I’m on a tight budget this Christmas, after taking the leap into self employment early this year, it means we have to be extra careful with the pennies. It’s all too easy to get carried away at Christmas time, especially with how we’re obsessed with pictures on social media of the perfect tree and decorations, everyone putting pictures of their huge piles of presents under the tree. So how can we as a family save money at Christmas time? I wrote a post last year, Gifts that your children will treasure, and I talked about getting something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read – I didn’t stick to it, but it did help me streamline the gifts. William has asked for more Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, so I’ll be getting him the ones he hasn’t got from the popular series.
There are some great ways to save money as a family and still have a fabulous Christmas this year. Who remembers whether the decorations all matched and how much money was spent as a child? We remember the sense of occasion, family getting together, a roast dinner and chocolates, and of course the unwrapping frenzy! So here are my tips on how to save money and how to have a stress free Christmas – well as little stress as possible.
#1 Don’t get swayed by fads
One of my pet hates, I just don’t understand why everyone goes crazy over a certain toy or item that they must get for their children at Christmas. It’s usually the result of a good marketing campaign. This year it seems to be the Feber my lovely unicorn, at a whopping £225 which is lovely, but it would be enjoyed by me more than my daughter (maybe), there’s the dinosaur dino fingerlings and the lego harry potter set. We are avoiding those this year! Unless your child really really wants it then sway them in another direction or get something similar – you can always give them a voucher for it or money, then get it in the sale after Christmas! They’ll still have it in time for going back to school to show their friends.
#2 Does it have to be a big brand?
Similarly, whatever you’re planning on buying, does it have to be branded? Own brands and smaller companies are often just as good. Use a consumer site like Which? to read reviews or search online to make a decision.
#3 Make a list and stick to it
I know what it’s like when you’re out shopping, there’s twinkly lights everywhere, music playing, you feel all warm and fuzzy mixed in with a dash of desperation that grows as you go along. You end up buying lots of little things amongst the big things and your bank account hurts.
#4 Don’t overbuy food
Remember the supermarkets open again on boxing day and you can always pop out for milk if you run out. Again, make a list and stick to it. You may not need a whole turkey if there’s only two of you, a baby and a toddler (who will take 3 bites of potato and want to get off the table, guarenteed), maybe a turkey crown will be enough. Do you need 3 different boxes of biscuits and every type of cheese?
#5 Use vouchers and coupons
Save up your loyalty points and use them to offset your Christmas shop. Boots, Superdrug, Tesco and Nectar all do loyalty schemes to name a few. There are all sorts of coupons available – if you have a printer and shop during the year, come Christmas you can have it all sorted. It’s not just food either. If you can spend a little time researching, you’ll save a fortune.
#6 Make a realistic budget and stick to it
Don’t spend what you can’t afford. Don’t put it on credit cards or finance either, otherwise you’ll be paying for it into the new year and it will start you off in debt. Start putting money aside as early as possible, or have a monthly savings plan.
#7 Agree with friends and family on a budget/ not to buy for each other
Let’s face it, there comes a time when we have enough candles and socks to last, and if we wanted more we can just get them ourselves. It’s lovely to give and receive gifts, but you could agree to maybe just get each other’s children presents, or set a budget. On my husband’s side of the family there’s so many of us we do a secret santa now, so that everyone gets a half decent present to a set budget and the kids all get their presents from each of us.
#8 Get cashback as you shop
This is a gift you’ll get back in the new year. It doesn’t mean you can overspend though! Some credit cards offer cashback as you shop, as long as you clear the credit card balance off in full, you’ll be better off. There are some cashback websites – Top Cashback is the highest payer in the UK, there’s also Quidco, Swagbucks which earns you credits you can change for cash or vouchers and most bank accounts also offer rewards and cashback at certain retailers.
#9 Cheap Christmas Decorations
Make your own with the children! There are loads of fun Christmas crafts you can do, my favourite are the salt dough ornaments with hand, feet or fingerprints on. Pinterest is your friend for ideas. If you’re not on Pinterest – why not? If your little one is at nursery or school they’ll give you a few to start off with. Pound stores have cheap decorations, plus if you’re prepared enough, shop the January sales and get your decorations and crackers then at half the price.
#10 Save throughout the year
It seems impossible sometimes to save money, but it can be achieved. Try the Money Saving Challenge – you save increasing amounts each week and by the end of the year you’ll have saved £1378. I made a free printable explaining how to do it this year, I’d like to say I stuck to it, but I haven’t – it’s hard to have cash to pop in a jar! You start week 1 saving £1 and gradually increase the amount. Just think how useful that would be next Christmas!
#11 Bonus tip – it’s all in the wrapping
Wrap the presents cleverly. Brown paper with accent wrapping paper and ribbon looks trendy and saves money. Save any packaging, boxes and bags you get throughout the year and use them to wrap gifts. Small items can be transformed with tissue paper and a box. Let’s face it, they love playing with the boxes more than the toys sometimes!