Planning for Christmas on a Budget - Tips to Make Christmas Special Without Spending the Earth

Christmas Budget

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a pretty disastrous year for most of us. Covid 19 has scuppered plans left, right and centre and many people are far worse off than they were a year ago. We also face a near future where getting together with loved ones is difficult, if not impossible. So what does this all mean for Christmas?

A very different kind of Christmas - but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of being with friends and family. Spending time with loved ones has always been the focus of any Christmas celebration, but this year we will all appreciate the time we have with those we love more than ever. That’s why this is the perfect year to create Christmas on a budget without compromising on that Christmas magic.

Many of us have been slowly moving towards a less commercial version of Christmas, with less emphasis on money, over recent years. As we become increasingly aware of our own and others’ financial pressures, things like Secret Santa and homemade gifts have been replacing the previous trend for simply buying ‘stuff’ for everyone. So maybe Christmas 2020 is our chance to take this one step further, and this is where our first tip comes in…

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.

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 clearout as, not only will you raise some money to put towards the cost of Christmas, you will also make space for gifts you will receive. Having a pre-Christmas clearout makes particular sense if you have children who are bound to receive gifts and have absolutely nowhere to put their new toys otherwise. Out with the old and in with the new!

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. Whether you’re hanging with your gran or trying to entertain four children, money doesn’t really 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.

Our favourite examples of free (or cheap) Christmas magic

Get outside

Make the most of the short daylight hours and winter sunshine with woodland walks and countryside rambles. Lockdown taught many of us that children need little more than an empty field to run around in order to be happy.

Do some Christmas baking

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

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.

Help a neighbour

Offering to help neighbours, or helping out at a food bank around Christmas time is a great way to spread some festive cheer, particularly at a time when we are all feeling the pinch a little more.

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 this site from 1 December for everything you need to know about this cool tool.

Don’t buy this year, make!

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. Good ideas include:

  • Beautifully wrapped homemade sweets and chocolates
  • Decorated biscuits or tasty cheese crackers
  • Printed or dyed tea towels or table cloths
  • Homemade Christmas decorations
  • Homemade sloe gin or blackberry vodka (you’ll need to get going on these in October)

Start saving straight away and budget, budget, budget

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, 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.

Spending too much on Christmas cheer? Why not brew your own?

Brewing your own beer and making your own wine at home is a fun way to save money at Christmas. If you are worried about the cost of hosting parties, a foray into homebrewing might just save you a fortune. Making wine and brewing beer are very different hobbies and you need a bit of space and plenty of patience for each of these activities. Like many artisan hobbies, there are plenty of people online willing to share their expertise and knowledge, as well as cheap kits that can get you making wine for just £1.50 a bottle.

The most important thing to remember, as we move into the Christmas season, is that it really isn’t about money. 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 Christmasses 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 2020 a Christmas to remember, following a year to forget!

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