Christmas On A Budget… 25 Tips to Save Money This Christmas

2022 might be one of the hardest festive seasons some of us have ever seen… I know for me things are much tighter this year. Budgets have been reduced for the kiddos and even myself and Mr Fatgirlskinny are only buying a small gift for each other. When energy and food bills keep rising without an end in sight, there is no way Christmas can be as elaborate as it usually is.

I always find Christmas to be a stressful time of year but this year I can imagine some people are feeling the stress more than ever! It is expected that one in five parents will go into severe debt this year with no prospect of paying it off by next Christmas. The theory should be, if you can’t afford it don’t buy it… but in reality who wants to tell their child that Santa isn’t coming this year? 

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to keep costs down without having to completley sacrifice your festive cheer. Here are our top tips for enjoying Christmas and starting the new year without a shocking financial hangover.

1. Choose a budget for each person and STICK TO IT!

This seems a pretty obvious one but in all honesty it isn’t! 

Every year we choose a budget for the kids, but then we will say things like “oh but their stocking is extra” or “but that doesn’t include their presents from the elf or their Christmas Eve boxes”. 

So when I say choose a budget I mean choose a budget. Don’t be tempted to go over it or just buy that extra little present because their pile of gifts ‘doesn’t look much’. 

It’s hard I know, but your children won’t appreciate it when you can’t afford to pay the electric bill in January.. they are also pretty accepting if you explain that Santa is having some cuts this year because his electric bill has gone up too! 

2. Scrap gift buying

I am not saying don’t buy for your kiddos or each other… but why not have a chat with friends, family and colleagues. We have all spent hours searching the shops for that perfect present for Aunty Floss, then we get back some useless tat that ends up in the charity shop by the end of January! Well maybe it’s time for some honesty? You don’t want anything, they wouldn’t be bothered if you didn’t get them anything but they are scared to say anything. 

We have scrapped present buying for family and friends now, they buy for the kids and we buy for our nieces. You know what? It makes life so much easier.. my mum is a nightmare to buy for (sorry mum) and it saves money because I always end up going over the budget due to guilt! 

Remember you are not obliged to buy gifts for everyone. You may be besties with Bob 3 doors down, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy gifts for his 6 grandkids who visit once a month! Sometimes we just too kind and often it needs to stop.

If you can’t bring yourself to be honest, why not at least suggest a modest budget and make sure everyone sticks to it… OR run a family secret Santa. 

3. Keep track of your spending

Start an old fashioned spread sheet or download a budgeting app. Keep track of every single penny you spend on everything. It will scare you how much it adds up but it will also help you stick to that budget you set.

4. Don’t stress about creating the perfect Christmas

Christmas is actually just one day and it is over before you know it. For most there will be many more Christmases to come, so don’t feel this one has to be the best ever. Christmas is about having fun and being with family. If you can’t afford to go to the expensive hotel up the road this year then so be it! Do something different and forget about making it amazing or putting on a show for others! Work around your budget and it will still be special.

If you are the one who always hosts Christmas for the whole family, why not actually ask everyone to chip in this year? Ask everyone to throw some money into the pot or bring a dish with them? Don’t try and do everything as normal if you simply cannot afford it!

5. Stop spending money on the little things that add up

There are so many little things that add up over the festive season… 

  • Visits to Santa – If you cannot live without taking your children to see Santa, at least look out for a bargain. Lot’s of school Christmas Fairs and local events will offer Santa for a few £ rather than the cost of the local garden centre. (In fact our school Fair is offering Santa visits for £2.50 this year.. bargain)
    Last year we took the boys on a Santa steam train where they met Santa and got a present… It cost over £100 for the tickets and then we spent money on the day in the gift shop/on food etc. It was cold, it was miserable, the presents weren’t suitable for them and half way through they moaned they were bored! Will we be doing it again ever? NO! They are much more excited about the Elf coming back next week and that costs us nothing… It’s about making memories not spending as much money as we can. They talk all the time about the Elf leaving them ‘reindeer poo’ or eating their advent calendars last year. Have they once mention the steam train visit? Nope!

