Find free – or low-cost – ways of doing things this Christmas

Worried about the cost of Christmas? You can still celebrate without breaking the bank. We show you how.

Christmas presents under a tree

As the Coronavirus crisis has left a lot of families surviving on reduced incomes, there are concerns, with December 25 fast approaching, about being able to afford the festivities this year.

But while the pandemic has hit many people hard, there’s no need to cancel Christmas – you just need to be a bit more savvy with your spending, and adjust a few of your traditions a little.

Here’s our guide to helping you dramatically reduce the cost of Christmas.

Be selective in your present-buying

In the past, you may have purchased gifts for a lot of people, but this year, be more selective. Agree with friends and family that you are only going to buy for children, rather than stretching yourself to buy something for everyone.

If you do need to buy for a big group, arrange a ‘Secret Santa’ instead, where you each buy for just one person, and set a price limit of, say £10 or £20. Better still, make it a condition that the gifts come from charity shops and that they must involve a bit of thought – to avoid giving and receiving yet more plastic tat.

Save your gift-buying until the sales

Change the way you buy presents. Only purchase a few ‘small’ gifts between now and December 25, and then write a ‘promise’ note that you will buy other items in the January sales once price tags have been reduced.

You may find that some stores will start their sales as early as Boxing Day.

Put spending on a 0% purchase card

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to buy presents and have no choice but to use a credit card, be sure to use a 0% purchase card. The same applies when paying for other festive expenses, such as food or travel that you can’t fund out of savings.

A 0% purchase card allows you to spread the cost of the festive spending over several months without paying interest.

That said, you should take steps to try and clear the debt as soon as you can, as you don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re still paying off Christmas 2020 this time next year.

Representative example: If you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a. your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable)

Give ‘free’ gifts

Rather than buying presents this year, why not give gifts which won’t cost you a penny by offering a ‘voucher’ for one night of free babysitting, a few dog walks or a car wash.

Make hampers from a decorated shoe box and fill them with home-made goodies, such as cakes, biscuits and jam.

Choose your Christmas cards carefully

If you’re a traditionalist and still like sending paper cards, then buy cheap boxed sets, and look for discounts or deals, such as three-for-two.

You can save even more by making your own cards – and children will love designing their own with pens and glitter.

Equally, if you opt to send e-cards online, you won’t have to open your wallet at all.

Don’t shell out on gift wrap

Rather than pay for pricey wrapping paper this year, cover gifts in wallpaper remnants or brown paper instead.

Make your own decorations

Get creative with your decorations, using things such as pinecones, holly, mistletoe, ivy and berries.

You could even have a go at making your own wreath with an old coat hanger and some greenery.

Turn empty wine bottles into candle holders, and old pillowcases into stockings to hang up for Santa.

Be savvy with your food shopping

Don’t get fixated on your favourite brands – take advantage of available discounts, such as two-for-one deals, and try ‘down-shifting’ to cheaper brands for basics.

Make the most of bulk buying, and use up any points you’ve accumulated over the year. Now is the time to redeem those Nectar, Tesco Clubcard and Boots Advantage points.

Spread the cost by looking for food with a long shelf life that you can buy and store – or freeze – in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Shop at budget supermarkets and pound shops. For many items, you’ll barely notice the difference – but your wallet definitely will.

Buy your train tickets early

Save money by buying ‘advanced’ tickets for journeys you need to make over the festive period.

Most rail firms release advance tickets between ten and 12 weeks before the departure date, so get organised early and you should be able to cut the cost. Whatever you do, don’t leave it until the day itself to buy your ticket, as you’ll end up paying a higher price.

It’s also worth comparing the cost of travelling by coach or bus, as this may mean big savings on the cost of a train ticket.

Take advantage of the sales

Make the most of the January sales to cash in on big discounts on Christmas cards, decorations and wrapping paper when prices get slashed – and stock up ready for next year.

Plan ahead

Once the madness of this festive season is over, start a savings plan from January 2021 to save up all year for the following Christmas. Come this time next year, you’ll have built a decent little nest egg.

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