How to cut the cost of Christmas

4 min | 05 December 2022

Janice Warman
Janice Warman

It comes around every year. We anticipate it with equal joy and dread. Here’s how to save at Christmas – when you haven’t saved for Christmas.

Does the thought of Christmas fill you with dread as you start to add up what it will all cost? The present list: it gets longer every year, as do the queues. The parties: you’re bound to need at least one new outfit. The travelling to see your loved ones: should you take the train or queue up on the M1 with everyone else? Then there’s the food. Mountains of it.

But there is a way to help conquer the costs, and even to enjoy the day itself: plan ahead.

First: Make a present list. Then edit it down to close friends and family.

Second: Plan all your meals for entertaining at home. It’s surprising how many you will need to provide over so few days.

Third: Now add it all up. If you’ve been putting aside money each month through the year, you’ll be ahead of the game. But if you haven’t, where is that money going to come from? Your new, budget-friendly Christmas plan, that’s where.

What you should do is think carefully before putting it all on your credit card. That’s a decision that could come back to haunt you in the New Year, and could last until next Christmas, with interest payments that might cost you far more than if you’d bought with available funds.

So how are you going to save on costs this Christmas? We’ve made a plan for you to follow. It won’t hurt – promise!

Make creative cuts to your food budget

  • Keep your food list short, sweet and essential
  • Shop around for the best offers at different supermarkets. Posh won’t save you money
  • Shop online and avoid those beautifully presented, seasonal impulse buys
  • Spread out your festive shopping by starting to buy and store non-perishables in autumn
  • Buy and freeze reduced items ahead of time, so you can unveil them on the big day
  • See if you can buy in bulk and save money by splitting purchases with friends

Brilliantly budget on buying your gifts

  • Try a Not-So-Secret Santa with friends and family by agreeing to buy presents only for the children among you. Let’s face it ­– Christmas is really for the children
  • Set a price limit for the children, especially if you have an extended family that includes nieces and nephews – the more the kids, the lower the limit. Young children may want the latest must-have toy. Older children are easier. They generally want money. And don’t bother with vouchers – they’ll want to choose what they buy
  • Keep it personal and save. A one-of-a-kind gift can be the cheapest of all, so if you are someone who makes things, make them. A good friend who is an excellent cook made hand-labelled pots of deep-gold, bittersweet marmalade as Christmas gifts one year
  • Be inventive, even quirky. Give vouchers for home-cooked meals, dog-walking, trips out, even house-cleaning or ironing (best to keep this one in the family). “When money’s tight, I aim to give a small present that will raise a laugh, even if it’s a novelty pair of socks or a tea mug,” said one hard-working teacher
  • Buy green and save. Bigger green gifts can cost more. But look for low-cost, sustainable toys at eco-friendly outlets, whose prices for small gifts can be similar to many plastic products. Don’t forget that second-hand toys are another green option. They cost less than new, and you are saving them from landfill
  • Don’t fall into the Black Friday trap. Check comparative prices before you buy, use price-comparison sites like Pricerunner (Opens in new window) and Price Spy (Opens in new window) and best of all, ask yourself if you really need these sale items at all

Fine-tune your finances

If you haven’t put money aside for Christmas, there are still ways to divert funds.

  • If you can't avoid putting some purchases on a credit card, see if you can get a 0% interest deal – but make plans to pay it off before the no-interest period runs out and check if there are any fees involved
  • Pause regular saving standing orders where you can. But make sure to start them up again in January
  • Do not miss big payments like your mortgage or rent. That could affect your credit profile

And remember, it’s the thought that counts. Not the millions spent by singer Justin Bieber, who once gave himself a £45 million private jet for Christmas, or rapper Kanye West, who bought his then-wife, reality star Kim Kardashian, five luxury cars at just under $1 million for the set.

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