  • Christmas Eve boxes – Seriously where did these even come from? We certainly never got them as kids! The elf left their’s so it’s not like they even appreciate our hard earned cash being spent.
  • Advent Calendars – You do realise Tesco do these for £1? I have seen parents who wrap up 24 small presents for kiddos to open all month long! Keep it cheap and cheerful.. or scrap them altogether and do a movie countdown instead.

  • Christmas Cards – With the cost of postage going up and the sheer amount of postal strikes lately it may be worth considering scrapping Christmas cards altogether this year. A text to your old neighbour you haven’t seen for 10 years asking how she is would be just as lovely as sending a card. A number of my friends scrapped sending cards years ago and donate to charity instead.

  • Reindeer Dust – Again where did this fad come from? I don’t remember sprinkling glittery dust on the floor when I was a kid? Or better still make it yourself.. crush up a handful of cornflakes from the cupboard.. it’s much better for the environment. 

6. Swap the fresh turkey for frozen or a chicken

In some supermarkets the frozen turkey is actually half the price of a fresh one. Just remember to give yourself enough time to defrost it. Also avoid the overpriced pre basted or stuffed birds! 

If you want to save even more money, opt for a chicken instead of the traditional turkey. I promise you no one will care and my kiddos probably wouldn’t even notice the difference! 

7. Don’t buy ‘ready to cook’ vegetables… 

Baton carrots, ready to roast potatoes and peeled sprouts are ££ more than the standard. At Christmas time the supermarkets go to war on who can offer the cheapest vegetables. Last year I grabbed a bag of carrots for 14p in Tesco… a pre peeled and chopped bag of carrots was £1.50! It is so tempting at Christmas because the day is busy enough without having to peel carrots and potatoes right? Wrong.. prep the day before! Just submerge the vegetables in cold water and pop in the fridge ready to use the next day.

8. Give a Free gift vouchers/certificate/cheque 

Gifts don’t have to cost a fortune! If you can offer a service why not give it as a gift? If you are in a trade [hairdresser, gardener etc.] you can offer a free haircut, garden tidy up etc… or what about breakfast in bed every Sunday for a month? Make gifts fun and free! To be fair though I just asked Mrfatgirlskinny if he was happy with a ‘free hug’ voucher for Christmas this year, his face was a picture!

I love this site where you can edit/print free gift vouchers. 

Free editable Christmas templates

9. Get down the local charity shop or car boot sale

Gift’s don’t have to cost a fortune and who said they have to be new? I grabbed my son 3 space themed puzzles and 4 books that all looked like new for a fiver from British Heart Foundation yesterday! I researched them all online when I got home of course and new they would of cost me £25. He won’t care (he’s only 5) and let’s face it he will probably do the puzzles once and then they will sit in his cupboard for the rest of the year before I re-donate them. 

I used to be a bit of a charity shop snob but lately I’ve been enjoying a good rummage and been grabbing some real bargains!

10. Check out Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree

This time of year parents have a clear out to make room for new toys so you will find lot’s of toys for sale on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. Not to mention people are trying to make a few pennies for the festive season so you may grab a bargain! My eldest wants some Fortnite toys which I know will be exciting for 5 minutes before he is asking to go on his iPad again! For this reason I am keeping an eye out for some second hand bargains. Don’t be afraid to buy second hand it’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

11. Contact your local food bank

If you are on a low income and you are really struggling don’t be afraid to contact your local food bank for support. Most food banks are campaigning harder than ever to support families this Christmas so don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Find a local food bank here

12. Shop around

If your looking for the latest toy or gadget make sure you shop around for the best price. Most of us give our kiddos the Argos and Smyths catalogue to circle ideas. But that doesn’t mean they are the cheapest place to purchase from. I find Google Shopping to be the best comparison website so always check it out before purchasing. 

13. Don’t forget the Cash Back

Okay this isn’t going to give you instant money but I make a fair bit in cash back over the festive period simply by clicking through a different website! 

Visit TOPCASHBACK to sign up and get started now. Chains such as Argos, Very, M&S etc. all give Cashback when you purchase online. 

