budgeting at Christmas

2021, christmas

Hello!

With Halloween out the way (though I’m yet to take the decorations off the door), Christmas is everywhere – I’ve heard songs in adverts, heard the phrase ‘Christmas shopping’ far too much and already started thinking about presents.

But with a wedding to save for, a hefty student loan and just general not having a ton of expendable income, I’m really needing to cut back on how much I spend this Christmas so I’ve been brainstorming a few ways to still give meaningful gifts without spending as much (if anything).

My main thing is I already have a lot of craft materials because I’m a sucker for Hobbycraft – I’ve got loads of wools, scrap materials for sewing, paper in lots of patterns and (in theory) creativity in abundance, so assuming I can get my act together and actually get some crafting done, it should be a nice way to still make personal gifts without spending loads.

So I thought I’d collate a few of the ideas that I’m (trying) to stick with this year to make sure Christmas doesn’t break the bank!

Presents

A few tactics here:

  • Evaluate who you really need to prioritise getting gifts for – for me and my partner, it’s our families, with friends I’m hoping to suggest some Secret Santa’s so it saves some money for everyone and anyone else might get some very-homemade-looking cupcakes!
  • Weigh in on the ‘It’s the thought that counts’ principle – no one really cares how much you spend, especially when it’s something that’s got a personal touch or a handmade feel. Last year (or the year before?) I bought a set of blank playing cards and wrote a ’52 Reasons I Love You’ set for my partner (yes, I know how soppy it sounds) and then for my sibling’s birthday I made a pack of 52 IOUs and vouchers, such as redeeming spontaneous video calls, take outs, taxi services etc (though be wary that this can add up quite significantly!)
  • Simple, low cost presents like photo frames or notebooks can be worth so much more when you add your own personalisations – a photo collage with your favourite pictures, a heartfelt letter, maybe even a scrapbook or something can be a wonderful memory and a beautiful gift.
  • Homemade hampers are a win – pre-Covid Christmas, I made a bunch of ‘Home Cinema Kit’ with blankets, hot chocolate sachets and popcorn (and a nice basket which is very handy for cute looking storage) and it felt like such a treat. Nothing in there was particularly expensive – the baskets were a couple of pounds from a supermarket, the blankets were Primark, the food items were probably less than £5 total but the time, effort and thought that goes into making a little kit like this is what elevates the gift (I hope).
  • The Gift of Time – at the end of the day, the people you love value nothing more than spending time with you. Promising to spend a weekend with your friend, or booking a workshop to do together, or bringing over a baking or craft kit and spending the time doing it together is worth so much more than the gift itself. I find this is also really useful if you’re buying gifts for kids and you don’t want to buy more toys or anything that will be more stressful to mum and dad – have a baking afternoon, bring over a colour-in table cloth or spend the afternoon in the park; you get to spend time with them doing something fun and bonus – it gives their parents a little rest too!
  • If you’re a craft whizz who can knit a jumper in a week and have creativity oozing out of your ears, you’re all set (I’m working on this).

Some of my hopes for this year’s Christmas presents are to utilise my sewing machine and my Cricut, but whether I’ll actually figure out what to make and when to make it is another question entirely.

Christmas Clothing

The festive season is here, there’s cosy jumpers on offer everywhere and a soft new set of Christmas pyjamas are so tempting… but you’ve got at least three jumpers sat at home, last year’s Christmas pyjamas were worn for two nights from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day and you even have a pair of festive dinosaur slipper socks in the drawer (just me on that one?).

Whilst the excitement of new things – particularly new festive things that may or may not jingle – is incredibly tempting, there’s absolutely no reason to buy a new Christmas jumper every year.

This is more of a ‘note to self’ than a tip, if I’m honest.

Christmas Decorations

Same as above – I see so many influencers who will go out and buy all new decorations for their ginormous Christmas Trees every single year to go with their new ‘theme’, but it just seems like such a waste of all the other decorations that are sat in boxes in the garage from last Christmas – but the woodland theme doesn’t match the Nutcracker theme.

I have decorations from the year I was born and all through my life so far. I like to pick one new decoration each year on my annual trip to the garden centre Christmas display, but whatever pressure Instagram puts on you to get brand new decorations every year, I’m here to say you absolutely don’t.


