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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. For example, you can save money by using freebie apps like Olio which connects neighbours to share surplus food.
With a little time and effort you really can celebrate Christmas for free.
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! And take a look at our article on how to feed 5 people for £1 or less per portion (these aren’t Christmas recipes but can help with the before and after!).
If you’re stuck with three jars of cranberry sauce but no mincemeat, swap ingredients with friends or have a cooking day where you can share recipes and ingredients.
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.
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 why we think Freegansim is so important in our article and read more about foraging here.
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.
We’re all strapped this Christmas – so here are some ideas for free Christmas presents to bring joy without spending anything!
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.
You could also raid your craft supplies if you’ve got some at home to make your own. This is especially fun to do if you have children – let them fingerpaint, get creative with glitter (if you can bear the clean-up!) or even teach them how to make snowman pompoms to stick on their cards.
Find out how you can make money writing gift cards.
You can also save money and paper by sending e-cards from sites like 123Greetings and 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.
For 99p you can send an eCard from Moonpig now too (which can be a life saver if you’ve left it a bit too late or are worried about the postal strikes!). They also have an offer on now (at the time of writing) – get 50% off 5 cards, which could save you money if you want to add personalisations and your own photos for family and close friends.
The tech-for-good app YoungPlanet has helped parents fill their children’s Christmas stockings for free in previous years. With ever rising household costs, YoungPlanet calls on parents to embrace the circular economy to ease the financial strain for those who may struggle to buy gifts for their children.
This winter is likely to be difficult for parents, with energy prices putting a huge dent into Christmas budgets. The app currently has thousands of toys, including doll’s houses, toy trucks, books, lego, and plush toys, which parents are able to claim for free. The app works by allowing parents to gift children’s items they no longer need to parents who want them. Tis the season of giving, so there is no better time to create an economy of giving and receiving. Plus, less items get wasted.
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 NextDoor or local Facebook groups. You could also try to sell them to make the cash to buy the present you want to give, too.
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 Freecycle.
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:
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.
Bring some festive cheer to your home without spending lots on Christmas decorations! Here’s how.
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.
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:
If you’re savvy with a crochet hook or knitting needles, you can also quickly make up lots of Christmas bunting, baubles, even wreaths! Check out LoveCrafts for some inspired decoration ideas. It’s a great way to teach children how to knit or crochet, too – the projects are small and often use very simple stitches, so they’re perfect for beginners. You don’t need to spend lots on wool, either – if you don’t have any in the house, ask friends and family if they’ve got any spare. Or, the local pound shop or charity shop usually has plenty for pennies!
With the cost of living being so high, there are plenty of things you can do for free to entertain yourself and your family while getting into the festive spirit.
This month’s Bablands newsletter is full of great ideas. She suggests joining Westminster Abbey’s free Carols with the Choir event on the 10th December and take part in art and craft activities, a festive tour of the Abbey, carol singing with the world-famous choir and a wintry storytelling session.
Send your kids’ letters to Santa to: Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ and Royal Mail will organise a free reply. Just make sure you send the letter (in a stamped, addressed envelope) before Friday 9th December with the child’s name and address clearly marked in the letter.
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. You can even play fun things like wink murder – and for a bit of peace and quiet, try playing Sleeping Lions!
For more party game ideas, check out this cool article from The Spruce. Or think about hosting an online game session with your loved ones who live far away or can’t visit you in lockdown. You could organise your own family quiz, or use your consoles to play group games together. If you video call or use headsets at the same time, it’s a fun way to catch up with loved ones! Don’t have a console? Don’t panic! Check out this awesome list of online party games to play.
Most Christmas markets are running again this year and your local village or town is likely to put on as many events as they can. Check your local council’s website to see if they’re running things like a Santa’s grotto, or if there are any carol singing events to attend.
Your local churches and libraries are also great places to turn to for free activities in the run-up to Christmas.
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.
We’ve had a look around and there are definitely some free events on, here is just a taster for you:
The Christmas Grotto at North Point Shopping Centre in Bransholme (Hull) is free this year. Santa will be in residence and giving out free gifts every day until Christmas Eve, from 12pm until 5pm most days, 5:30pm on Saturdays, 4pm on Sundays and 3pm on Christmas Eve. No booking is required so you can walk straight in.
Head to the William Morris Gallery in London on the 10th December and use winter greens, dried fruit, and flowers to create decorations for your tree, taking inspiration from the gallery’s The Legend of King Arthur: A Pre-Raphaelite Love Story exhibition, and Yule Christmas traditions. These sessions are free and no booking in required, but do try and get there early to avoid disappointment.
You can meet Santa at his Woodland Lodge at the Westfield Shopping Centre, White City, London from 10th -24th December. From 12:30pm to 6:30pm. The experience is free and includes the chance to get a photo with the man himself. No booking required.
Selfridges in London, Birmingham, Manchester Trafford and Manchester Exchange Square are all hosting free Meet Santa experiences this year. Santa will be roaming through the store rather than sitting in one place and the dates and times are available on the Selfridges website.
Dogs are welcome at Harrogate’s Christmas Fayre this year. It’s only on for 10 days between Friday 2nd and Sunday 11th December, from 10am – 7pm (4:30pm on Sundays). There will be a mix of local traders and traditional European Christmas stalls, selling everything from delicious food to perfect gifts.
Don’t enter January with a debt hangover.
We’ve got loads of ideas in this book for making money now to pay for the festive season.
Download your free eBook here.
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.
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I’ve been making gift tags and cards out of used cards from previous years and I’ve been reusing gift wrap / packaging. Let’s make it a green Christmas!
I was brought up to live like this all year. I love the interesting things you can turn up using these methods – Christmas or not!
Me too – I especially like upcycled and repurposed things made with stuff most people would throw away!
I like the idea of swapping ingredients with friends.
Hampers are an amazing way to make cheap stuff for a present look expensive! A good one i found for christmas 2017 was a free competition to win a £500 Booths hamper at