How to Cut the Cost of Christmas

How much do you plan to spend on presents, food, activities and days out this Christmas?  Have you even set a budget yet?  Or do you just keep charging the gifts, the decorations, and the nights out to your credit card?  Believe it or not there are ways to cut the costs of Christmas, without feeling like you're missing out or giving rubbish gifts.

Whichever way you look at it, Christmas can be expensive.  There are plenty of offers and deals, yes, but often that means we overspend rather than save.  No way around it, buying that many presents is stressful.  And even if you have a budget to stick to, there is often a point in which you give up, whip out the credit card and throw caution to the wind.

With so much to do and so little time to do it all, being careful with money rarely enters the equation.  Who has time to think about saving money at this time of year?  But oh how much do you regret that when the bills hit the floor in January?

Forget the overwhelm of Christmas, forget the endless lists of gifts, food and things to do, and read on for our easy, practical tips on how to cut the costs of Christmas.  With all these savings you won;t need to dread your January credit card bill after all.  This WILL be the year you stay in the black!

1. Cut Back

Have an honest conversation with the adults you buy for and see if you want to set a limit on the cost of gifts, or even cut them out altogether.  Rather than buying gifty presents that no-one actually wants, maybe it's time to stop altogether or to exchange lists with items under a certain cost.  Some families and groups of friends do a Secret Santa so they then have only one adult to buy for.  Have a chat and see what would work for your family and friends.

2. Set a Budget

OK, I say this A LOT.  But the earlier you set your budget and the more realistic it is, the easier it will be for you to stick to it.  Plan ahead to stay on track and keep all those Christmas expenses like days out, presents, decorations and foods to a reasonable level.  No more flinging your hands up in the air and saying to hell with it!

3. Spend Cash

If you have your credit or debit card there you will spend on it.  Take a specific amount of cash out shopping and that is what you have.  Stick to your resolve and spend what you have.  If the gift for Uncle Ernie goes over then you'll have less to spend on Cousin Amelia.  You choose.

4. Challenge Yourself

What if you actually came in UNDER budget this year?  Have something in mind that you could spend the extra cash on - an extra day out for the kids, ice skating or fancy festive drinks at Starbucks.  Challenge yourself to spend a little less than you planned on each gift and it will soon add up.  Then check the pound/dollar stores, charity/thrift shops, and sales areas to see what you can find.

5. Shop Online

Another way to keep control of your spending is to shop online.  That way you avoid temptation, can target in on what to buy, and save the cost of petrol, parking and food or drinks out too.  Black Friday can be the perfect time to shop with lots of bargains, or it can be the road to spend, spend, spend.  Be careful, only buy what you actually need, and check it is a bargain before you click buy.

6. Get Cash Back

When you spend online make sure you go through a cashback site like Quidco or TopCashback.  That way you will get a percentage of your spend back.  Another tip is to put things in your online shopping baskets then leave them there.  If you have signed up for an account the retailer will often email out offers a few days after you 'abandon cart'.

7. Make DIY Gifts

Making you own presents is a great way to save money, and if they are done well will delight the recipient more than yet another bought gift.  And you don't have to be super crafty to make a great gift.  A simple gift basket or home-made gift can still be of huge value to the recipient simply for the effort that went into it (x1000 if the kids got involved too!).

Check out this list of 60+ Ideas for the Best Home-made Gifts

8. Don't Overlook Cheap Gifts

Yeah, that sounds bad.  But actually any gift isn't about how much you spend, it's about the value to the recipient.  So if you manage to track down a gravy boat your aunt broke last Christmas in a charity shop or on eBay, she'll love it.  Add a beautiful gift box and your cheap gift is her most treasured of the year.  A load of balloons and a large cardboard box will keep young toddlers happy for hours!

9. Merry Thriftmas!

To really save money consider thrifting gifts this year.  Even if your budget is tiny you can get something for everyone on your list, plus you're helping save the planet too.  Shop at local bazaars, jumble sales and church fairs; online on eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace or groups; and in local charity/thrift and secondhand shops.  Many things will not look secondhand, just start early and take your time to find the right gift.

Here are some things you could buy:
  • Books
  • DVDs
  • CDs
  • Vintage vinyl
  • Mugs
  • A vase
  • Art work
  • Collectables and knick knacks
  • Toys like LEGO, Sylvanian Families, Playmobil
  • Board games
  • Jigsaw puzzles

10. Get Crafty

Making decorations for your home, making gifts and baking are perfect for lots of family fun, they look and taste great, and they save you money.  You can even make your own wrapping paper.  Just buy a roll of white or brown paper and let the kids lose with some stencils and red and green wax crayons or felt tip pens.

Read: Simple Christmas Craft Ideas for Kids

11. Bake

Christmas is the perfect time to bake and whipping up a storm in the kitchen can be great fun.  Collect together your recipes well in advance, then check your cupboards for what you already have and make a list of ingredients.  Shop around for the best deals and buy in bulk if you can to save money.  What you bake yourself is bound to be healthier and cheaper than anything you buy.

Read: The Best Recipes to Bake with Kids this Christmas

12. Spend Time Not Money

Focus on your family this Christmas by planning lots of free festive activities.  Making hot chocolate, popping popcorn, and watching a Christmas film is the ultimate indulgent but free night in.  Spend your time making paper chains, doing crafts, cutting snowflakes from paper and baking Christmas treats.

Christmas books, singing carols, board games, jigsaw puzzles and playing cards are other great ways to spend some quality family time this season.  Spending time together is what your children will remember about Christmas, not what presents they got.

Read next:
The 10 Best Board Games for Families
15 Festive Things to Do for Free This Christmas

13. Save Money on Food

To save money on your Christmas food it's essential to plan ahead.  Check exactly who will be there and any dietary requirements well in advance, then start planning your menus.  Take an inventory of what you already have then make a list.  Every time you go to the supermarket from now on pick up a few extra items and store them for Christmas.

If you are hosting at Christmas ask friends and family to pitch in too, perhaps by bringing a dish or a specific type of food: cheese and crackers or chocolates and sweets, for example.  And finally, think carefully about what you really need: a big elaborate fruit cake or just a small bar cake you can cut and serve?

Read next: The Ultimate Christmas Shopping List

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