After the last (nearly) two years of lockdowns, social distancing and isolation from so many of our loved ones, being able to give your time is worth so much more than gifts, fancy food or new outfits.

And at the end of the day, anyone who cares more about the worth of their present than the value of your presence, probably deserves neither.

(that sounded a bit deep, didn’t it?)

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

SophieCountsClouds Vlogmas 2020

2020, christmas

Hello!

It’s been a strange year and I never thought I’d close it out the way I started my YouTube channel seven years ago with Vlogmas (2013 – a throwback and a half!). I finished my masters dissertation at the beginning of November and by December I was ready for a new project – something to focus on while I was applying for jobs.

So I thought I’d make a post with all the videos I made for Vlogmas this year – there’s a full playlist on my channel if you fancy a bit of background noise in the limbo between Christmas and New Year!

Vlogmas 1 – Life Update – I’m Doing Vlogmas?

I hadn’t made a video for a while so a little introduction and announcing I was doing Vlogmas was in order!

Vlogmas 2 – Christmas Decorating

A cute little time-lapse montage of decorating our little house with my fiancé! He had a cold so was feeling a bit sorry for himself, but we put up the tree and put window sticker snowflakes in our front window!

Vlogmas 3 – Homemade Snowman (no snow required)

I’ve mentioned my cotton wool ball snowman a few times this Christmas, but I’m so proud of him! I called him Frank and I think he looks great.

Vlogmas 4 – Festive Garden Centre Trip

I’ve been making garden centre vlogs for literally years, 2020 is no different! Even in lockdown!

Vlogmas 5 – Animal Crossing Island Tour

I’ve been playing Animal Crossing a lot in the last few months (wrote a whole blog post about it…) so I thought I’d do a little island tour!

Vlogmas 6 – Crafts and Chats

love crafting at the moment so I thought it would be fun to do a little series called ‘Crafts and Chats’ – except in this one I was making a Christmas present so I couldn’t show anything!

Vlogmas 7 – My Hogwarts house has changed?

A minor identity crisis where I evaluate and explain why I think I’m now a Ravenclaw rather than a Hufflepuff! Not that it actually matters…

Vlogmas 8 – Hair, hot chocolate and the R number

I just sat down and had a natter because that was the content I enjoyed filming the most and I wanted Vlogmas to be fun to film, easy to edit and stress free!

Vlogmas 9 – House Plants and Planning the Garden

I’ve become quite the green fingered hobbyist this year and my little indoor jungle brings me a lot of joy so I thought I’d talk through my little collection and my plans for next summer!

Vlogmas 10 – Why I Regret My Masters Degree

I couldn’t make a festive video every single day! My masters has been… a ride, so I wanted to put my experience in a video for anyone else not sure if it’s the choice for them!

Vlogmas 11 – Making Paper Chains

Crafts and Chats part 2, but with a craft I didn’t have to hide from the camera! If you could even consider it a craft haha!

Vlogmas 12 – Skincare ‘Routine’

I love all the products I have for my skincare, I just don’t use them regularly enough to quantify it as a ‘routine’… But it meant I actually did my skincare for once!

Vlogmas 13 – All my mid/plus size Christmas outfits!

I got to try tiktok transitions for the first time and I had too much fun.

Vlogmas 14 – Setting up my weekly bullet journal spread

I love bullet journalling, I needed to film 24 videos hence – two birds, one stone!

Vlogmas 15 – not my day

Whilst filming another video, my fiancé accidentally deleted the footage of the video I wanted to upload on this day, so a four minute one-take filler video it was!

Vlogmas 16 – PERFECT Hot Chocolate Recipe

I had to refilm this video as well, but I’ve been loving making my own hot chocolate so I thought I’d make a little video explaining how I do it!

Vlogmas 17 – making a Yule Log

Two baking videos in a row! I tried making a Yule Log and it looked surprisingly good! Can’t say it tasted good though.

Vlogmas 18 – Sleep Deprived Rambling (Crafts and Chats)

I needed to wrap a present so I used it for another crafts and chats! I hadn’t slept well, and this is what came out – enjoy!

