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 on the cheap.
That’s when it becomes a stressful time, when you are constantly worrying about money, your Christmas budget and the gift ideas that will blow a hole in it.
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 friends and family to think you are cheap but there is a world of difference between having a Christmas budget you stick to and being cheap, and I should know!
You can do Christmas on a budget, any budget, when you know how.
When you are looking for tips on how to have an affordable Christmas then you don’t want to be looking at what you think everyone else does.
Be proud to have a Christmas budget that is affordable, one that doesn’t take you until March to pay off the credit card debt you built up to pay for all the gifts.
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How To Do Christmas on the Cheap
Cheap Christmas gifts help of course but they are not the only answer when you need to do Christmas on a budget.
How to do Xmas on a budget is about the whole package. Save a little on Christmas gifts, on Christmas decorations. on your Christmas tree, on Christmas dinner, you get the idea.
It all adds up to more holiday money saving.
Ideas on how to have an affordable Christmas dinner
Christmas food can be a budget buster all too easily.
Not only does every store bring out many different holiday season themed goods, they hike the prices right up and make the packets bigger so you have to spend more money.
Before I switched to shopping at Aldi I used to get really frustrated when I did my Christmas shopping at Asda Walmart.
Each week I bought their chili flavored peanuts as Mr2p’s weekly treat but come November and the festive holidays, 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.
holiday season Menu Plan ideas
Your Christmas food budget and meals 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 holiday season. You definitely need a meal plan to manage your food budget affordable over the holidays.
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 season.
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 out every dollar.
How much are you going to have to spend to buy the ingredients in your meal plan?
This is when you realize you could spend 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 to a more affordable 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 an inexpensive frozen turkey from Aldi 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 holiday Menu
Don’t be content with switching around a few inexpensive ingredients. Consider your Christmas menu.
Is it honestly affordable? Have you over complicated things? Got more than 3 courses? Forgotten to factor in some cheap Christmas meals?
I know recipe hunting and comparisons tend to reach fever pitch around the holiday season with people trying to out do each other with their overly complicated and expensive menus.
Don’t fall for it.
Your family and friends 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, keep Christmas meals affordable by keeping things simple and inexpensive. 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 this Christmas.
Start shopping Early
One of the best ways to do Christmas on a budget 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 so you can save money buying early.
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.
You can also stretch your Christmas money by using the Dollar store and Pound shops.
Don’t upgrade your grocery store just because it’s Christmas, sticking with and shopping at 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 will push your food budget up into credit card territory.
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 for the holidays. 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 festive bubbly for the day itself.
That’s £6 Aldi sparkling wine, not £30 expensive champagne.
Reduce Your holiday season Extras
One of the best ways I have found to have Christmas on a budget is to keep a tight reign on the extra money you spend on 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 a friend of the family For Help
You may be hosting Christmas this year but there is no reason why a family member of two, or friends, 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 severe strain, so is your time as cooking for large numbers can be very time consuming. And that’s not fun.
Get others to help and give you back some time.
Remember: The stores are only closed for one day so don’t stock up like it’s the end of the world!
budgeting for christmas gifts ideas
Christmas gift ideas for all and sundry can add up to a January of debt and financial headache.
If you are looking for tips on how to be budgeting for Christmas gifts for everyone on your list then there are plenty of things you can do to spend less on gifts, wrapping paper and anything else that goes with your gifts.
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 friends and family I was buying a Christmas gift for.
I was in my early 20s, a single mum and buying gifts for 46 people – 46!
If you have an extended list of people to buy for, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to cut your Christmas gift budget.
Don’t focus on getting every cheap gift you find, but reduce the number of friends and family you buy gifts for.
gift ideas – try Secret Santa
If you buy for a lot of adults, why not suggest either a no present Christmas or opt for a Secret Santa gift exchange? This would cut your Christmas gift list right down in one fell swoop!
You can also cap the Secret Santa at say $/£5 so you only have to buy one gift for one person.
Christmas without gifts
Going one step further than just reducing your Christmas gift list, you could maybe even suggest having Christmas without exchanging gifts at all. This might work, especially if you still buy something for the kids.
The 4 gift Rule For Kids
If you are buying for children you could opt for the 4 gift rule as a way to focus your spending:
- Something they want
- Something they need
- Something to wear and
- Something to read
You can focus on cheap gift ideas or expensive, the trick is that by only buying 4 gifts for each kid you are much more likely to be successful with your plan for Christmas on a budget and save money.
christmas Gift ideas for families
One of the ways that I have succeeded in getting cheap Christmas gift deals within a small budget is by altering my gift ideas from individuals to families.
No longer do I try and think of gift ideas for individual people (which I always find difficult and expensive).
Now I opt for family gifts which are much easier to source and these can end up being much more affordable and thoughtful Christmas gifts if you are creative.
