launch (if you’d like to follow my progress, visit the Keep Christmas Cheap blog, where I plan to post regular updates).

I hope the site will help consumers keep their Christmas costs down, and I hope also that it’ll help businesses get a better return on investment from their Christmas marketing budgets.

And if I earn enough from it to buy my husband and daughter a decent Christmas present each, I’ll consider the whole thing to have been a massive success.

If you like the sound of the project, please visit the site to find out how you can support the Keep Christmas Cheap campaign.  Thank you.

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