We love Christmas, and who are we to let a lack of funds get in the way of having a jolly time? With a festive sprinkling of budgeting and a dash of creativity, you’ll be able to have the Christmas you always dreamed of, without the bank balance of your nightmares.
Plan for affordability, not desirability
Planning the gifts that you want to buy for friends and relatives should be a fun task and if you plan realistically you’ll save yourself money and any Christmas-related stress. Often people will overestimate what they can afford to spend on Christmas presents, dinner and festivities, as well as essentials like rent, food and utilities, and will only consider the cost afterwards. That is a recipe for financial disaster. Instead, calculate your budget and ask yourself: “What can I afford to spend on Christmas?” Remember that Christmas is just one day of the year – don’t ruin the whole of the next year paying for it.
Who do you need to buy for?
Now is the time to sit down with family and friends and broach the subject of presents. Agree with certain friends that you won’t exchange gifts this year, perhaps arrange a meal or an outing instead when you can afford it. Setting up a Secret Santa with family could be a fun alternative to buying presents for everyone, that way everyone will have a gift and you’ll have the added fun of working out who it was from! If a maximum price is set in advance, this can be an effective way of keeping costs manageable: make sure that you stick to the amount agreed!
Make yourself a list – and check it twice
Christmas shopping on impulse is dangerous for your bank balance. Make an old-fashioned shopping list and stick to it. Remember, shops spend a fortune on targeting your spending impulses – having a list and sticking to it should remove any temptation you may have to fritter money.
If you are unsure of what to buy for someone and need some inspiration look online first so that you will get an idea of how much you would spend on particular items and then check in store to see whether this matches. Even if you’re shopping on the high street, remember to benchmark the prices online first.
Make the most of sales
If you have very specific items that you want or need to buy for people then it’s very wise to take full advantage of the Black Friday sales or deals on sites like Money Saving Expert.
If you are seeing friends or family after Christmas and aren’t exchanging gifts until after Christmas, then it might be worth checking out the Boxing Day sales to see whether you can get more for your money. There is nothing worse than seeing items that you’ve brought as Christmas presents being reduced to half of the price days afterwards!
Give homemade gifts
One of the best ways to save money this Christmas is by creating homemade gifts. They offer a sentimental, personal touch that you won’t find in any department store. The thought and effort that goes into creating a gift is something that money cannot buy. Consider crafting, or sending baked goods instead of store-bought presents. Look for homemade gift ideas online (crafts or baked goods are always a hit) and plan ahead so you have plenty of time to create your gifts. Pinterest and Etsy are great sources of inspiration for makes for every member of the family and for a variety of skills and crafts.
Swap a chequebook for gift coupons
Create your own redeemable coupons that are good for services such as cooking dinner, serving breakfast in bed or a free car wash.
Giving the gift of your time and expertise, whilst not very exciting, could be more useful to friends and family than a store-bought gift. Maybe you could offer to help your Mum master using Excel spreadsheets or you could help your Gran by doing her gardening. The possibilities here are endless and many people will appreciate your services more than a store-bought gift, particularly if they don’t get to see you very often throughout the year.
Send Cards Instead of Gifts
A thoughtful Christmas card shows people that you’re thinking of them and can often mean more than a commercial gift. Save even more money by purchasing cards in bulk. Include a handwritten note that personalises your card.
Book train tickets in advance
Rail operators launch tickets from 12 weeks before Christmas, so if you want to buy cheap tickets for Christmas, check prices as soon as you can and book as soon as you know your plans.
Christmas isn’t just about spending
There are plenty of Christmas themed things that you can do for free or for very little cost. Decorating the Christmas tree, going to a carol concert or playing Christmas games are all cheap forms of entertainment and are great ways of creating memories with your loved ones for little cost.