My Five Favourite Frugal Things for a Low-Cost Christmas
Usually at this point in the year I have completed both my Christmas shopping and most of the festive food purchases, too. However, this year, I am way behind, having recently moved house. But does this mean I am going to bust my budget buying everything at the last minute? Of course not! One of the ways I cope with spending more over Christmas is to begin putting money away in January.
So, this is the first of my five favourite frugal things for a low-cost Christmas.
- Make a budget
- Buy as you go along
- Remember that it’s just one day
- The four-gift rule
- Find free and cheap experiences
There was a time when I attempted to do the whole of my Christmas shop in November and December, causing a strain on my finances and usually meaning that I made a big dent in my overdraft.
A couple of times I also put Christmas on my credit card, which meant that I was still paying it back several months into the new year. There’s something soul destroying about seeing your wages disappearing to pay for something that has already happened and is just a distant memory!
Then I saw the light and began to put away a monthly sum to pay for Christmas as part of my usual budget. This means that, as we approach Christmas I have the funds to buy gifts, pay for any outings and purchase some more special food and drink to celebrate the occasion.
I know it is too late for this year, but to take some of the financial strain away from Christmas 2023, you could make budgeting for the season one of your new year’s resolutions.
Another way to spread the cost of Christmas is to buy bits and pieces throughout the year. You could start in the January sales, when you can usually find cards, wrapping paper, decorations and gift sets with big reductions. Just don’t forget where you store them. I did this one year and found a large stash of Christmas cards in the attic some years later …
Check out sales and look for bargains throughout the year for useful gift items. I have even bought Christmas presents for my children at car boot sales when they were younger. Some of them were actually new with tags and others were lightly used. I don’t think my kids ever felt deprived because they received the odd second hand present (or even noticed).
This applies to food in particular. How often have you been faced with a mass of Christmas leftovers that nobody wanted to eat and that ended up in the bin? Or had boxes of chocolates and snacks and lots of opened bottles of alcohol lying around for months, ruining your healthy eating plans for the new year?
It is easy to buy far more food than it is realistic to eat. Plan your meals over Christmas and factor in how you might use or freeze leftovers.
It is lovely to have special treats over the holiday, but regard them as just that – treats for the few days of Christmas. Don’t forget that you will inevitably receive chocolates and wine as gifts yourself, particularly if you are entertaining.
Many parents have embraced the four (or five) gift rule in order to limit spending, whilst still making Christmas exciting for their children.
The four-gift rule is as follows: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. When my children were young I used to expand this rule to include something used, but you could also include other categories to suit your own circumstances, desires and budget. Extra categories could include something to share, such as a game, something to do, maybe a craft set or a building toy like Lego, and something handmade, either by yourself or a craftsperson you have purchased from.
Of course, you could splash out and take your kids to Lapland or Winter Wonderland, but if you are looking to spend less there are lots of things to enjoy that are free or cost very little.
Look on community noticeboards and Facebook pages to find carol concerts, children’s church services, play schemes for the holidays, Christmas fairs and, especially, Christmas houses. There may be fewer this year due to the high cost of energy, but I have spotted several already!
You could organise a Christmas gathering for friends that won’t cost a bomb. One of my daughters recently went to a baked potato party. The host cooked a load of jacket spuds and each guest brought a filling and something to drink. It was an inexpensive and fun evening.
You could make it broader and get everyone to bring a dish of their choice for a potluck supper.
Check out your council website for free Christmas events too. Ours turns on the lights and has a host of entertainment in the high street to celebrate. Alongside this they have one evening in December where entry to the castle is free and they arrange for Santa to visit at the same time.
These are some of my favourite frugal things for a low-cost Christmas, but I am sure you can find a few of your own. Christmas should be a fun time to spend with family and friends and not create a hangover of debt for the new year.
Have a great frugal Christmas!