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There’s every likelihood that Christmas this year will look very different to others, and while it’s sad that many of us will have to limit how many of our loved ones we see, it may be an opportunity to spend less over the holiday season.
Christmas is a time that brings just as much stress and worry for many families as it does excitement. The pressure to give great gifts, splurge on Christmas food, drinks and decorations can all pile up – leaving thousands of families in debt and worried about the future financially.
This guide covers some fantastic tips on how to do Christmas on a budget – from budget DIY Christmas decorations, to shopping for thoughtful yet frugal gifts.
14 ways to do Christmas on a budget:
1. Calculate your budget
Rather than buying first and worrying later, one of the best things you can do to still have a fantastic Christmas on a budget is to calculate your budget before you do anything else.
Take a look at your savings (if you’re ready this a couple of months in advance, it can be helpful to start a separate savings pot specifically for Christmas), and set up a realistic budget for yourself. Don’t forget to cover:
- Food and drink
- Any activities/traditions your family likes to do
2. Get organised
Running parallel to calculating your budget is getting organised. When doing anything on a budget, lists are your friend.
Make lists for your gifts, the food you need to buy for Christmas day, drinks, decorations, and anything else likely to take a chunk out of your budget. Start as early as possible, so you can slowly start ticking off each item on your lists without feeling that urge to panic buy.
3. Create memories instead of material
It can be far more special to create memories with your family through traditions than by simply buying things because you feel the need to.
Instead of shelling out for gifts that drain your bank account, think about ways you can make new memories with your family.
This post on frugal Christmas traditions to start this year is a great place to get started!
4. Don’t feel the need to buy expensive brand name foods
Top tip: most of the time when it comes to brand products vs shops own-brand products, you’re paying more for the packaging than the actual product.
Don’t feel the need to buy the most expensive foods for your Christmas dinner – things like cranberry sauce, potatoes, veg etc are all trimmings that will taste just as good if you go for the budget options.
Save your money for where it really counts – the Guardian’s taste-testing article highlights some of the topic Christmas food picks for 2020 and provides a great guide to guarantee you’re getting something that’s top quality!
5. Shop around for the cheapest price
If you’ve started your Christmas shopping already, you can afford to take your time to find the best price for the items you’ve got your eye on.
Using Google Shopping is a great way to input the details of the item you want and see if any other retailers are offering a better deal on it online. In the run-up to Christmas, it’s not rare to find discounts and vouchers offered so make sure you’ve taken the time to shop around and get the most for your money!
6. Look out for discounts and voucher codes
As mentioned above, the run-up to the Christmas holidays is a popular time for discounts and vouchers (retailers do want you to buy from them, afterall!).
Use Honey, a free browser extension, to automatically search for voucher codes when shopping online, and stay up-to-date with Amazon Prime deals and other reputable sites that list bargains (I like Money Saving Expert’s Deals page, for example).
7. Avoid borrowing for Christmas gifts
Anyone who reads this website frequently will know that not buying what you can’t afford is a big theme that runs through any tips we offer, and that also applies to your Christmas shopping.
Use your savings to pay for gifts and other expenses outright – DON’T borrow the money just to make your family happy (they’ll be happier knowing you’re not struggling financially because of them!).
If you absolutely must borrow money to pay for Christmas, use a 0% spending card to avoid having to pay interest immediately after the holiday.
8. Turn decorating into a fun craft with the kids
Christmas decorations may make your home feel magical and extra special for this exciting time of year, but they can also feel like a bit of a waste of money when they spend the remaining 11 months of the year in a box in your storage cupboard.
Instead of shelling out for decorations, why not get crafty with your kids and make some DIY creations to hang around your home? Sure, they might not be as perfectly made as the shop bought decorations, but you’ll have memories of a fun afternoon and save some money in the meantime.
9. Consider donating instead of buying gifts
If your budget is tight this year and buying for every relative feels like more of a strain than a nice thing to do for others, consider making a donation to a charitable cause in lieu of gifts.
Sure, some unkind people might roll their eyes and feel slighted no receive a gift, but no one can protest giving what you can to those more in need at Christmas time.
10. Make your own gifts
Making your own gifts can be a good way to save money, but it’s also an extremely thoughtful way to show loved ones how much you care. A few DIY Christmas gift ideas on this blog include:
11. Use the post-Christmas sales to your advantage
Use this year’s post-Christmas sales to stock up for next Christmas (if you’ve got the space in your attic or an used cupboard, at least!).
Things like napkins, Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, Christmas cards etc are all significantly reduced in price after Christmas day, so you can make some huge savings if you’re organised enough.
Equally, if you and your family all have your heart set on certain things, you could make an agreement among yourselves to post-pone gift giving and take advantage of the sales to gift discounted goods!
12. Start early so you can afford to abandon your basket
Many retailers have tracking pixels that will advertise an incentive via ads on your social media/website browsers etc. This can be something like a 10% discount code to stop you from abandoning your cart altogether, so it’s worth giving this a try to see what you can get!
Yet another reason starting early pays off – you can find what you want and then spend some time finding the best possible price for the items you want.
13. Have a clear out
For my fellow minimalists, Christmas can be slightly daunting because it guarantees an influx of new things to find a home for. If you like keeping your home clutter-free, it can be a good idea to have a clear out in the run-up to the Christmas season.
Even better, you could sell your second-hand goods online to make a little extra cash to put straight in your savings pot!
14. Save more with a Secret Santa or White Elephant
If you have a large family, you may want to propose a secret santa or white elephant to help keep costs down.
A secret santa is where you everyone is assigned a person to buy a gift for (secretly – if you everyone can stay quiet!), whilst a white elephant is where everyone buys a gift and places it in the middle of the table, and you can then go around the table either choosing a gift from the middle or stealing one of the gifts already opened.
We’ve done both in my family and not only is it a useful way to cut down on Christmas costs, but it’s also a great tradition to enjoy and have some laughs with.
These tips hopefully highlight how to do Christmas on a budget in a relatively straightforward and hassle-free way. Remember, Christmas really is about spending time with your loved ones, even if this year that means more zoom calls and FaceTime than physically seeing your extended family.
If the money side of things is stressing you out, take a step back and try to remember what’s really important this time of year.