Christmas money gift cards
If you are completely out of gift ideas then buying gift cards can be a life saver when it comes to getting your holiday presents list finished. I like giving teens and young adults gift cards because I don’t know what they like or what the latest trend is.
You don’t want to be spending money on inexpensive Christmas gifts for them that they never use and promptly put in the bin.
Gift cards are extremely useful, last for ages and mean the recipient gets to choose the perfect present for themselves.
You can get gift cards for individual stores or ones that can be used across multiple stores.
Homemade Christmas Gift ideas
The best way to save money is to make your own, homemade inexpensive Christmas gifts, that way you are in control of how much you spend, both time and money.
Homemade presents not only cost less money, they have your creativity and effort woven into them. If you are like me and rubbish at thinking up creative christmas gift ideas you don’t need to worry.
Plenty of other people have fun and creative ideas that we can tap into for free.
There are thousands of different inexpensive Christmas presents to make, these posts should give you some great budget gift ideas:
Cheap wrapping ideas
Wrapping paper can get expensive very quickly, especially if you are wrapping big toys for kids. You can buy christmas wrapping paper from the dollar store or pound shop or even make it yourself.
Better still, buy it after Christmas when the stores are trying to get rid of all their holiday themed stock and you will almost get paid to take it away it will be so cheap! Asda Walmart often reduce their christmas wrap to 10p a roll.
Christmas decorations can cost a little, a lot or can be completely free! Completely free Christmas decorations are usually your existing decorations and those that young children make at school in the run up to Christmas.
In addition, many people now turn to nature for their Christmas decorations. Leaves, pinecones, branches, berries, you name it, they can become beautiful and free decorations in your home.
It helps if you’ve got a sense of style (which I don’t!) but really, they do the decorating for you.
Holiday decor ideas you might like include: style them in a vase, drape them along shelves, make into a door wreath, and create a christmas center piece for the table.
Christmas tree ideas
A real Christmas tree bought new for the holidays every year might be fun but the price makes doing christmas on a budget all the harder.
Tips to make your Christmas tree cheaper include:
- Planting your tree in the garden after the holiday and digging it up again the following year
- Purchasing an inexpensive fake tree and reusing it each year
- Have a completely alternative tree using branches and twigs from your garden or local area and decorating them with lights and decorations
Shop Smarter To Do Christmas on a budget
Changing the way you shop, which store you visit for your Christmas shopping and focusing on affordable gifts rather than the perfect (expensive gift) can also help you do Christmas on a budget every year with ease.
Have A Christmas Present Drawer
This is my absolute favorite among all the budgeting for Christmas tips.
Having a gift drawer or cupboard means you can add to it anytime you see a bargain, no need to buy all at the same time, you can drip feed your present buying as you think of gift ideas.
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 gifts) in the Boots 70% off January sale.
I take a list of each person I need to buy for with me and aim to buy gifts 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).
Job done. In January!
Find out how the Festive Money Binder can help you plan the most fabulous Christmas on a budget – your budget, click here.
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. Coupons done right can save you extra money, and when they are free it makes good financial sense to use them.
Coupons done wrong can mean you end up spending more rather than saving.
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 store, getting the same freezer, just with £26 cash back in my pocket.
In the US the favorite cash back sites seem to be
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 your money saving 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 holiday Travelling
Being in the UK I find the costs associated with travelling to see family over the holidays 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!).
Holiday travel costs take on a whole new level of spending and potential financial stress when driving a few hours would only get you ¼ of the way.
The further ahead you plan and budget for 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 over the holiday period.
Where we used to live we had 2 train stations each 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.
Why be spending more money than necessary? I’d rather save the money for something else I might need for Christmas.
how to make christmas special on a budget – keep other Costs Low
Christmas presents, food and travel may make up the bulk of your Christmas budget but there are a few extra holiday ideas 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 inexpensive ways to entertain your guests, they’ve come to see you not expensive shows.
Don’t buy lots of new Christmas decorations. Purchase a few from the dollar store or pound shop if new ones are needed. Reuse the budget Christmas decorations you have or consider bringing in accents from your garden and local area – pine cones and small fallen branches are lovely and free!
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 and decorations (these are all free).
If your Christmas budget is so tight that actually you need help on how to do Christmas for free then my post on what to do when you can’t afford Christmas will provide the answers you need.
It’s Up To You how to have a budget christmas
It’s your budget, your money, your Christmas. Don’t take financial advice from others that makes you feel guilty about the christmas and ideas you intend to follow. Stick to your Christmas budget, your gift giving ideas, what holiday foods 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.
Decide on your Christmas budget.
Use the holiday tips that make the most sense for your life and family.
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:
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Last Updated on 5th April 2023 by Emma