Christmas can be a wonderful time, a time to make memories and see family.
But not when you are struggling with money and wondering how to do Christmas cheap.
That’s when it becomes a stressful time, when you are constantly worrying about money.
I hate it when people feel they must spend a certain amount of money on Christmas, just because everyone else is.
You are not everyone else.
If you don’t want to put Christmas on your credit card like others, then don’t.
I know you don’t want your family to think you are cheap but there is a world of difference between frugal and cheap and I should know!
You can do Christmas on a budget, any budget, when you know how.
When you are looking at how to do Christmas cheap then you don’t want to be looking at what you think everyone else does.
Be proud to have a Christmas budget that you stick to, one that doesn’t take you until March to pay off.
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How To Do Christmas Cheap Without Feeling Like Scrooge
Cheap Christmas presents help of course but they are not the only answer when you want to get Christmas on a reasonable or small budget.
Budgeting for Christmas is about the whole package. Save a little here, there and everywhere.
It all adds up to more money saved.
How To Do Cheap Christmas Food
Food can be a budget buster all too easily.
Not only do the stores bring out many different festive themed goods, they hike the prices right up and make the packets bigger so you have to pay more.
Before I switched to shopping at Lidl I used to get really frustrated with Asda Walmart.
Each week I bought their chili flavored peanuts as Mr2p’s weekly treat but come November time the 200g packet would disappear to be replaced by a 500g packet.
With a higher price to match.
And the problem with bigger packets is that in our house they get eaten in the same time frame so I’m spending more money.
Christmas food on a budget requires careful planning.
More so, in my mind, than your usual weekly meal plan (if you do one – which I would encourage you to do).
Because often you have overnight guests so it’s not just dinners you have to consider, it’s lunch, breakfast and snacks.
And Christmas is not just one day, in reality it can stretch to a 10 day period, you definitely need a meal plan to manage your food budget over this period.
Meal planning is your first step.
Plan out what meals you will be having (and who will be eating them) for every meal over the festive period.
Don’t miss out breakfast as at this time of year you may well want to offer something more than porridge or toast.
Cut Ingredient Costs
Now you have your meal plan, you need to cost it out.
How much is it going to cost you to buy the ingredients in your meal plan?
This is when you realize you could blow a months food budget in just one week.
And this is the beauty of doing this now.
You have the opportunity to change some of the ingredients, drop down a brand.
For instance, I never buy a fresh Bronze turkey.
Apparently they are the best tasting turkey in the UK.
But by the time I’ve added stuffing, gravy and sides I can’t say it’s ever screamed at me as being a wow bird.
So I buy a frozen turkey from Lidls for £10 which saves me at least £25.
As long as you can cook turkey so it doesn’t dry out, no-one is going to call you out on the type of turkey you have bought.
Adjust Your Menu
Don’t be content with switching around some of your ingredients.
Consider your menu.
Have you over complicated things? Got more than 3 courses?
I know recipe hunting and comparisons tend to reach fever pitch around holiday times with people trying to out do each other with their overly complicated and expensive menus.
Don’t fall for it.
Your family want to spend time with you, not have you in the kitchen for hours every day concocting something they will devour within 10 minutes
Don’t be a kitchen slave, do cheap Christmas food by keeping things simple.
At it’s heart Christmas dinner is a roast with a few extra trimmings.
Keep it that way and save money.
Reduce Your Sides
I’m mentioning this because I have seen many people talk about their menus and have been amazed when I count how many sides they are preparing.
I’ve seen holiday menus with 9 sides – 9!
The average calorie intake for Christmas dinner alone is 5,200 calories.
Do everyone’s waistline a favor and reduce the number of sides you are offering.
One of the best ways to do Christmas cheaply is to plan ahead.
Saving money for Christmas weekly is one way, another is to buy non-perishable foods ahead of time.
There are rarely any goods deals on food during December but October is great for prices being slashed.
For example Mr2p likes a bottle of Jack Daniels at Christmas and I always buy it in October when the price is £15 instead of the usual £25.
I just have to hide it for 2 months someplace safe!
