You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great Christmas, you really don’t.
Every year I hear about the amount of money people spend and read stories of people who are still paying off their Christmas debt halfway to next Christmas and it makes me sad. Not sad because of how much is money is actually spent because I totally get people who spend more than they probably should (I may occasionally be guilty of this) and ultimately, it’s their money to spend how they want.
No, the thing that makes me sad is the debt that people get into because they think they need to have a certain number of presents under the tree or they think they need to buy for every man and his dog. I would hate to know that someone has bought me a present that they can’t afford just to keep up appearances and I’d much rather have nothing or something homemade.
Last year we focussed very much on family time and experiences for Christmas gifts for the kids and they were the best gifts we ever bought them. They won’t forget those presents in a hurry (they weren’t cheap, especially Master Frugal’s but it was a once in a lifetime experience so we felt it was worth every penny) but when I asked them what presents they got the year before, they really couldn’t tell me. I know that’s almost two years ago so I tried asking them if they remembered anything about that Christmas, thinking they’d say no and this is what they said….
I remember playing Racing Reindeer after dinner and beating you all with my Reindeer. How fast was Dasher! I also remember that I got a board game because we played it while we ate our party tea.
Ha ha didn’t we spend half the afternoon watching Dad show off trying to do magic tricks with Master Frugal’s new magic kit. He wasn’t very good though was he?
Turns out that they do remember the Christmas before last for the family time we had together and not for the presents that they unwrapped. That’s the point I’m making!
So let’s have a look at some of the ways you can have an amazing family Christmas that the kids will remember without breaking the bank….
Calculate your Christmas budget and work out who you need to buy for as early as you can. Decide how much you’re going to spend on each person and stick to your budget.
Don’t be afraid to suggest to friends and family that you only buy for the kids (or not at all). They’ll probably be glad that you brought it up.
If you do have groups of friends or family who you want to buy for then why not suggest a secret Santa where you just buy one gift. We do this with our next door neighbours and set a low spend limit so you have to be creative rather than just extravagant. We exchange on Christmas Eve and it’s one of my favourite parts of Christmas.
Start buying early – it might be too late for this year but try starting part way through the year. I buy a £10 Amazon, Boots or Game voucher when I do my weekly shopping if I’ve stayed within my budget for that week as they’re all places I know we’ll be visiting for our shopping.
If you’re not seeing someone to exchange gifts until after Christmas then wait for the Boxing day sales to buy your presents for them. You’ll save a fortune.
If you do get a bargain present for someone, either before Christmas or after in the sales then don’t be tempted to spend more to make up what you actually paid for the gift to your budget. For example, if you get something worth £15 for £7.50 and your budget was £15 for that person, don’t spend the extra £7.50. Your gift is worth £15 even if you got it cheaper so enjoy the fact you got a deal and pocket the difference.
If you’re buying online then don’t forget to use cash back sites to get some money back on your shopping.
Clear out a cupboard and make it your Christmas cupboard where you can store any treats and presents that you buy in advance. I have a big bag on top of my cupboards but my friend has a kitchen cupboard – the idea is the same though. We buy things like tins of Quality Street when they’re on offer and pop them in our Christmas places to store until CHristmas. Mine currently has a four pack of snowballs and a four pack of Babycham which I always have at Christmas as a bit of a nod to my Nana bless her.
Once you’ve done all your shopping resist the temptation to buy any extras. I’m really bad at this so this year I’m going to try really hard not to buy any extra presents – no matter how much I think someone will like something.
Check your store loyalty cards and use whatever points you have to buy presents and food with your loyalty points.
You can ask companies like Tesco and Morrisons to not give you vouchers for the points you accumulate through the year and set it so that you’ll get them when you need them for your Christmas shopping. I have my Morrisons vouchers set so that I’ll get my year’s worth the week before Christmas in time for my ‘big’ Christmas shop.
On the subject of the big Christmas shop, the shops are only closed for two days (some only close for one) so you don’t need to stockpile a week’s worth of food. People who have their trolleys overflowing always make me smile because I know that I have everything in as I normally would for that week’s meal plan and anything I’ve forgotten I can do without or wait till the shops are open again.
In fact, it’s worth considering shopping online for your Christmas shop to avoid the crush and the temptation.
We all love a good tin of Quality Street at Christmas but do you need the twiglets and the cheddars and all of the other novelty food that you can buy at this time of year. By all means buy a few treat foods but you can only eat so much so don’t be tempted by something just because it’s in a Christmas box. Who eats Twiglets anyway?
Also, don’t be tempted to buy food you don’t enjoy just for guests you’re expecting as they’re coming to see you not your food – none of us eat Christmas cake but until a few years ago we used to buy one anyway for visitors to nibble on.
If you’re having people over share the cost of food and drink by asking them to bring a plate of something with them – like a Christmas Come Dine With Me affair.
Christmas leftovers aren’t compulsory s0 don’t feel that you have to a buy a huge expensive turkey when a smaller one will do the job. If you do have leftovers, there’s lots of ideas here on how to use them up here. Even better, don’t buy a turkey at all just because it’s tradition – we have gammon and beef instead.
