How to do Christmas on a budget

Christmas Budget

Spending time with loved ones has always been the focus of any Christmas celebration, but sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the feeling that we need to splurge to have the perfect Christmas holiday. That’s why you can make this the perfect year to create Christmas on a budget without compromising on that festive magic.

Here are our top tips on how you can stick to a budget while making Christmas magical for the entire family, from cheap Christmas gift ideas to cheap Christmas decoration ideas and more.

Is it possible to do Christmas on a budget?

People have been finding ways to celebrate Christmas for two thousand years without very much, so it’s possible to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the festivities without spending much money.

Many of us have been slowly moving towards a less commercial version of Christmas, with less emphasis on money, over recent years. So, if you’ve been wondering how to save money at Christmas, we’re here to help. As we become increasingly aware of our own and others’ financial pressures, finding ways to make Christmas less of a financial burden has become more popular.

So, what can we do to save money at Christmas?

How to save money at Christmas

1. Save money by opting out of gifts

We’re not suggesting you tell your kids that Santa won’t be coming this year, as we doubt that would go down particularly well. However, we do suggest giving your wider family circle license not to buy you gifts. The last thing anyone wants is to see family spiralling into debt because of festive pressures.

You could take to Facebook to send your ‘no gifts thanks’ message far and wide, or you could simply phone your relatives and tell them you won’t be expecting gifts this year. Tell them to save their money for a rainy day instead. Or there are plenty of free Christmas gift ideas out there, as well as free Christmas card-making ideas! If you’re wondering how to do Christmas on a budget, getting creative is a great way to do so.

2. Sell stuff to help make some Christmas cash

In the months running up to Christmas, consider selling unwanted gifts, clothes, homeware, toys and media to make some extra Christmas money. This is a great time for a clear-out as, not only will you raise some money to put towards the cost of Christmas, but you will also make space for gifts you will receive. Having a pre-Christmas clear-out makes sense if you have children who are bound to receive gifts and have nowhere to put their new toys otherwise. And other parents will have a chance to get their hands on some Christmas bargains for their kids! Out with the old and in with the new!

3. Make memories without spending a penny

This is, perhaps, the most useful tip we have for you today. Christmas is all about the little moments and there are plenty of free or cheap deals and experiences available if you know where to look. Doing Christmas on a budget is more than possible. Whether you’re hanging with your gran or trying to entertain four children, money doesn’t come into it when you think about Christmas magic. Here are some of our suggestions for free (or extremely cheap) ways to up the Christmas magic this year.

4. Do some Christmas baking

Looking for cheap Christmas baking ideas? Well, getting the kids involved with making special things for the Christmas table is an effective way to get them excited about Christmas. Whether they take turns to ‘feed’ the Christmas cake and stir the pudding, or make gingerbread men hang on the tree, kids will love these activities on a cold winter afternoon in the run-up to the festive season. And, a bonus is they prevent you from having to buy these treats from the shops at special ‘Christmas prices.’

5. Look for free events

Garden centres and department stores are often full of beautiful Christmas displays at this time of year, and most small children will be more than happy with a mooch around a cheap grotto or free display, followed by a bag of chocolate coins. Your town might be offering free events like Santa or reindeer processions, and Christmas fairs are often great fun and cost very little money. Look out for free events staged by your local schools or churches, as they are great fun for little ones. Set a small budget (a couple of pounds should be adequate) for each of your children and you may be surprised how happy they are to spend an hour or so exploring and thinking about how to spend their money.

6. Watch Santa do his work

The aerospace defence people at NORAD make a special Santa-tracker tool available at Christmas, which allows children to track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve as he makes his way around the world delivering presents. Visit from 1st December for everything you need to know about this cool tool.

Cheap Christmas gift ideas

Well, if you ask us, handmade gifts are the way forward. They help you cut down on costs, provide your family with loads of fun crafty projects to keep them busy, and they also ensure that your loved ones receive gifts that are full of thought and love.