Start earning cash back with TOPCASHBACK here

14. Simple Food Swaps

You can save money by making some really simple swaps

  • Swap Turkey for Chicken – Honestly most people won’t even notice and you will save so much money.

  • Use ready made mixes for your stuffing balls – You can grab a packet of Tesco stuffing mix for under £1 and it tastes just as good as making it from scratch.

  • Grab a cheaper dessert – Who doesn’t love a cheesecake or a Vienetta? Some of these pre-order desserts from M&S or similar cost a fortune and sometimes they aren’t even that nice! They may look fancy but actually a GU pudding or a fresh cheese cake would be just as nice!

  • Grab supermarket branded products – Swap Aunt Bessies for Supermarket own brands (especially Yorkshire puddings they barely taste any different). Also swapping things like Baileys for the supermarket ‘Irish cream’ can save a fortune too.

  • Use your air fryer – Did you know you can actually cook an entire roast dinner using your air fryer? It will save a fortune on electric!

15. Scrap Christmas Crackers

Okay they might look nice on your table but they really are such a waste of money!!

We don’t do crackers anymore, I do table presents. Each year I buy everyone something for under £1 and wrap it up for the table. The kiddos are excited to get another gift and I save loads of £££. Yes okay you can buy a pack of crackers for a few quid but the stuff inside them is absolute tat and ends up in the landfill! 
Also everyone has to come up with a joke to tell at the table and I print off some quiz questions for everyone to answer. 

Examples of table presents: Fidget toys, a book, body spray, chocolate, car air freshener. 

16. Eat at home

Simple and obvious but I know some families who refuse to cook and spend a fortune on eating out every year. Some local hotels and restaurants charge £50 – £100 (or more) per head for a simple roast dinner. Why not have your festive meal out a few days before or after Christmas? Opt for a buffet style meal on Christmas Day. 

17. Shop in the sales

Cheeky but if you aren’t seeing your family until Boxing Day or after why not buy their presents after Christmas Day? For example Calendar Club reduce their calendars and diaries to half price the day after Christmas Day. Be up early for the NEXT sale and you could bag a bargain for that afternoon!  

18. Try cheaper or free entertainment

There are so many cheaper or free options over the festive season.

  • Find a cheaper Pantomime: Book a matinee performance or look for smaller town hall theatres. For example: In the middle of Edinburgh we are looking at £25 – £60 for Panto tickets. At our local town hall we can get Panto tickets for £8 – £25. The cheaper option may not feature a ‘has been’ in it, but let’s face it the kiddos don’t know who they are anyway! Even some local schools put on performances and pantomimes over the festive season.. keep your eye out for a bargain.

  • Scrap overpriced festive light trails: These seem to be the latest craze from September onwards.. and have you seen how expensive they are? Last year Grandad took us and the kiddos to a light trail in Edinburgh and the boys just loved it! But including the tickets, tat and food purchased on the evening he spent over £300! We are skipping it this year due to the sheer cost.

  • Local lights: Every year from 1st December we start walking around our housing estate and local streets looking for lights. We have a contest to guess who will put theirs up first (after me of course). Also we keep an eye out on our local Facebook group for well lit up houses. There is a lovely couple down the road who decorate their house and have a Santa mail box. I would rather pop some money in their charity tin instead of giving it to some overpriced light trail!

  • School Christmas Fairs or Church Fete: Most local schools and churches run Christmas fairs/fetes. These are always fun and a great place to grab a bargain too. Most offer things like kids face painting, tombolas, visit from Santa etc. Also you may help to support a local small business who is selling their products.

  • Library: Many local libraries offer Christmas themed story reading sessions. Often Mrs Claus will be reading some cute Christmas stories for free.

  • Carol Service: There is nothing like a good sing song at Christmas. Look out for your local church schedule, often they offer more than one carol service. You don’t have to be a regular or religious to support your local church.

  • Make Christmas cards: A pack of card can be purchased for around £1 and you would be surprised how many things you already have around the house to make Christmas themed cards. The family will love a personal card from your child.

  • Have a movie countdown: Make a list of 24 Christmas movies and watch one a night as you countdown to Christmas Day.

