I now feel it’s safe to start talking about Christmas. The Oxford Street Christmas lights have been switched on. The shops are full of Christmas gifts and as the days grow shorter and colder, the excitement and anticipation in our household for Christmas is rising. The many Christmas ads are now airing with frequency on TV: John Lewis has a new one #Bustertheboxer, Waitrose, Morrisons all follow suit. It’s become a ritual each year now, each year’s creativity of one brand attempting to top the creativity of the year before. For me, the countdown to Christmas is pinpointed by the start of the annual TV show “I’m a Celebrity”. But for many, it’s also a time of year when worries come to a head and we often spend way much more than we want to or can afford. The Telegraph shared an article revealing that a typical family spends £800 at Christmas time. Today I wanted to share some of my top tips on how to do Christmas on a Shoestring.
Christmas On a Shoestring
Below are my top tips for a frugal Christmas, but I’d love to hear if you have any ideas you’d add to the list…
Plan plan plan
Plan what you are going to buy, eat, drink and give as presents. If it is written down on paper, you can then budget accordingly. But you have to stick to it! Let your fingers do the research online so you can see if there are any differences from shop to shop. Even order online so you only buy what you want. Often if you spend over £30, or a particular threshold, the order qualifies for free delivery, so it’s worth buying items together. Remember, if you go in-store, you are bound to be tempted to part with more money than you intended to! Then you’ll feel the pinch come January…
Also be realistic over what will be eaten. If there’s just two of you, or a small family gathering, don’t buy enough for a banquet! Just buy a turkey crown or small breast with the trimmings. Buy what you need. The shops will open again in a few days anyway, so don’t fret!
We have stopped making Christmas cake in our family, as only one family member actually eats it! In the past it has sat around for months, uneaten, only to then be thrown away just before Easter! We now have other alternatives, which we all enjoy and which actually get eaten before they head back to school in January! So you see, we’ve made our own Christmas traditions: We always have a twinkly tea on Boxing Day, with a delicious spread including lots of special chocolate biscuits, lebkuchen, wafer biscuits and macarons, all eaten together as a family, surrounded by twinkly candle light. Many can now be purchased at Aldi and Lidl, as many come from Germany and mainland Europe, so I save some money and I love it!
Keep an eye out for the bargains or reduced ticket items
Buy food and drink on special offer or 3 for 2. This is well worth it, particularly if you’re buying non-perishable items. These can be bought now in advance and stored in a cool dry place until the big day. Just be sure to hide them so family members don’t nibble away in the run up to Christmas!
Make the freezer your friend. De-frost your freezer, if needed, in anticipation of loading it up in the run up to Christmas. Freeze party food when on offer. Check the packaging to be sure it will freeze. Like this adorable snowman pud. Perfect…
Think outside of the box with your gift ideas
Agree with family to only buy gifts for the children. This can help keep costs down and still ensures presents are exchanged.
If this seems too harsh, then why not introduce Secret Santa and put a maximum figure on the spend. Get everyone to agree to this. If it is just a fiver, this can make it lots of fun, as you are forced to be creative in your gift-giving ideas! There are lots of ideas online of pressies for under a fiver, so do check them out!
If choosing speciality foods as gifts for Christmas, think of creating a hamper yourself, by finding a basket or fun box that you can personalise and gift wrap. Then fill this with your loved one’s favourite foodie treats. You will often find the pre-prepared hampers often cost more than their contents amount to in total. Plus sometimes items are included that you may not like, so at least if you create the hamper yourself, you can be sure it will be well-received and liked 100%!!
Why not make some of your gifts as presents. We often make peppermint creams, truffles and other sweet treats for the grandparents. A couple of years back we made up jars pre-mixed with cocoa powders, topped with sweet treats for some extra special hot cocoa ideas. This year I’m planning on some tasty white and dark chocolate dips with fun dipping bits on the side including breadsticks, marshmallows and other items that are perfect for dipping. So keep your eyes on the blog! The plan is we will have a games night with dipping chocolate treats on the side!
Plan for Black Friday
You must have heard the buzz around Black Friday already? In case you don’t know what Black Friday is, you can read more in the link below, but it starts this Friday 25 November. Although admittedly some stores have started with their special offers already, such as Morrisons and Amazon online.
There are lots of online tips on how to get the best out of Black Friday and where to grab the best deals. One top tip is to download the apps for all the major stores you may wish to purchase from, so you can monitor the price changes of the new TV or gadget you want to snap up at a crazy price.
Use your Cards Wisely
It can be so easy to get carried away at this time of year, and caught up in the excitement of “the gift of giving”. For me though, Christmas is all about family moments, family memories, playing fun games, a time of giving, but it’s the thought that counts. I try and buy gifts over a few months in the run up to Christmas to spread the burden. However this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the car needs fixing or you have unexpected expenditure that you really hadn’t planned for. I’m now thinking of getting a credit card that earns you points back as you spend. I know they’ve been around for some time now, but with clever and wise use, I am sure I could manage our finances better and get rewarded for spending!
Save Up For Christmas
I know we are in November already, but maybe you’ve been putting aside some money each month all year? I know some families buy special stamps or save up the Tesco vouchers and spend those at this time of year. Another idea is to set up a separate account and save each month but obviously to seek out the best rates in advance. It might be worth checking out the interest rates you get with alternative savings ideas such as peer-to-peer lending.
The other tip I’d mention is to not get caught up in the idea of striving for that perfect Christmas. Often families don’t all get on. It’s just how it is. We don’t choose our families but they are family at the end of they day, so we try and park our differences and all pull together and have some fun times together.
This year I’ll be working pretty much full time in the run up to Christmas, so am having to scale back on the many creative and baking ideas I have for our Christmas with magic and sparkle this year!
So what are your top tips for doing Christmas on a shoestring?
Love hearing from you!
The Lunchbox Lady x
Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own.