Another line item in your budget that can inflate to Zeppelin proportions is Christmas entertainments, which can include:
- end of year shindigs for workplaces, schools and sports and social clubs
- December gatherings with friends and family
If you can influence the agenda, consider:
- Selecting cheap and cheery venues rather than luxe and pricey ones. (Check “Cheap Eats” and ask around.)
- Running a low-cost option alongside an expensive one. (For example, have an all-you-can-drink package for those who plan to get blotto and a pay-at-the-bar alternative for those who don’t.)
- Or dump the paid venues entirely and go for free ones: a big playground for small children, a riverside swimming hole for teenagers, a barbecue in a national park for adults. (But do have a wet weather plan.)
There may be some gatherings that you can’t control and here are some ideas for keeping a lid on things at those:
- Rein in your supplemental expenses: Do you really need a new dress? Can you plan a cheaper way home than by taxi?
- Drink less, and choose cheaper drinks.
- If it’s bring-a-plate, specialise in the cheaper festive dishes. (Of which, more later.)
My daughter Hannah would like to go out for dinner on her birthday but says we should keep the guest list down to herself and her brother Jeremy and my brother Matthew and me. “Twenty-five’s not a big deal,” she explained. “It’s too soon after twenty-one.”
I can see where she’s coming from: at my age, I think fifty is too soon after forty!
 My son Jeremy’s favourite is a local Mexican restaurant where the nachos cost peanuts. (The fact that it’s very easy to decorate a sombrero with tinsel is a bonus.)
 Or a lot of umbrellas.
 Financially, that is. Go hell-for-leather socially.
 My mother’s father used to go to town on horseback but it wasn’t to save money: when he’d had too much to drink, the horse remembered the way home even though Charlie didn’t.
 And alternate glasses of alcohol with glasses of water which is easier on both your wallet and your liver.