Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
I don’t know about you but I’m dreaming of a solvent Christmas. If we can get through it this year without hitting a January debt hangover, we will all have won. It’s been an incredibly tough year for everyone, individually and on the high street, so saving money on your Christmas spending is a wise move. It’s all about planning and getting started early.
So my first tip in this direction is to get as much as you can for free this festive season. For a start, many shopping centres and local Councils offer free Santa’s grottos, sometimes complete with presents. Then there are the free concerts and carol-singing sessions offered by local churches, libraries and museums. You can even get free entertainment by doing your own carol singing session in town collecting money for charity. Who cares if you can’t sing? They can pay you to go away.
Sometimes, though, desperate times demand desperate measures. I’m a big fan of simply leaving the country for a few weeks to avoid the insanity. If you book early enough you can get great deals, like a whole house with swimming pool in the Canaries for a week for around £500 on Airbnb. Going away for Christmas also means you may not have to buy lots of gifts for long-lost cousins you would otherwise see on Christmas Day.
Or have your Christmas after Boxing Day so that everything is half price, and the TV choices are better. If you’re REALLY savvy, use the January sales to stock up on decorations, wrapping, and cards for NEXT year!
One friend of mine simply insists she’s Buddhist around this time of year so she can’t possibly take part in Christmas celebrations. Oddly enough she’s not in the least religious any other time of the year.
I’m a fan of stocking up for Christmas in the January and summer sales but if you have the cojones, you can leave it, literally, until Christmas Eve to elbow everyone else in the shops for a half-price – and slightly dog-eared – Christmas shaving kit…to give to your wife.
Eschewing paper Christmas cards in favour of eCards has a double advantage. It saves you money and gives you the opportunity to nab the moral high ground! Tell friends and family that you’re doing it ‘to reduce your carbon footprint’. Keep them happy, though, by sending out Jacqui Lawson’s delightful, all-singing, all-dancing online cards – just a few quid a year to send as many ‘cards’ to as many people as you want.
Our MoneyMagpie readers have tips of their own too. One readers, Colin Stutt (a lawyer), says: “Always agree in advance and in writing who is doing what over the festive period. Especially, who is going to actually hand out the presents. Every Christmas agreement needs a Santa Claus.”
Use the Christmas money you’ve set aside for the important things and substitute others. Agree with friends a price limit on gifts – or have a no gifts rule. For Christmas dinner, have a pot luck – even if it’s just for the dessert table – to shave a bit off the bill. Avoid new, costly, ‘traditions’ that have sprung up in recent years, like ‘Christmas Eve boxes’. Decline participation in the office Secret Santa. Finally, if you’ve got time, why not agree that your presents are ‘handmade only’ between you and your family? You could even have a Thrift Christmas: everyone has to buy gifts from the charity shops!
If your Christmas is likely to be filled with a mass gathering, Secret Santa works really well. You all only buy one present for one person. No one leaves empty-handed AND you all stay much richer for it!
We are always encouraging our readers to make money as well as saving it and Christmas is no exception. We suggest making Christmas hampers to sell or give as presents, doing seasonal work in department stores (get cheap presents while you’re there) or being a Christmas postie.
Our very popular article on how to make money being a Santa or elf prompted John Random to point out potential problems for Santa and his elves getting delivering presents. He says “The sad truth is that since 2011, EU rules on carbon emissions have meant that reindeer can only be used on certain heritage routes, and are completely banned from the airspace within the M25. And with Brexit looming, I wouldn’t bank on the Free Movement of Ungulates being restored any time soon.”
But Christmas is all about the kids…and presents…and making people happy. So, as a final tip ‘anon’ says: “For a cheap gift idea, buy all your friends in the United States cheese graters for Christmas – they’ll soon make America grate again.” If only.