Vlogmas 19 – I’m scared of making my first tiktok…

We love a bit of clickbait in the title! I had a ramble about why TikTok makes me feel old and why I’m intimidated to make my first video. Maybe in the New Year!

Vlogmas 20 – Wrap with Me!

Did I manage to wrap two whole presents before my camera battery died? Absolutely, but I still made a video out of it!

Vlogmas 21 – do I still want to make videos?

Having a little crisis about what I want to make… But it ends positively in the end!

Vlogmas 22 – making my own advent calendar (on a budget)

I decided to make an advent calendar for my partner this year so I thought I’d make a video detailing the process! It took a lot of organisation.

Vlogmas 23 – Christmas Eve Traditions

Traditions are just like long term routines, right? That’s probably why I love them!

Vlogmas 24 – Merry Christmas!

And The last one in the series! I made it to 24 videos!

It’s been lovely to have a project to work on this month that was actually fun and made me realise I do actually enjoy making videos and I want to get back into it with the mindset of enjoying feeling creative again!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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Have yourself a Tier 4 Christmas…

2020, christmas, current affairs

Hello!

After a post about how we’re all facing a different Christmas, the British Government went ahead and put another spanner in the works with six days until Christmas!

I don’t think I can explain the whole tier system to anyone who doesn’t live in the UK, but to summarise; after announcing a relaxation of COVID restrictions for a five day period over Christmas meaning many people could at least see some of their family over the festive period then they announced that many areas in the South East and East Midlands would be going into a new Tier 4, which has the same rules as the national lockdown but on a local level. The relaxed rules now only take place on Christmas Day itself and Tier 4 zones don’t get the relaxed rules and millions of peoples Christmas plans have been completely obliterated with less than a week to go.

From my perspective, most of us that are now in Tier 4 aren’t angry or upset because we don’t think the tier is necessary (I think the lockdown is necessary), but the government’s constant reassuring that we would all be allowed a break over Christmas and then doing a complete 180 so close to the big day. I’m not good at change – we’d just finished planning spending a COVID safe Christmas with our friends and then I was going to see my mum and my sister whilst my fiancé is back at work.

Now we’re having a Christmas just the two of us – which is fine, just unexpected – I can’t go see my family and I’ll be on my own whilst my fiancé still has to go to work in Tier 4 zones because broadcasting sport is so important that my TV engineer boy is now classed as a ‘key worker’ (I feel ridiculous even typing it, it makes me so angry).

When I figured out all the news (which took me too longer of scrolling through articles that were very vague), I was gutted. It was the first time I think I’ve cried over the pandemic. And like I said, not because I don’t think it’s necessary, but just because it came after reassurance it wouldn’t happen then it got worse. The little bit of light I had at not being on my own over Christmas and now I feel extra lonely. I can’t put it into words – it’s fine, I spent time on my own last Christmas and it was quite nice to decompress and take everything, sort everything out and tidy up but for some reason this year the thought of being on my own is terrifying.

Christmas Day will be a case of video calling lots of family, playing with presents like children and probably playing video games with everyone else who can’t see family (we’re knee deep in Among Us at the moment!). It’ll be nice to have time with my partner just us and cooking our own dinner and having our own day, but he’s back at work on the 26th so I’m going to have to plan my day so I don’t get too lonely.

Even though Tier 4 and the limited relaxation over Christmas is so necessary, it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. I’m grateful for my health, my house, my partners work, but I’m still gutted I’m not going to see any of my family and friends over Christmas and give them their presents. I really hope the government can figure out what they’re actually doing and figure out whether they’re trying to save the people or the economy and stick with it.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m cautious of putting too much hope on 2021 – I saw someone tweeting about how we’ve all said 2020 is the worst because we’ve been living in this for 9 months but there’s the potential that we’ll be living through all this for 12 months in 2021. We can hope for the best but simultaneously expect the worst.

Whatever tier you’re in or whatever the rules are wherever you are in the world, I hope you have a safe and happy Christmas if you celebrate it! There will be a bonus blog post on Christmas Day, but otherwise I’ll post again next week!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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