The Christmas period in Spain doesn’t really begin until 8th December, the day of the Immaculate Conception, and the festivities continue right up to the 6th January, so there lots of gatherings, parties and extra costs to consider over this four week period. Many British people go back to the UK to celebrate, but others have their family and friends coming to join them in Spain. Can you entertain here on a budget?
Stores begin to publicise seasonal offers
As of this week, the Christmas lights have not been switched on and most shops have yet to decorate their windows in the Christmas spirit. Even in Madrid, there is just a hint of the festivities to come but there are many ways to start saving on costs. Supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi already have weekly Christmas offers on food, gifts, decorations and wrapping paper. Buy them now when you see an offer, as they will cost a lot more a day or 2 before Christmas Eve.
The online stores are already touting for business and as in the UK and USA, Black Friday is a new phenomenon with numerous seasonal bargains to be had - from electronics to footwear, toys to the latest fashion. When buying online in Spain, be sure to check the delivery costs, which vary widely from store to store. Internet shopping is a growing market in Spain, but is now a sophisticated affair with a generally good service and parcel tracking is the norm. If you are sending presents to Britain, post them early and have a look at alternative sites to the Post Office (Correos) as often you will find it cheaper to use companies such as SEUR and MRW.
Visit your local Chinese shop
Spain is full of “Chinese” shops - low cost, smallish outlets that sell everything from a dustpan and brush to smart headphones. Most towns have them and they are an excellent source of tinsel and other Christmas decorations, cards, gift tags and baubles for very little money. You will find all sorts of useful items here and they usually sell very attractive gift bags for 1 or 2€.
When it comes to party food, all the supermarkets will be enticing you to spend money on their special offers. You can buy frozen turkeys, but most people order them from their local butcher. Iceland, present in some parts of Spain, have offers on British Christmas fare - as do many small British food stores, though these tend to be quite expensive. You may have to hunt around for specialist items like mincemeat and you will pay for the privilege but on the other hand you can find foie gras, quality cheeses and a selection of good wines at very competitive prices throughout Spain.
Pine needles or plastic?
Christmas trees are very expensive in Spain (real ones!) Most shops sell fake trees of different sizes and designs, which can cost as little as 10€ or as much as 100€. Casa shops (a Belgian company which you will find in most areas of the country) have a very good range of Christmas items at reasonable cost as will Ikea in the large cities.
Cost of utilities
Of course when you are entertaining or having guests to stay, you will inevitably use more electricity, water and gas. Electricity is particularly expensive in Spain, so suggest to the family that they switch off lights when leaving a room, run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full and encourage showers rather than baths.
Spain doesn’t go overboard about Christmas. The 24th December is the really important occasion, when families all get together for a meal. It is still not as commercial a festival as in Britain, although slowly but surely this does seem to be changing.
Another important day in the Spanish Christmas calendar is 6th January, when traditionally children are given toys - although nowadays they get them on Christmas Day as well. You will find many special offers on games and other items for small people between 27th December and 5th January. Larger supermarkets carry extensive ranges of toys, and are usually cheaper than individual toy shops. Lidl and Aldi often have brand named toys by Disney, for example, on special offer. By taking advantage of discounted items in your area from now until the fifth day in January, you can have a happy Christmas and New Year without spending a fortune.