December 2022 is just around the corner…so this month’s blog just has to focus on Christmas…right?

But it’s not going to be all jingle bells and baileys (or the supermarket equivalent of!), as always I want to share some tips on how you can have a fun and festive December without breaking the bank! 


From December first I’m asking for your ‘Top Free or Cheap Christmas Hacks’. I’ll share the creative ones on the Facebook page, and everyone who comments will be in a draw to win a £30 gift card for the supermarket of your choice – to go towards your crimbo shop! The winner will be drawn on Dec 20th

 Christmas Gifts

Second-hand gifts

I’ve been surprised and incredibly proud this year at my 19-year-old daughter’s request that she doesn’t want a single new item for Christmas.

As her generation generally are, she’s very environmentally conscious and she’s adamant that she wants to have a clear conscience that no unnecessary gifts have been bought on her behalf this year.

I love a charity shop rummage anyway, and we often clothes shop on Hamlet Court road where there are quite a few good charity shops, but I’ll admit when it comes to presents it wouldn’t have been my first choice.

The great thing is that she’s inspired me to follow that through to other gifts! So my little Niece and Nephew will also be getting second-hand toys this year. I know they won’t mind – it’s my mindset that needs to shift, not theirs! Kids are notoriously happy with a cardboard box so I really don’t think a second-hand Barbie is going to upset anyone!

What a great example though of how we can lead by example…my daughter was totally right to take a stand (nobody tell her though…I’ll never live it down that I said she was right and I learned something from her!)

We also try our hardest with the present wrapping each year to make it as sustainable as possible – recyclable paper at the minimum, but we also try to reuse bags and use scarves or pretty fabric scraps for wrapping. It forces you to be a bit more creative and it saves money!

Activity gifts

I’m a big fan of agreeing not to buy ‘stuff’ for friends and using it as an excuse to get together in one way or another. We agree we’ll treat ourselves to a spa afternoon or buy dinner instead of gifts for each other. We get to have a catch-up and much-needed time away from working and mummin’!

If you have Grandparents who want to get a ‘big’ present, but there’s not really anything your little one needs (or you’re also trying to avoid the whole Christmas over-consumption) why not suggest an annual activity pass? The kids will get a whole year of fun out of it, and you’ll have an abundance of almost free days out throughout the year!

If I’m buying for someone who likes to eat out, I love getting a voucher for their favourite restaurant knowing they’ll have a night out on me. I’m also a big fan of the taste card which gives the recipient 241 meals at 100s of different restaurants. Although there’s not loads of participating restaurants around Southend, you don’t have to go too far to find one (huge shoutout to Pieno Lleno though who do accept it Sunday-Monday and would be worth the card price on their own!).

Scotts of Southend have a great display most years. They have also run a plate painting workshop previously which doubles nicely as a Christmas activity AND a gift for Mum and Dad!

The Obligation of gifting

When times are tough and people are struggling with heating bills, the added pressure of the cost of Christmas can really add a strain.

If you’re in a position to buy gifts for extended family, friends, or friends’ kids it’s a lovely way to show you care. But I also try to ask myself the question of whether that person is in a position to do the same.

We all know it’s the giving and not receiving that matters, and you most likely have the very best of intentions at heart when purchasing gifts for these people. You may even tell them you don’t want anything back in return, but the knowledge that you will buy for them will most certainly put an obligation on those you love to give something in return.

It’s human nature! How many of us have ever been in a position of receiving something when you didn’t have something to give? I have and it feels awful! So as much as you might make it clear that you don’t want anything in return, by buying a gift for someone – which should be a lovely act to show you care – you could be inadvertently putting pressure on the recipient to spend money they might not have to get you a gift too.

It’s well worth having a conversation with friends and family about this; ask if they want to do gifts this year. If have friends who say no, and as much as I’d still love to treat them, I respect that request. We’ll often book in a nice walk through the woods or along the seafront, or a glass/bottle of wine one evening instead.

Christmas Outings 

I love getting out to anywhere Christmassy in December – soaking up the festive atmosphere. I especially love taking my Niece and Nephew along now that my own kids are a bit older. BUT winter wonderland attractions can cost an absolute fortune so I usually opt for a nicely decorated garden centre or festive market instead of a ticketed Grotto or winter wonderland!

I must confess though, it’s not easy to avoid spending money at most of them – there’s just so much loveliness on display! But with my daughter’s request in mind, I will aim to restrain myself a bit this year! Here’s some of my favourites:

Hockley Market Garden Center has amazing Christmas displays every year…just look at these! 

Meadow Croft Garden Centre have been running a traditional German Market for 8 years and it’s just lovely! Lots of delicious food, handcrafted gifts and decorations and a really authentic Christmas vibe.

If you’re looking to splash out on the kids, Altons Garden Centre has a virtual reality Santa grotto this year which looks fabulous! But it’s always a great place to have a wander around at Christmas even if you don’t have kids to take to the Grotto (or can’t borrow any Nieces and Nephews as I like to do in order to take part in these things!)

Scotts of Southend is one of my favourites and I will be returning this year for the Festive Market. Their Wednesday evening shopping events have 20% off all decorations.

Shoebury has its own Christmas Market this year too – December 10th from 10-5. Read more about that here.

Christmas Support

Now, as much as I would love to just focus on the happy aspects of this time of year, unfortunately, it’s also a time when people are known to struggle mentally. Things like financial pressures and loneliness are amplified at this time of year so I also want to signpost some of the resources available if this is you: 

Here’s wishing you a fabulous Christmas and New year – from all the team at Essex Property Angel.

I’m Joanne. I’ve lived and breathed property for longer than I care to remember! This blog is to provide advice and support with problems surrounding property, and life in general.


Previously on the blog…

Case Study: I can’t bear packing up my sister’s home.

Case Study: I can’t bear packing up my sister’s home.

A lovely lady had inherited her Sister’s house in Westcliff after she sadly passed away - a bungalow with serious damp problems.   Lucy’s case at a glance: Inherited a property from her sister Couldn't afford to keep the property running Didn’t understand the...

read more


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