  • Buy an Elf: Elf on the shelf has become more popular every year! (Yes the disgusting little creature will be returning this year in our house.. lol) You can buy one for £1 in Home Bargains and you can use things around the home to entertain the kids each morning. (and he doesn’t have to leave elaborate expensive gifts)
    If you are worried about suddenly introducing the Elf to a suspicious child, try using the excuse we did. You have to request the Elf from Santa, because not all houses want a naughty Elf causing mischief. So there is a form online you can fill in to request one! 

  • Do a Candy cane hunt: Grab a pack of Candy canes for £1 and hide them around the house/garden. The kiddos will have a great time searching for them.

  • Bake Christmas cookies: Get baking and give them out as gifts. Teachers, neighbours, friends love cookies (who doesn’t).

  • Volunteer: If you simply cannot afford Christmas this year and don’t particularly want to see family either why don’t you donate your time? Local homeless charities, Crisis and animal shelters are always looking for extra hands over Christmas.

  • Work: If your place of employment pays extra on Christmas Day why not take one for the team and earn some extra cash?

  • Accept the invite: Do you have a family member or friend who is ALWAYS inviting you for Christmas Day but you always say No? Why not take them up on the invite for a change, you might find you have the best Christmas ever. 

19. Go on holiday

Doesn’t really sound like a money saver does it? Well actually if you have kids who don’t really want that much this year you could book a holiday abroad as a replacement for gifts and food etc. We did consider it and the boys even said they would have less presents (notice how they said less lol) if we could go on holiday. But the dates didn’t work out. But it was definitely a consideration. 

20. Travel costs

If you usually travel home for Christmas consider using cheaper transport such as the coach or train. Flights can be really expensive this time of year. 

21. Do your food shop online

This way you won’t be tempted to buy things you don’t need such as decorations or extra gifts for people. Stick to your list and purchase it to be delivered. 

22. Debt worries? Ask for help

Don’t be tempted to use Pay day loans to get you through Christmas. If you cannot afford to pay your energy bill or similar contact the company to discuss. Often they can offer a payment plan so that you can free up a small amount of cash to help you through Christmas. 

23. Flog it

If you have items in your house that haven’t been used since last Christmas get it for sale online. Facebook market place and Gumtree let you sell for free. 

24. Don’t borrow unless you really have to

If you have no choice but to borrow at Christmas please try to use a 0% credit card. I am not an expert on money but I do know getting into debt for Christmas will haunt you forever. There are safe and good choices for lending money. 

Check out this guide from Money Saving expert for advice.

25. Remember to have fun

Christmas isn’t about how much you can spend. The kiddos won’t remember what you bought them in a few months. Some of my best Christmas memories are when my Grandad dressed up as Santa or when he used to carry me down the stairs on his back to see if Santa had been! Or when he used to sit there listening to the Christmas carols I had been practising all month on my keyboard! Oh and forcing my whole family to play my Bingo every Boxing Day! I barely remember what I was gifted! 

What is Christmas to you? To me it’s love, family and being together. 

Remember what’s important and you will make it special in your own way.

Your tips….

I would love to hear your money saving and budgeting ideas for Christmas. Feel free to leave me comments and they might get added to the article 🙂

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2 Responses

  1. Brenda says:

    We stopped Christmas presents for all when a single family. Christmas was celebrating birth of Jesus so a small gift stocking containing colouring book pencils puzzle etc my children only. (3). Crackers were and still are replaced with a classic book suitable to the child ie Christmas carol , little women, Snow White etc you get the idea, bought from charity shops. The centre pages cut out a square put in a small item relevant to that child and placed at their seat. Now they are the adults and they still prefer the stocking to a big present so adapted to their children. Especially my son with 2 little ones and a widower. And the larger 1 present is for their personal birthdate, therefore the cost spread throughout different months. The problem is that commercials ruined the true meaning of Christmas.

    • Fatgirlskinny says:

      I love hearing other peoples traditions 🙂 You are right the true meaning of Christmas was lost a long time ago. I am not a religious person but I still believe Christmas has been turned into a commercialised holiday to make money from the poor.

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