IN January 2018, Mandie Holgate opened her bank statement with horror.
The 46-year-old business and life coach was, to put it bluntly, broke.
Christmas 2017 had ruined her financially – and she knew why.
She’d catered for her family including husband, two children, mum, dad, sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and four nieces and nephews.
So from then on she vowed to charge them to eat at her house on Christmas Day – and now she’s doing it again. This year each person will shell out £40 for a feast of turkey, cocktails, Christmas pud and more.
It might not be in the spirit of Christmas but Mandie, from Mersea Island, Essex, doesn’t care:
I decided to charge my family for Christmas last year after adding up quite how much everything cost and nearly falling over in shock…
My January bank statement was awful and I couldn’t work out why… until I realised just how much the big day, and hosting for the family, had cost.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, I love hosting and I love my family.
But it is so expensive. In total I’ve worked out it costs more than £700 to buy lunch for 16 people… I’m not made of money.
That staggering amount is partly my fault as I love to put on a big show.
You can tell I’m Christmas crackers as in my 17-room house (it’s not as fancy as it sounds) I have seven Christmas trees. I spotted one on sale in January last year, much to my family’s horror bought it and after that I couldn’t stop…
I realised I needed that many because I am very bossy when it comes to decorating.
No-one is allowed to go near my main tree in the living room and the lights have to be just so. So the kids, my son Harry, 18, and daughter Sophie, 15, have their own trees. The others are dotted prettily around the house – or will be come mid-December 9 when I will put them out.
On Christmas Day I will welcome my immediate family, including my husband, Andy, also 46, and Harry’s girlfriend, also called Sophie, 18, my parents and my siblings Andrew and Melanie, plus their families including their partners and four kids.
I’ve hosted Christmas for years now. My parents, Joan and Les, who are in their mid-70s, used to host but it’s a bit much for them now.
Everyone pays £40. Andy and I pay for our kids and Sophie, whereas Andrew’s twin boys, being only 11, pay £20 – or rather their parents do.
Before everyone arrives around 11am or noon there are nibbles, fresh pastries from the patisserie, coffee and Bucks Fizz for Andy, my kids and Sophie.
That costs around £40 – but I don’t charge for that.
Then, as people arrive, I dish out more treats including salmon and olives.
Guests are greeted with a glass of fizz. But if you prefer you can have a cocktail.
I make sure I buy all the key ingredients for family favourites including Long Island ice teas and margaritas. There’s Triple Sec, rum, gin and amaretto and I leave a cocktail book out too.
That way people can leaf through it and ‘order’ what they want.
There’s different types of beer too – everyone seems to like something different.
One person – I won’t say who – disputed how much everything cost so I actually created an Excel spreadsheet outlining my expenditure.Mandie Holgate 46
When I told my colleagues about it they laughed but then admitted it sounded amazing – way better than their Christmas Days.
All the booze costs a lot so Andy and I go back and forth to France a couple of times a year to buy it.
Like most families we’ll sit down to a huge Christmas lunch. We’ll be there for hours and I don’t cater for fussy eaters.
Everyone gets everything piled onto their plates: turkey, bread sauce, pigs in blankets, sprouts… the lot.
If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. That’s what I think.
Dinner is the big expense. I ordered an organic turkey from a local butcher months ago which cost £70. It’ll be worth it though.
It’s no exaggeration to say it takes me years to prepare Christmas dinner… I’ll be serving a Christmas pudding I cooked in 2017. It’s from my nan’s old recipe.
In the days leading up to December 25 I’ll spend a lot of time in the kitchen make the house look really festive.
My whole family will muck in too – it will be a real team effort.
There’ll be the usual Christmas stuff too including crackers, party hats and more. I’ll go hunting for some holly and hang it around doors and windows.
I will clear up the table after eating, I don’t expect anyone in my family too. Meanwhile, that evening – when I hear a shout of ‘I’m hungry’ – I’ll start making turkey sandwiches.
I know some people think it is bonkers how much I spend on just one day, and I know other people will kick up an absolute fuss that I’m charging my family.
But, I realised – especially as the kids in the family were getting bigger – that I was spending an absolute fortune on Christmas Day.
It all adds up and you wouldn’t get free food in a restaurant.
Everyone pays £40. Andy and I pay for our kids and Sophie, whereas Andrew’s twin boys, being only 11, pay £20 – or rather their parents do.Mandie Holgate 46
I love to host and I want to. I’m happy to cook and clear up. I just want people to pay for what they eat and drink so come January I’m not existing on beans on toast.
One person – I won’t say who – disputed how much everything cost so I actually created an Excel spreadsheet outlining my expenditure.
When I showed them it they were stunned. And gladly handed over the £40.
Because it emerged that actually I was undercharging people.
If there are things left over, like cranberry sauce, I don’t charge.
My family pay me in January which is great as I am as broke as anyone after Christmas.
So, to people who say charging you family £40 to have Christmas dinner isn’t in the yuletide spirit, well you don’t have to eat at mine!