Shops like Boots and WHSmiths do buy 2 get 1 free offers on gifts at this time of year so consider buying your presents from there to save.
Club together with other parents to take advantage of the 3 for two offers. I once bought three Baby Annabelle’s for £30 each on the buy 2 get the 3rd free offer and sold the two extra for just under what they were selling for in the shops so the one I kept ended up costing hardly anything.
Companies like Argos and Sainsburys often have huge toy sales not long before Christmas so do find out when they are and see if you can get what you need in the sale.
Don’t forget you don’t necessarily have to buy a present in time for Christmas – if you think it’s going to be reduced in the sale why not wait until after the big day. Miss Frugal loves Lush but she knows that the day after Christmas everything is half price so she asks me not to buy anything from there but to give her ‘Lush money’ so she can go on Boxing day to buy everything at half price.
Don’t be afraid to buy presents from ebay, charity shops and car boot sales – especially for younger children who won’t have a clue.
Keep all of your receipts in one place in case anything needs to go back. Most shops will do gift receipts which don’t show the value of the item.
Hand deliver your cards to friends and family who live locally and catch up with them at the same time.
Have a charity box at work and donate to that instead of buying cards for everyone – saves money, time and makes some much needed money for a local charity.
Make some cute homemade gift tags using last year’s old Christmas cards.
We bought each other an expensive Christmas card about five years ago now and they were lovely. We both put lots of time and thought into choosing one which said how we felt and I tell you, they certainly weren’t cheap. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them after Christmas so we kept them and we don’t exchange cards every year now, we just use these lovely cards because there isn’t a card that could say what I feel more than that one. Soppy and moneysaving!
Don’t be afraid to spend more on one child that you do on another. Apart from the fact that the kids probably won’t know the difference, it will even itself out over the years. Last Christmas I spent more on Master Frugal than his sister but it will be the other way around this year and the kids are totally fine with that.
Do ask your children to write a list and make sure that they know they won’t get everything on there. Having a list means you can get them what they want and will be less tempted to just buy anything and everything. I look at their lists (Miss Frugal’s is on Pinterest this year) and write my own list from that on what I’m willing to buy. Then I look for the best deal on everything.
Try and sneak in some practical presents for the kids. Master Frugal will be getting some new football boots this year which to be honest, I’d be buying anyway as he’ll be ready for a new pair by then. All I do is buy him a pair that are a little bit bett.er than the ones he currently has and it’s a well loved gift that I would have been buying around that time anyway
Shop around for everything – never buy until you’ve done a price comparison, even if you just quickly do it on your phone in the shop.
Black Friday is great for deals on electronics but don’t be tempted to buy things that weren’t on your list.
Homemade gifts can be brilliant so have a think about what you can make for your family and friends to save money on buying presents.
Hampers are a great way to give a thoughtful gift and you can buy a little part of it each week with your shopping. I always make Miss Frugal a beauty hamper and buy her things like face masks every week to make it up and then I present it in a nice box.
Things like phone cases are great stocking fillers and you can buy them for a pound or so on eBay. I’ve bought Miss Frugal some before and they’re generally from China so take a while to come but if you order in time they’re great bargains.
A great gift for Dads especially are these free printable gift certificates that my two give Mr Frugal every year with promises of all sorts of fun things.
Homemade cards are a lovely thought for family and friends and can also be a great way to spend some time together as well.
Homemade decorations are great to make too – paper chains and popcorn chains are cheap and fun as well as making your house look lovely and festive.
Don’t go spending a fortune on getting a letter delivered from Santa to the kids. I’ve seen people offering personalised letters for upwards of £10 but if they write to the Royal Mail with a stamped addressed envelope then they’ll get a letter back free of charge.
If you’re travelling over Christmas then book anything you need to book early to save as the prices will go up closer to the time.
Remember that the best part about Christmas is spending time together as a family. Nothing beats Christmas movies and board games or walks around the neighbourhood to look at the Christmas lights. You don’t have to spend money to have fun.
There’s lots of free events in our local area – everything from reindeer parades to big light switch ons so have a look online and see what’s going on in your area.
If you are planning a few Christmas activities that you need to pay for then look around and see if there are any discount codes online. We went to a local event a few years ago at Stockeld Park and although we couldn’t find any discount vouchers online, we did find a voucher for a free hot chocolate each in a local newspaper.
Swap Christmas movie DVDs with friends so you can watch Christmas movies without buying all of the DVDs. Or even better find old Christmas films on Netflix and snuggle in to watch them together.
Find out when and where your nearest Christingle service is on at church and head there with the family. We’re not church go-ers but nothing gets you in the spirit of Christmas like that.
Don’t miss the last posting dates or you’ll spend a fortune on special delivery to get things there in time.
Think about buying expensive gifts (over £100) on credit card so you’re covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if something goes wrong. Just remember to pay it off in time so you don’t pay interest.
Don’t worry about your wrapping being all co-ordinated with pretty bows and ribbon. Last year I used plain brown paper which was actually quite rustic and cute, especially when I got the kids to decorate the paper with some Christmas stamps and paint.
If you’re struggling to pay for Christmas then have a look at this post to see if you can make some extra money to help you pay for it.
Remember, Christmas isn’t a competition!
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