Your most budget-friendly Christmas ever


However much you look forward to Christmas, the expense of it can leave you with a sense of dread too. But with a little forward-planning you can keep your costs under control. Here’s how.

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Every January you swear that next Christmas will be cheaper, but then suddenly here it is again: presents to be bought, house to be decorated, guests to be cared for, and turkey and all the trimmings to be cooked. It doesn’t have to be this stressful. With careful planning and a little creativity, you can limit those spiralling costs, and keep on top of your budget. These tips and tricks will help you plan your Christmas down to the last penny, to make sure you don’t need to tighten your belt too much come January.

Budget for your gifts

1. Set a budget and stick to it: think of the total maximum spend then divide this up between the number of people you have to buy for, weighting up and down according to importance and expectations. If one or two gifts go over the individual budget, you can even it out quickly by making sure the next couple of buys are under-budget.

2. Suggest a family spend limit: Christmas is really about the kids, so the whole family will probably find it a relief to have a Secret Santa arrangement or at the very least a spending limit for adults.

3. Shop ahead and online: don’t leave everything till the last minute. To get the bargains, do your research early online – there will be discounts in the run-up to Christmas, and always seek out voucher codes as well. Multi-purchase deals can be a lifesaver too, as long as your gift recipients don’t live at the same house! Read our Guide to savvy online gift shopping for more ideas.

4. Make your own: you can save cash and look extra-thoughtful with homemade gifts.

5. Cover all bases: read our guide to Savvy gift-shopping to make sure you remember all the extras, like batteries, gift receipts and so on.

Cut costs on cards and decorations

1. Save on postage: instead of spending a fortune on stamps, you can send free online e-cards or, for a small donation, send charity e-cards – after all, it’s the thought that counts.

2. Get crafty with the kids The children can make gorgeous, endearing cards and gift tags (which can be surprisingly expensive) from old cards you were sent last year, scraps of wrapping paper, ribbon etc. Cut the ribbon loops (used for keeping the clothes on hangers in shops) out of tops and skirts – they’re perfect for gift tags! Try our ideas in the article Fun inspiration for DIY decorations or discover how to make a wreath in our article Five DIY Christmas ideas.

Eat, drink and be thrifty!

1. Plan your meals and parties: itemise everything you’ll need, to avoid over-buying, and then when deals on frozen or non-fresh items come up, you can buy in advance and tick them off the list. Party foods get cheaper when you can bulk-buy them.

2. Don’t panic-buy: you don’t want to be throwing away veg that’s gone off, or worrying about whether the turkey is still in date. But on Christmas Eve, supermarkets reducing fresh meat might provide you with a bargain you can use for Boxing Day lunch or freeze to make January cheaper at the checkout.

3. Buy with friends: if there’s something you can save on by bulk buying, or a food like cranberry sauce that you only need a small amount of, plan to buy and share the food and its cost with a friend of neighbour.

4. Ditch the turkey! It sounds radical, but if you don’t have a huge gathering, a chicken or other meat might be cheaper, as it doesn’t have that Christmas mark-up, and it’ll also save you eating turkey curry all week.

5. Practice your leftover recipes: try our article One chicken, two meals for ideas. You can even some leftover ingredients for desserts: read Three alternative Christmas desserts to find out how.

6. Don’t lose your head in the supermarket: if you already have good money-saving shopping habits, stick to them even though it’s Christmas. If you need a reminder, read our article Ten tips to save money on your weekly food shop.

Do you stick to a Christmas budget, or do you find costs spiralling?