budgeting I can't believe Christmas is already so close. And yet, it shouldn't come as a surprise; after all, it's the same time every year, but every year I completely fail to prepare myself for the huge financial hit my bank balance inevitably takes. After starting the year with good intentions, it's all gone wrong again.

I read that the average family spent just under $750 on Christmas last year. That's a huge amount, and certainly not one I can spare all in one go. After last Christmas took me several months to recover from, I did several things to try and ease the burden for this year:

• I actually set up a savings account and direct debited an amount into it each month, so that this year wouldn't be so difficult to manage. Great idea, yes? I made it an instant access account, so ended up dipping into it on more than one occasion when Christmas seemed so far away. There's actually around $40 in it now, when there should have been about $500!

• I spoke to friends and family about cutting back the amount of gifts we all buy, and suggested instead we buy for the children, because Christmas is more exciting for them. I'm really pleased we did this, but it didn't help the budgeting because I just ended up buying more for my friends' children (and my own). There are so many lovely toys out there!

• I'd make a lot of presents for this year, saving money and adding a personal touch. I love this idea but I just never find the time to do as many as I want. I am planning on making cookies for some of my family this year but, knowing me, will probably not be happy with how they turn out and end up making several batches to get them perfect, spending a fortune on ingredients in the process!

• I decided to buy gifts throughout the year, when there were good offers on, to save money and spread the cost. I love this idea, only now it's the end of November and I can't remember who I bought things for, what the gifts were and where I put them. I'll end up spending more because I have to replace the gifts I misplaced. Perhaps I'll find them during next year, though, and they will save me money then! However, I strongly suspect there's some kind of gift vortex in one of my cupboards, because I'm sure they've disappeared.

So my Christmas confession is that none of my good intentions worked out all that well. Who knows, maybe next year will be different. Maybe next year I'll set up a savings plan and stick to it. I'll definitely make a note of what I buy and where I store it! If any readers have any Christmas budgeting tips, I'd love to read them!