Banishing humbug

WE seem to all but lose our minds at Christmas.

Unbridled spending, credit card murder, lights blazing and the central heating chuffing away to the early hours — it’s an expensive dose of consumer madness. Still, with the family together and a few days off, there’s every chance to make a fresh start tightening the family budget with intelligent, planet friendly new habits that won’t put a bah-humbug on the fun.

Go Local: The atmosphere at any outdoor produce market at this time of year is second to none, so wrap your mittened hands around a steaming hot chocolate, browse, chat and enjoy. Visit your local farmer’s market for fresh local produce as close to the big day as possible. Not only will it taste fantastic, with a short trip from the field to the plate, but you’ll be supporting neighbouring enterprise. Bring your own bags to cut down on packaging waste and look out for clever little last minute gifts from jars of jam to crafted goods. For a full list of markets where you are staying over Christmas, go to Bord Bia’s website where you’ll find a full run down of markets approved for good practice and top quality goods.

Christmas lights for less: If you’re a particularly jolly Christmas being, with the lights festooned over every available surface from late November, the costs can run up.

A simple timed switch can pop them on before the kids get home and dim them after bed. Low wattage strings and LEDs are less expensive to run that conventional bulbs, a typical 100 string using less than 20W. A standard string uses 4-5W per bulb.

According to SEAI three strings of conventional lights over 30 days can cost in the area of €5, whereas an LED equivalent will take just 60c to run and last 100,000 hours of Christmases to come.

Save Money while you Shop: Before you do the Ben Hur chariot race around the aisles this year, plan ahead. If you’re not a member of the discount club run by your local supermarket (SuperValu, Dunnes and Tesco are just some outlets famed for their accumulated savings), join now to rack up some points to spend next year. When present shopping, lay the cash and cards down in places you like and frequent, and pick up some discount certificates on your next spend.

Surf ‘n’ Save: Go online to winnow out a better offer on something you fancy, and this can include food and drink. Watch those delivery times as Christmas nears and buy Irish every time. Wines Direct do a 48 hour guaranteed delivery service with group buys of 6-12 bottles — you could split into 1-2 bottle groups as very acceptable presents. Mixed cases from €61.

Coupons: We may not have a coupon culture here in Ireland, but the online Tickles and Groupon discounts are taking hold. Check out deals in your area in their shopping and lifestyle pages for your nearest city.

Cull the Chirstmas List: With a household spend of over €490 for the average Irish household on presents alone (Deolitte survey), it’s enough to wring the ho-ho-ho out of the stoutest heart. Reserve present giving for your nearest and dearest and get over the fear of offending more distant relatives, friends and work colleagues. An E-card might seem trite, but in the bustle of the season most recipient won’t pout. Attach the card from a charity such as the St. Vincent de Paul (free animated cards — utterly delightful), and you can make a small voluntary donation on their behalf. A handmade card fashioned from a folded piece of card stock glued with any child’s drawing from the thousands accumulated in any busy family will touch the heart and satisfy the pride.

Slash the Waste: We are all working hard to use our green bin collections and the 2000-plus bring centres to recycle waste, and the fight goes on. Around half of the 280-300kgs of the waste per person per year in Ireland is made up of organics — that is food waste. Bread, fruit, salad, meat and fish are the main offenders — perishables we bring in and then discard, uneaten. A third of what we buy, including an amazing half of all salads brought home, is thrown out.

That’s a terrifying €1,000 amount of food gone for good. Stop Food Waste, an initiative funded under the Environmental Protection Agency, recommends keeping a rough diary of a week’s worth of food consumption to track exactly what you’re throwing out.

Follow their advice for better buying, savvy sSorage and canny cooking at and if all else fails they also offer information on composting your sins.


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