Hello Dear Reader,
I'm writing in response to one dear reader who is fretting about the cost of the upcoming few weeks. Here are her expenses which threaten to break the bank in her household: Children's parties, school photos (why do they do them at this time of year?), Children in need, Christmas Fayre, donations are required for that and money to spend at it, School play, costumes to be bought or made, School Christmas shopping shop - send a present, then send money with the child - children buy a present at the school Christmas shop and the PTA gets the money, Christmas play admission fee, Collection for teacher present. After reading her list, I could feel the financial weight pushing down on her. No wonder she is worried. All of them are a bit of money here and a bit of money there, but for a family of five children, with each child needing money........I can see finances of a single income family being tipped over the edge, so here's my message to that mum and other mums.
I didn't work when my children were small and I had no personal income what so ever, no joint account and no access to a single penny that I didn't have to ask for. I went without. I had a house keeping budget given to me in cash and like every savvy housewife, I made it stretch to buy the family food, items for the house such as bedding, kids clothes, shoes, birthday and Christmas presents, for school uniform and school trips. I would keep a small amount of money which I saved so I could buy them an ice cream if I took them for a walk. In all honesty, if I had a spare penny, their needs, in my opinion, came first.
I used to do what I could to help support the PTA and I gave my time as I didn't have any money. I would help on a stall, sell raffle tickets to local businesses, I would help serve teas and mince pies, I would help put the chairs out and hand out carol sheets. I would spend a small amount of money is so much as buying a few raffle tickets, or baking some cakes to donate. I had so little money then I felt no guilt what so ever if I couldn't afford everything they asked for. I can never remember being charged very much to go to a school play but everything is relative. I can remember my son's choir and school plays costing us but I had a bit more money by then and with only two children, I used to put the money by to go and watch him. Sometimes he sang for charity and we would go to help raise money for a cause.
I only ever gave gifts to their teachers when they moved on and left their schools (primary and then secondary) as a final thanks. No parent should feel compelled to buy a class teacher a present and I can remember my daughter's primary school gifts being extravagant and there being an air of competition. My daughter made a handmade card, dripping in glitter and fluffy cotton wool and she was thrilled that her teacher put it on her desk. Remember that before you spend any money....we teachers love those homemade cards!
As a parent, we save what we can for treats for our children and as costs rise there is less and less money. Please don't feel you have to keep up with the Jones. Do you really need a school photograph every year? Do you need to go to every Christmas Fayre? Do you really need to donate to every stall at the fayre? Even the tombola stall has pots of pickle and marmalade in between the bottles of wine and spirits.
So, in answer to the mum and her dilemma. This is what I would do, but remember, I'm not telling anyone to do this. I would go to watch my children in their school play and I never missed any and I would find the money.....I carry those memories in my heart until this day and always will. I would offer to help the PTA raise money and give my time. I would buy school photographs for significant years such as first and last year at school. I would choose a stall at the Christmas Fayre and donate a gift to that one. I would do exactly what I did before and get my kids to make homemade cards for their teachers. If I couldn't afford something then I would discreetly and quietly ignore it and I would remember that I wouldn't be the only parent who couldn't afford everything.
It is certainly acceptable to stick to a family budget even at Christmas and live within the family means. No one needs feel pressured into spending money they haven't got or leaving themselves short of money after Christmas. Whatever your family traditions are, they are yours and enjoy them. To this day, I have no guilt for being the mum with just enough money to feed my kids as I made sure they were well fed!
I hope, Dear Reader, that answers your question. Please remember the most powerful word you can say is sometimes 'no'.