You may think it sounds an unlikely Christmas miracle, but free Christmas presents, free Christmas food, free Christmas music and free Christmas entertainment really are all up for grabs. You just have to know where to look!
Christmas has become the most expensive time of the year for many people – but you don’t have to break the bank this festive season. In fact, with a little time and effort you really can celebrate for free.
Use food you already have
You may not have a spare turkey lurking in your freezer, but there are plenty of seasonal recipes you can make with the ingredients cluttering up your kitchen cupboard.
Here are a few ideas:
Search the BBC recipe finder for more ideas. Simply enter one or more ingredients in the search box and you get list of recipes from BBC chefs.
Also, check out the fantastic recipes that our food blogger, Sarah Lockett, comes up with. She has two kids and has some really creative ways with leftovers!
Have a party where you ask your guests to bring contributions of food and alcohol. Tell them it’s a ‘credit crunch Christmas’ and everyone has to pull together, but remember to coordinate contributions and ask for specific items so that you get everything you need.
You could even ask all your guests to provide one whole dish each to save yourself a lot of effort and expense.
Find free Christmas food on your doorstep
Supermarkets and other retailers throw out vast quantities of perfectly edible food every day simply because it’s past its sell-by date. Followers of Freeganism try to limit their impact on the environment by using free sources of food like this. Often they find fresh fruit, vegetables, tins and jars and ready meals which have been thrown out and are not even at their use-by date.
There is a problem with this – according to several supermarkets it’s illegal! So, be prepared for disappointment.
If digging around in bins isn’t up your street, anyway, why not try your hand at foraging for wild mushrooms, berries, nuts and herbs? These grow all over the place, even in urban areas. There are lots of foraging ideas and recipes on Selfsufficientish where you can also sign up for a day course on foraging in Bristol.
Make sure you research unfamiliar plants and mushrooms carefully – or consult an expert – as some can be extremely poisonous. If in doubt, don’t eat it!
You can find out more about read more about freeganism and foraging here.
Free Christmas food – grow your own
Plan ahead for next year and set up a small vegetable plot in your garden. If you don’t have a garden or don’t know how to get started, try joining a community garden project where you can give your time and labour in return for a share of the produce.
Find out more at Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and search their online database for community projects near you.
If there’s no community project in your area, get an allotment or ask a neighbour if you can rent space in their garden. Alternatively, see if you can have it for free in return for a share of your produce. If you’ve got part of your allotment you could offer, you could make money hiring it out.
Free Christmas cards
Recycle old Christmas cards, or transform them into gift tags or bookmarks. Alternatively, make your own cards by printing out Christmas designs from the internet. A good resource for online templates is HP’s website which has a range of designs you can print including festive photo ornaments, calendars and gift boxes.
Free Christmas e-cards
You can also save money and paper by sending e-cards from sites like 123Greetings and Funny-Ecards without signing up or paying a penny, but you might want to use a different email address to your normal one in case your inbox fills up with junk.
If you have a few pennies to spare and want to save your inbox, then sign up to JacquieLawson. Here you can send as many e-cards as you like for as little as £7.25 a year or £11.00 for two years with no advertising.
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Reuse and recycle
Get into ‘re-gifting': give your unwanted presents as Christmas gifts instead of letting them clutter up your house. Just remember who gave them to you so you can avoid fobbing auntie off with the same bath products she gave you last year!
As well as giving away stuff you already have, try swapping your stuff for presents on sites like Swapz or Swapit. Here you can build up Swapit points when you swap, and exchange them for other items.
A further option is to search for presents on freebie websites: Lots of people would rather give you their stuff for free than go to the hassle of selling it or throwing it away.
You can find all sorts of present-worthy items, from TVs, CDs and DVDs to more unusual freebies like old stamp collections and free bingo membership. All you have to do is arrange to pick it up.
Be on the ball if you want to get a bargain though, as good items are snapped up quickly.
Look for freebies on classified websites like Gumtree and Craigslist, or go to dedicated freebie sites like SnaffleUp or Freecycle.
On both of the latter two, you join a network near you and view items people are giving away in your local area. With SnaffleUp you can browse items before signing up to a network, so it is easier to find what you want.
Make your own free Christmas presents
Your friends and relatives will really appreciate the effort you went to in making them a gift, and if you can do it for free then so much the better. You can find lots of craft ideas online. Try the Blue Peter website or this list of 101 make-your-own Christmas gift ideas. You can make everything from snow globes to picture frames.
This is also a great way to get the kids involved – they’ll love getting into the Blue Peter spirit. Think ahead and store up things that might come in handy like glass jars and bottles, corks, card and coloured paper.
When it comes to edible presents, brainstorm what you can make with the ingredients you already have and recycle jars and bottles to serve them in. A few good ideas are:
You could put a few of these goodies together in a hamper. For more info see our article on making your own making your own Christmas hamper.
Alternatively, why not write your own story or poem, or encourage your children to do the same? It costs nothing and if you’re stuck for ideas there’s plenty of help and advice online. Try these sites:
For more food ideas, check out our food blog written by TV’s Sarah Lockett.
A gift of your time
Make your own gift vouchers promising to give someone your time or do something special for them. This could be anything from making them breakfast in bed, spending a few hours helping with the gardening or housework or promising to volunteer for their favourite charity.
Make the voucher personal – think about what your friend or relative really cares about and tailor your gift to that.
Older relatives often much prefer the gift of your time to the usual bottle of smellies, so even if you have enough money to buy something, consider giving your time as well.
Re-use and recycle
See what salvageable decorations you have left from previous years. Also look out for decorations on the swapping and freebie sites mentioned above. Or try organising a decoration swap with friends – that way everybody gets something new without having to pay for it.
Make your own
Use garden leaves as stencils. Spray pinecones and ivy gold or silver and fix to the walls. Pick sprigs of holly to put behind picture frames. Or combine all these ideas and make your own wreath for the front door.
Here are some other ideas:
Come to Covent Garden!
If you’re heading into London in the run-up to Christmas then Covent Garden is a great place to soak up the holiday spirit, with its giant Christmas tree, decorations, Christmas lights, street performers and even reindeer petting every Saturday. You might also want to check out Covent Garden’s Real Food Market.
A free letter to Santa
Send your kids’ letters to Santa to: Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, SAN TA1 and Royal Mail will organise a free reply.
However, if you would like to donate to the NSPCC at the same time, do use their letter to Santa service. They suggest a donation of £5 and for that you get a personalised reply in a ruby-red envelope.
Dig out old board games or packs of cards – or play games that don’t need any props like charades or murder mysteries.
Get out of the house
Sing along and get into the Christmas mood by going to free carol services at a nearby church or watching the Christmas lights being turned on in your local town centre. Also, take a look at your local council’s website. They may have some Christmas events on that are free for local families. Even in these cash-strapped times, some councils are managing some good shows.
Find out whether local museums and markets have any free events, carol concerts and festivals. Just make sure you book tickets beforehand so you don’t miss out.
Take the little ones to a free Santa’s grotto at a shopping centre. Check out the website of your local centre to see if they’re doing free Santa sessions.
Be part of a Christmas television or radio audience. Go to the BBC website and apply for free tickets to BBC shows, or try Lost In TV for shows on other TV networks. Do sign up early because tickets go quickly, especially for popular shows and Christmas specials.
We bet you have some of your own excellent ideas for getting free food, free entertainment and free presents at Christmas. Tell us and all the other readers about it in our comments section.