Planning financially for Christmas after nearly two years of hardship might well be overwhelming and daunting this year.
And it can be really expensive – even harder after this last couple of years. So how can you save money at Christmas but still include the usual magic?
1. Plan a budget
This one sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us think of a budget and then absolutely neglect to stick to it. Write a list of all the people you’d like to give gifts to this Christmas. Create a column next to their names where you write down ideas of what to get each person. Include everything from ‘box of chocolates’ for a colleague to the big stuff for your children. Once you have a comprehensive list of how many people to buy for, you can work out how much you’re willing to spend on each person. Make a note next to their name of the price, and work out your budget based on that.
Do not go over! Don’t buy into the Christmas shopping frenzy where you see things on offer and think ‘so and so would like that’, stick to your plan. If you manage to get a bargain on your planned gifts, that’s great! You can put any left over money into next year’s Christmas budget pot.
2. Use those vouchers
Those points cards that you absent-mindedly scan after your weekly food shop all add up. Don’t be tempted to use them for a random £1 off your shop, save them all up. With Tesco for example, you can redeem your Clubcard points to use elsewhere, such as at restaurants. Make the most of those deals down the seasonal aisles. Oftentimes, they’ll have a half-price offer on for Clubcard holders. Utilise this!
3. Make the most of Boxing Day sales
If you’re not seeing certain people until after Christmas day, you don’t really need to buy their gift in advance. Pop to the shops on Boxing Day and nab their present in the sale. Your bank balance will thank you, and the receiver will be none the wiser.
While it seems a long way away, it’s also worth using this sales for next year’s gifts. If you can, purchase items in the sale and pop them up in the loft until next year. This is particularly helpful for children’s toys or health and beauty items.
4. Don’t buy for the sake of it
While it’s nice to give at Christmas, ask yourself if your partner really needs another body lotion gift set. Why not offer experiences instead of material things? As we said, you can cash in your supermarket points for restaurant gift vouchers. Give the gift of spending time together at a restaurant maybe. For those who you’d normally gift a generic gift to, is it worth spending money on something that may end up at the back of the wardrobe?
For those you have a personal relationship with, like your family and close friends, ask them if there’s anything specific they need. Don’t waste your money on things that you’re gifting for the performative act of giving.
5. Work out food portions
This is a biggie. Why do we need to eat ourselves stupid?! When it comes to food waste, Christmas Day is the biggest offender of the year. Many of us buy more than we really need for the sake of having full cupboards over the festive period, but not all of it gets eaten. Your Christmas dinner plate doesn’t need more on it than any other roast dinner.
Plan in advance how many people you’re cooking for, what each person does or doesn’t like, and buy according to their portions. You’ll save money, you’ll prevent food waste, and you’ll spend less time in the kitchen prepping.
If there is any leftover veg or meat, freeze it, unless you’re having meat and pickles on Boxing Day (my favourite!). Anything uneaten does not have to end up in the bin. This will save you on food shopping costs, too!
6. Be crafty with presents
If you have grandchildren, you can be clever with your gifts. As any parent or grandparent knows, kids go through clothes and shoes faster than you could imagine. No doubt they’ll be needing new garments at some point, and you’re more than likely going to be buying them anyway. Wrap them up and give them as Christmas gifts.
That way, they’re still experiencing the magic of unwrapping presents and receiving something they need. Make it fun clothing or shoes though, keep that bit of sparkle going!
7. Buy or make cards
We all love sending and receiving a card, but is it really necessary to buy personalised cards at £2 a pop? This can get increasingly expensive, especially if you have a big family. Instead, if you buy cards, bulk buy the packs of 20. These often have sweet little designs on the front, and you can make the words inside count.
It’s also a chance to get creative! You don’t have to be Van Gogh to make a nice card. Simple is the best way to go – get some card, glitter, glue, fat felt tips – and have some fun. Lots of ideas on Pinterest.
An additional tip: reuse cards from last year by cutting up the covers and using them as gift tags. This will save you from buying new gift tags and will enable you to reduce, reuse and recycle!
8. Reuse decorations
Do you really need to buy new decorations each year? Sure, having a new colour theme is lovely, but your decorations are up for an average of two weeks, and you really don’t need to mix it up every time.
Take the time to pack away your decorations carefully, so you can get them back out in prime condition next year for reusing. If you must buy new, consider buying second-hand or from a charity shop, and donate your old ones to people who need more. You could even set up a neighbourhood or family ‘decoration swap’.
On the topic of decorations, you really don’t need the lights on your tree to be on constantly. An hour in the evening will do (if that).
9. Secret Santa
This is a really good way of keeping costs down, particularly in big families. Instead of you all buying endless gifts for each other, set a budget and do a Secret Santa. Chances are it means everyone will be able to receive something really special and substantial instead of a load more landfill, and not only will you save money at Christmas, but endless time shopping too!