Here are some ideas for Christmas gifts on a budget:

  • Beautifully wrapped homemade sweets and chocolates

  • Decorated biscuits or tasty cheese crackers

  • Printed or dyed tea towels or tablecloths

  • Homemade Christmas decorations

  • Homemade sloe gin or blackberry vodka (you’ll need to get going on these in October, but are great if you’re looking for ideas for cheap Christmas gifts for friends.)

Cheap Christmas gift ideas for couples

Want to make sure your partner feels loved and appreciated this festive season? Here are some cheap and free gifts you can give this Christmas:

  • A scrapbook of your year together

  • Vouchers of fun things you can do together over the year

  • Repurpose a gift that they’ve given you previously into something new (e.g. framing an old card or photograph in a nice frame from the charity shop)

How to budget for Christmas

Many of our blogs talk about the advantages of budgeting and what an important stage it is on the way to financial health. At Christmas, budgeting is even more important as it’s so easy to get carried away and spend far more than you ever intended. The trick is to calculate how much you can spend on each person BEFORE you start buying gifts.

If, for example, you decide that your budget for everything is £300, if you start buying gifts for your children in November and have spent £150 before you even consider everything else, you’ll probably run out and decide to increase your budget, which often involves going into debt.

To avoid this, work out how much you will spend on your kids, your partner, your close family, and then the extras like teachers and friends. Then consider the cost of any hosting you’ll be doing, including food, snacks, treats and alcohol. Then, you may, at last, have a realistic impression of the cost of Christmas that you have a chance of sticking to.

For more insights on this topic, check out our guide on effective monthly budgeting tips!

How to spread true Christmas cheer this year

Have you thought about helping out a charity this festive season? It’s a great way to give back and foster a sense of community.

Volunteer for a charity

We all know money is super tight right now. We’re having to cut back as costs rise and salaries struggle to keep up with inflation. That’s why giving to charities isn’t always possible. A much more valuable contribution is often your time.

Volunteering a few hours of your time to a charity this festive season could make an enormous difference in people's lives. Volunteering can be very enjoyable and rewarding and you may even make new friends or learn something about yourself!

If you are interested in giving some of your valuable time this Christmas, think about the type of contribution you can make. If you have specific skills, like cooking, IT expertise, accountancy/book-keeping or even painting and decorating, you could offer these services to charities that need experts to add value and help out. Here are some links to help you find the right volunteering opportunity to suit your skills, interests and availability over the coming months:

Donate stuff, not money

For many households in the UK right now, there’s just not enough spare cash around to be able to give money to charity. However, there are other things you can donate that will be as, or more, appreciated by those who are in need this winter.

The brilliant UK-based food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, accepts donations of food items, goods and cash from members of the public who want to play a part in helping those who are struggling to put food on the table over Christmas.

Many supermarkets also accept donations, and they will pass donations onto food banks. This means it can be as easy as buying a few extra bits when you’re shopping for Christmas goodies. Remember to bring some festive cheers to your donations, with treat items and bits and bobs that will excite kids. What about an advent calendar, a Christmas pudding, a nice bubble bath or some crackers, for example?

If you want to make a more practical contribution, several charities accept gifts of toiletries, toys and other essential and non-essential items at this time of year. An example is The Samaritans shoebox campaign, which collects toys for children all over the world. In the UK, local charities, like Dignity Boxes accept donations of toiletries and other essential items to help those in need retain their dignity. Perhaps the easiest way to help is to hand over unwanted or extra toiletries to the Hygiene Bank, which has collection points in many Boots stores nationwide.

Make the most of Christmas with your loved ones

The most important thing to remember, as we move into the Christmas season, is that it isn’t about expensive gifts. The people in your life won’t remember the gifts you buy them, but they will remember the time you spent together. Think back to your Christmases past. Do you remember the gifts? Probably not. You’re far more likely to value the special family moments, all sitting around watching a festive film together or eating a lovingly prepared meal. Focus on people, not presents, and you’ll make this Christmas one to remember!

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