Use Discount Stores
The discount grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl are a great way of buying cheap Christmas food in comparison to the bigger stores.
They have a good range of festive foods along with their usual low prices.
Don’t upgrade your grocery store just because it’s Christmas, sticking with low cost stores is a great way to save money for Christmas and beyond.
Cook From Scratch
Cooking food from scratch can really save your Christmas budget.
Buying pre-prepared food really pushes your food budget up.
Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to take a long time either.
Choose the right recipes and you can have meals ready in 30 minutes or less (maybe not Christmas dinner though!)
Another bonus of cooking from scratch is you can often prepare food ahead of time and freeze it.
That way you only need to defrost and reheat on the day.
Keep Liquid Options Small
If you and your family drink alcohol you don’t need to start buying all the festive themed drinks.
If you do, you’ll likely still be drinking them in March – bleugh!
Keep the drinks you offer to a small range such as wine, beer and soft drinks.
Although I would never say no to a bottle of bubbly for the day itself.
That’s £6 Lidl sparkling wine, not £30 expensive champagne.
Reduce Your Extras
One of the best ways I have found to do Christmas cheaply is to keep a tight reign on the extra foods and bits on offer.
It’s amazing how quickly things like cheese and crackers and nibbles can add up to a costly amount. You always buy too much.
I can’t tell you how many times we have had Stilton and Brie left over in January just when we are trying to lose a few pounds (which means no cheese).
Ask For Help
You may be hosting Christmas this year but there is no reason why family and visitors cannot chip in.
Why not ask for a little help?
Perhaps someone can bring a dessert or the cheeseboard (see above, keep it small!).
If you are hosting large numbers then not only is your Christmas budget going to be under strain, so is your time as cooking for large numbers can be very time consuming.
Get others to help and give you back some time.
And remember: The stores are only closed for one day so don’t stock up like it’s the end of the world!
How To Buy Christmas Presents On A Budget
Christmas presents for all and sundry can add up to a January of debt.
If you are looking for tips on how to buy Christmas presents on a budget then there are plenty of things you can do to make a huge dent in how much you spend.
Have A Short Christmas Gift List
When I was getting into debt every Christmas it turned out a big part of it was the sheer number of people I was buying presents for.
I was in my 20s and buying for 46 people – 46!
If you have an extended list people to buy for, the biggest favor you can do for yourself to cut your Christmas present budget is reduce the number of people you buy for.
Try Secret Santa
If you buy for a lot of adults, why not suggest either a no present Christmas or opt for Secret Santa?
You can also cap the Secret Santa at say $/£5 so you only have to buy cheap Christmas presents for one or two people.
The 4 Present Rule For Kids
If you are buying for children you could opt for the 4 present rule as a way to focus your spending:
- Something they want
- Something they need
- Something to wear and
- Something to read
These could be cheap Christmas presents or expensive, the trick is that by only buying 4 you are much more likely to keep to your budget and save money.
Related post: How To Buy Xmas Gifts – When You’re On a Tight Budget
Buy Family Presents
One of the ways that I have succeeded in buying Christmas presents on a budget is by altering who I buy for.
No longer do I try and buy for individual personalities (which I always find difficult and expensive).
Now I opt for family presents which are much easier to source and these can end up being quite cheap Christmas gifts if you are creative.
Homemade Christmas Gifts
The best way to save money is to make your own, handmade, cheap Christmas presents.
Handmade gifts not only cost less money, they have your creativity and effort woven into them.
There are thousands of different cheap Christmas presents to make, these posts should give you some great ideas for budget conscious gifts:
Shop Smarter To Do Christmas On The Cheap
Changing the way you shop and where you shop can also help you do Christmas on the cheap.
Have A Christmas Present Drawer
This is my absolute number one tip on how to buy Christmas presents on a budget.
Having a Christmas present drawer or cupboard means you can add to it anytime you see a bargain.
It helps if you know who you are buying for and what your budget for that person is.
Check out this post for help with this: How To Save For Christmas? 6 Easy Steps To Debt Free Festivities
I buy cheap Christmas presents (and birthday ones) in the Boots 70% off January sale.
