WITH a huge brood of eight children to buy presents for, thrifty Jenny Harris has to be super organised when it comes to Christmas.
The 34-year-old, from Fythe, Scotland, starts saving as much money as she can each week with her partner James, 46, in September, and relentlessly searches for “every single deal I can get my hands on”.
Jenny, who is studying full-time to become a paramedic, says she has to be a supersleuth to sort Christmas presents for Logan, 16, Thomas, 14, Kalyn, 13, Kenau, 11, Kaleo, 10, Elysia, 7, Kastiel, 5, Oakley-Axl, 3.
But she believes without the offers she finds, her annual spending would double.
Jenny, who also works part-time behind a bar, admits she doesn’t start wrapping all the gifts until midnight on Christmas Eve, and she says it usually takes the couple six hours to get it finished.
She says: “I love seeing their faces on Christmas Day, it makes it all worth it!
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"But it is an expense we have to save for. I’m lucky as I get a student discount, so that’s saved me about 50 per cent on some presents.
“I always search for discount codes before buying anything online, sometimes that can save me hundreds of pounds. And I set up alerts on Amazon so I know when an item has dropped in price.
“With eight kids, I bulk buy a lot of things. On sites such as eBay, the more you buy, the cheaper the per-item cost, so it becomes cheaper."
Jenny reveals she’s been pregnant for six Christmases over the past 11 years with her eight children.
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She uses the Nectar points she’s saved up for the entire year to buy the family festive dinner – and she always buys items she gets bonus points on, so says it “quickly adds up”.
She explains: “I’ll buy the biggest turkey and biggest bag of potatoes I can find from Sainsbury’s. And then dessert will be a Viennetta or ice cream as they all like that. It’ll cost around £120.”
Jenny does a lot of Christmas shopping around Black Friday, and she buys gifts from Argos as that gives her Nectar points to use for Christmas dinner too.
When it comes to clothes for the kids, Jenny admits she hardly ever buys brand-new items, as the younger ones have hand-me-downs from the older siblings.
Jenny’s top tips
1. Set up alerts on Amazon to check for price drops
2. Buy in bulk on sites like eBay – it's often cheaper the more you buy
3. Shopping for Christmas presents at Argos means more Nectar points to put towards your Christmas meal at Sainsbury's
4. Adidas offers a trade-in service that means you can get money off new trainers if you exchange old ones
5. McDonald’s Monopoly can throw up fantastic prizes to keep the kids happy
But for gifts, she trades in their older trainers for new ones with Adidas, which can give her 30 per cent off the price.
She took advantage of the McDonald’s Monopoly pieces promotion this year to get the kids earphones for Christmas.
“They don’t have lots of items on their Christmas lists, but if they do, they’re not really expensive,” Jenny said.
“On Christmas morning, the house looks like a toy shop. We let them make a mess and unwrap everything, and then they have fun trying to find all their presents underneath it all
“James and I have given up on buying each other Christmas present as it’s too much!”
Proud mum of eight
Jenny always wanted to become a mum as she grew up in a big family, so when she fell pregnant in high school with her then-boyfriend at 17 in 2006, she was "over the moon".
After having Logan, 16, she went back to finish school, then she fell pregnant with her second child, Thomas, who is 14.
“My friends were all going out partying, but I had no interest in that after having children so my friendship group diminished," she says.
"I split up with my partner and had a short-term relationship, during which I fell pregnant with Kalyn, who’s 13.”
When Jenny’s third-born was nine months old, she met her current partner James, who approached her on a “rare night out” and asked whether she was single.
She explained she had three children and wanted more, but James wasn’t fazed, and the couple went on to have Kenau, Kaleo, Elysia, Kastiel, and Oakley-Axl.
Budgets all year round
Day-to-day, Jenny studies full-time and James is a full-time dad, so it's not just Christmas when they have to save.
“For household bills, our washing is always done at night to get the reduced rate. I also swap lights for candles at night too," she says.
“Our food shop is all about bulk deals, and I check the price the items would have been individually, and work out if it’s cheaper to buy in bulk or in smaller quantities. It usually means it takes a lot longer to do the shopping, but it’s worth it."
When it comes to electrical items, they make a plan to buy them months in advance and try to keep an eye on a number of websites to see how prices rise and fall before looking for the best Black Friday deals.
Although when it comes to Christmas, Jenny does say she leaves present buying for the last few weeks.
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“So James and I don’t wrap them until all the kids are in bed at around midnight on Christmas Eve. It takes us about six hours!" she adds.
“I love being a mum and finding the best deals means my money goes further – and I’m happy to do that if it means it puts a smile on my kids’ faces!”
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