Mum-of-two reveals five gift Christmas rule for her two children to help combat cost of living crisis

Business owner Natalie will make the 2022 festive season memorable for her family, but won’t spend as much money as previous years

A savvy business owner and mum-of-two plans to combat the cost-of-living crisis - and still make Christmas special for her family - by having a unique approach to buying gifts.

Natale Ormond, who runs Smallkind, an online store which stocks sustainable children’s products including clothing, and toys, will be adopting a five gift rule when buying presents for her own children this year.

The premise is simple; her children, nine-year-old Jesse and seven-year-old Jonah will each unwrap five gifts this 25 December - something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read and a surprise.

Natalie, who lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire, with her husband Owen and her children, said: “We’ll stick to five gifts and that’s it. We have had the five gift rule before, but we’ve always ended up buying extras and going over the top most years. Not this year.

“Our children have come to expect those five gifts, but it’s not like that’s all they get. They still get things from other family members. We realised that in the past they have got too much and they can’t take it in or appreciate it all properly, and things don’t get played with for months so we’ll be sticking to the five gifts this year.”

The Ormond family: mum Natalie, dad Owen and their children nine-year-old Jesse and seven-year-old Jonah.

“We’re going to be frugal but not tight”

Natalie, aged 40, is determined to teach her young boys all about the cost of presents so that they appreciate each one they receive - while still keeping the magic of the festive season alive.

She said: “We’re going to be frugal, but not tight this festive season. We have always asked the boys to make a Christmas list, but we also ask them to tell us what their priority is. This year, they want football kits, but they are expensive - £90 each - so we’ve asked the grandparents to chip in, and the boys would rather have the one big present they want rather than three £30 presents.”

Little Jesse and Jonah know that Santa brings some of the gifts they find under the tree each Christmas morning, but they also know that their mum and dad also buy them some.

Natalie said: “We want them to understand that Christmas is not free and things do cost money. Now, with the cost of living crisis, I want them to be aware of how things cost but I also don’t want them to worry because they are still only young.

“We have been talking about price rises, and I think they need to know and have a basic understanding of what’s going on. I’m trying to make them aware, so I’ve said things like don’t go outside to play football and leave the door open when we have radiators on. We do tell them that we’ll be alright but alo tell them we have to be careful.”

To help cut costs even further, Natalie is also looking at buying some Christmas gifts second-hand.

She said: “A family member was horrified when I said about buying second-hand gits, but I think it’s becoming more accepted. Our boys are asking for a Nintendo Switch games console which is very expensive. I was speaking to a friend and they were selling one with games cheaper than a brand new one as their children no longer use it, but it still works just as well.”

Natalie added that buying second-hand is great for everyone involved because the seller will get the money they need for something else and the buyer gets the thing they need for less money. On top of that, buying and selling second-hand is also good for the environment and prevents waste.

“We would have spent money without thinking before, but not now”

Christmas presents aren’t the only things that can cost a lot of money around the festive season, of course. Many yuletide traditions put a huge amount of strain on our bank balances.

Enjoying multiple festive feasts, visiting Christmas markets, attending a pantomime and seeing Christmas lights being switched on can all be very expensive.

Natalie and Owen are also taking steps to combat these costs, which can often spiral out of control, this year.

Natalie said: “In previous years, we would have spent money without thinking before, but not now. We’d go to a panto and Christmas lights and do things like ice-skating. There’s so many things you’d see adverts for, and you want Christmas to be fun for the kids so we’d do so many things and it would cost so much.

“Then Covid happened, and of course we were just in the house and these things weren’t happening. We realised how much money we’d wasted on trips to places. The kids are just as happy with going to see the Christmas lights in town and going to a local panto for £5 a ticket.

“It made us aware of what we were doing and how much we were spending just to get out of the house. When we went to the local Christmas show last year it was a lot cheaper and a nicer experience because it was in a small theatre. We’ll go to this one show again this year and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Business owner and mum Natalie Ormond, of Leeds, West Yorkshire.

“If you are more selective with what you do, the kids appreciate it”

Natalie and Owen, aged 40 and 41 respectively, also realised that when there are less presents and activities on offer, their sons appreciate the things they do more - and they can have just as much fun as a family at home.

Natalie said: “We got out of the habit of doing things in Covid and there’s a lot of things we haven’t gone back to doing, like going out for meals on a regular basis. We still go out for meals, but it’s a treat for a special ocassion now and that means we appreciate it more.

“We’ve realised that the kids don’t value it as much if you go everywhere and do everything, but if you are more selective with what you do then they do appreciate it.”

Natalie also said that the cost-of-living crisis has made her think about what her priorities are for her and her family.

She said: “I’d rather spend money on nice food that we can enjoy at home over the week than buy tickets for one show that we can only enjoy for one night. It’s better to stay in, play games and go to a budget show.”

“We can’t justify the costs of staying with family so we’ll be staying at home”

Re-evaluating the family priorities, enjoying a quieter Christmas due to Covid, and the current financial crisis has also made Natalie make different decisions regarding where she and husband and young children will be spending the festive season.

She said: “Prior to Covid, we would usually be travelling round the country over the Christmas period visiting people but when we couldn’t do that due to the pandemic we stayed at home and did the traditional stuff with the boys, like board games, films and Christmas crafts.

“The kids loved that so I don’t think we will go and see anyone this year because it’s nice to be in our own house. My mother-in-law, who lives in Brighton, doesn’t have space for us to stay and while we want the children to have contact with their family, of course, travelling to Brighton and then spending £150 on a hotel just isn’t justified at the moment.

“We will Facetime all the family over Christms instead, and people are welcome to come to us if they can. We may be able to meet family members for the day as if we book trains in advance we can get  them cheap enough, but otherwise we won’t see people in person this year.”

“I think everyone is being careful as they can’t be sure how much money they have”

As well as being a mum-of-two, Natalie is also a business owner. She owns Smallkind, which is an online store stocking sustainable brands for children and parents, and has products such as wooden toys, eco-friendly toiletries and organic kidswear.

Natalie launched the business three years ago, in October 2019, and in that time she says she has noticed a difference in shoppers’ habits.

She said: “Until March, the business had been growing steadily month-on-month and then there was a dip then - and I know other business owners have said the same. It’s normally quieter over the summer, but by September it’s picked up and it would get busy from October but I’m certainly not busy with orders at the moment.

“The Christmas rush gets a bit later every year, and this year in particular I think people are hanging on for sales. The reality is people are just not spending as much. I think everyone is being careful and isn’t sure how much money they will have come Christmas.

“For us, we are due to remortgage in December so we have to be more careful in this period because we’re not sure what our mortgage offers are going to look like. There was a big boom in people moving during Covid and now those two year mortgage deals are coming to an end. Our financial advisor has said that it’s best to wait till the last minute to decide on our next deal, but plan as if the mortgage is going to go up.”