I take a list with me and aim to buy for everyone on that list.
Then they go in my present drawer along with my list (to remind me which present is for which person).
Voucher Codes And Coupons
Never use a coupon just because, only do so if you would have bought that item anyway or it makes that item cheaper than the one you would have bought.
Having said that, always check to see if there is a voucher code when you are shopping online as there often is.
If you are shopping online, always go via cashback sites to see if your chosen retailer is listed.
Sometimes they are, sometimes not.
Going via a cashback site is incredibly simple.
I recently purchased a new freezer through Quidco and got £26 cashback within a few weeks.
Going to the same retailer, getting the same freezer, just with £26 cash back in my pocket.
In the US the favorite cash back sites seem to be Ibotta and Rakuten (was Ebates).
I can’t check them out for you as they don’t allow UK & EU citizens to sign up to them, hey ho.
Consider Thrift And Charity Stores
You can get some great cheap Christmas presents from thrift and charity stores.
They could be lightly used or brand new.
If you are not sure about this idea then consider the vintage aspect.
Vintage is not brand new, vintage is second hand.
If you are comfortable with the idea of buying vintage, why not widen it to thrift stores too?
Re-gifting can be a bit like Marmite, you either love the idea or hate it.
Re-gifting is where you receive a gift, which isn’t really you or of use to you, and rather than throwing it away, you re-gift it to someone else (not the gift giver!) who can make good use of it.
If you are going to re-gift then give it a little thought, it’s easier to give onward to someone who has little contact with the original giver.
If re-gifting makes you slightly uncomfortable, consider it this way.
You aren’t going to use the gift, so either you re-gift it, give it to charity or it gets thrown into landfill which is not helpful to the environment.
Christmas Budget Tips For Travelling
Being in the UK I find the costs associated with travelling to see family relatively low.
But I am lucky in that I am a few hours from all of my family, they can put me up for a night or two and they are all within driving distance.
Not so for those of you living in much bigger countries than me (hello America and Canada!).
Travel costs take on a whole new level of money and potential financial stress when driving a few hours would only get you ¼ of the way.
The further ahead you plan visits, the more you can either be saving money weekly for the Christmas travel or taking advantage of the best cost options.
In the UK train tickets are released 12 weeks in advance and the cheaper ones go very, very quickly.
Flights are released even further in advance of that so book early and grab the savings.
The same goes for hotel bookings. I have booked one night in a hotel this year, like I did last year.
By booking in early September not only have I got a room in my chosen (cheap) hotel, I’ve paid a reasonable price.
My brother stayed the same night in the same hotel last year but didn’t plan ahead so paid £20 more for his room than I did.
Consider Alternative Airports Or Stations
Don’t just opt for cheaper tickets, check to see if there are cheaper airports or stations near to here you are staying.
Where we used to live we had 2 train stations 5 miles away.
One was on the fast route to London, the other took 20 minutes longer.
Guess which one always had super cheap tickets on offer?
Which I always bought.
Do Christmas Cheaply By Keeping Other Costs Low
Christmas presents, food and travel may make up the bulk of your Christmas budget but there are a few extra things you can do to keep your costs down.
Don’t make every meal a banquet, have a simple lunch to leave room for a sumptuous dinner
Find low cost ways to entertain your guests, they’ve come to see you not expensive shows
Don’t buy lots of new Christmas decorations, reuse what you have or consider bringing in accents from your garden and local area – pine cones and small fallen branches.
Have snuggle blankets on your sofas, these help to keep you warm without turning up the heating
Get out and about, go for a walk, check out other peoples illuminations (these are all free)
Related post: 9 Things I Refuse To Buy This Christmas
It’s Up To You How To Do Christmas Cheap
It’s your budget, your money, your Christmas.
Don’t allow others to make you feel guilty about what you do or don’t buy.
How you do Christmas, whether that’s cheaply or not, is down to your priorities, your financial goals and how you want to manage your money.
Choose your budget.
And have a fabulous Christmas!
For more help with being positive about managing your money and stretching your pennies have a read of these posts: