Editor's note: this blog post was originally written in 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated with the latest information. Enjoy!
It's never too early to start thinking about how to save money during the Christmas period. This time of year can be stressful for many of us, particularly when you're on a tight budget.
Festive spending can quickly spiral out of control and can have a negative knock-on effect on your personal finances year after year.
By making a few simple changes during the weeks leading up to the big day, you can avoid the huge financial hangover in the New Year.
We've found plenty of ways to sprinkle your Christmas fund with some seasonal cheer, from bagging local bargains to making alternative decorations, you can have your best (and cheapest) Christmas yet!
Want to skip ahead? Find out how to:
- Set your Christmas ground rules
- Save money on Christmas presents
- Save money on Christmas dinner
- Save money on Christmas decorations
- Save money travelling during the festive period
- Save money in the home at Christmas
Set some Christmas ground rules
Create. A. Budget.
According to a Bobatoo survey, 40% of UK consumers do not set a budget at Christmas time.
Without a budget, spending can easily get out of hand and you could find yourself without sufficient funds for the things you really need.
Get a headstart on your spending now by drafting a rough budget. Consider things like:
- How many people you are planning to buy presents for
- If you're hosting dinner (and if so, for how many people)
- If not, how you're travelling around the festive period
- Any decorations you'd like to have
Need some help?
The Money Advice Service have a handy Christmas Money Planner tool that helps establish what you currently have, how much you can save before Christmas, and how much it will cost overall.
Shave that budget down
Have you already mentally spent way more on paper than you thought you would/can afford?
Don't worry, there are plenty of ways to cut back. It's all about finding alternative and creating new traditions!
Follow our tips to significantly reduce your budget and still have a cracking Christmas...
Decide how to save up for your Christmas fund
Are we talking spare change in a coin jar? Or are you going to set up another current account?
Whichever you decide, make sure your family and friends are on board and support you in building your festive funds in the run-up to Christmas.
Set your amount, even if it's just a few pounds a week, and stick to it. You'll be laughing come Christmas time!
How to save money on Christmas presents
If you've got a big family, lots of friends or just like to go all-out at Christmas, then your Christmas shopping list is probably your biggest hit come Christmas time.
31% of UK consumers are expecting to spend between £300 - £500 on presents alone, with 13% expected to shell out more than a whopping £700.
While gift giving is considered by most to be an integral part of Christmas, there are ways to cut back and save yourself money.
Discover how to fill your stockings for FREE (and save yourself £71).
Here is how to cut the most expensive part of Christmas down:
Suggest Secret Santa to save money
Instead of forking out hundreds of pounds on presents for everyone, why not treat each other to one really special present in a game of secret Santa?
It's not just for the office and many families now opt for this cheaper option. Pick names out of a hat, set a budget and have fun trying to guess who bought for who.
Cull & cut down on gift giving
Alternatively, save money by cutting out unnecessary gift giving.
If you're one of the 26% of UK consumers who are buying 10-20 presents this year, consider cutting this down. There's a difference in gift-giving between your immediate family, and buying presents for the ever-widening circle of colleagues, friends and extended family.
Save both parties money and agree with friends and family to limit Christmas presents to just children, or cut them out altogether. You could agree to only do presents if you're actually seeing each other on the big day.
Get crafty and go homemade
Fancy a challenge this Christmas?
Agree with your friends and family to no-spend, homemade only Christmas gifts. The results will be more thoughtful and you'll save yourself money.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Personalised mixtape CD with all their favourite songs
- Photo collage
- Food (eg cookies, pots of jam or chutney, cupcakes)
- Alcohol (learn how to brew your own Sloe Gin!)
Beat the postman on price this Christmas
Save money this Christmas and send eCards rather than paper Christmas cards. Send hundreds for free without forking out for cards and stamps, and do your bit to help the environment.
Get paid to shop this Christmas
For those who prefer to do their Christmas shopping online, there are ways to earn your cash back from your online purchases.
- Create an account and add the website to your online browser
- Use the site to access online retailers
- Buy your gifts through the cashback site
- You'll receive a percentage of the value of your shopping back and the amount will be paid directly into your account
Many credit cards also pay up to 5% cashback on your first 3 months’ spending (max £100.) Apply soon and you'll get to take full advantage during the Christmas period. Just make sure you read T&Cs!
Stay loyal to your loyalty cards this Christmas
Make sure you are using your Boots Advantage Card and supermarket loyalty cards in the run-up to Christmas. Your weekly household necessities bump up your points and you can use them to buy presents!
Look out for double points promotions and exclusive loyalty card holder offers. Most supermarkets have frequent incentives in the run-up to Christmas, so take advantage of earning points and you can cash in on your Christmas food shop.
Grab sale bargains
Plan in advance and grab sale bargains in the Autumn. This is great for finding your gifts but also for hunting down your perfect dress for the office Christmas party!
Sell on unwanted goods...
If you've been the victim of a hideous gift, we've got good news! Earn cash by selling it on eBay, Gumtree or a local Facebook group.
Expert Home Tips have a great blog post on how to sell your things on eBay. The extra cash will make a great contribution to your Christmas fund.
Plus, make money from your unwanted CDs, DVDs, games, electronics and even your clothes, by selling them on sites like MusicMagpie and WeBuyBooks. Check out these top tips for buying & selling second-hand to get you started.
...or wrap them up as gifts
If selling your stuff sounds like too much of a hassle, you can always pass along the gift yourself as Christmas present for someone.
It will save you time and money and you'll be decluttering in the process which is an all-around win. Just remember who gave it to you and who you're passing it on to!
Set up a Christmas cupboard
Put things aside during the year that can be used at Christmas time, so it doesn't hit your bank balance all at once.
Have a designated cupboard for wrapping paper, cards, presents etc. Make sure to keep checking back so you don't double up!
Check eBay and local Facebook groups first
Facebook groups and websites like eBay and Freecycle have local groups and collection options which could be your saving grace this Christmas.
With thousands of items from Christmas decorations to unwanted gifts, Freecycle list items in your area and if you dig hard enough on social media or even at local car boots, you might just find some freebies or heavily discounted items to help you save.
Visit outlet stores to save money
There are multiple fashion outlet stores all over the UK including Clarks, M&S and more which all offer high-quality items at a price that suits your budget.
You can even hunt these brands down online, as many of them have outlet stores on eBay. Skint Dad has a great list of outlet stores you can find on eBay.
Find some great deals and make everyone happy, (including your bank account).
Save it for later
If you're shopping online, did you know that saving your items in your basket for later can earn you sneaky discounts?
Online stores like ASOS, New Look and Topshop occasionally send out follow-up emails with a tempting discount. So if you're unsure of an item and have enough time before the big day, why not pop it in your basket for a few days and wait to see if you get a discount.
Only do this if you're confident that there will be enough stock in a few days time. If the item is low in stock, or you think it'll be very popular, then you might not want to risk it!
How to save money on Christmas Dinner
The highlight of the big day for most... Christmas dinner! However, if you've got the task of hosting you might be worrying about costs.
41% of UK consumers expect to pay between £100 - £200 on food, drink and decorations, with 18% expecting to pay between £200 - £300.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy a delicious Christmas dinner without breaking the bank:
Bring a dish to dinner
If you're hosting for lots of people this year, a great way to cut costs (and workload) is by asking everyone to bring a dish.
Provide the basics and set up the table - everyone will have more than enough to eat.
Make sure you make a list of everything that you'll need, so it's all accounted for and nothing is missed out.
Downsize your turkey to save money
Don't be a turkey snob!
Turkey is often thought as the centrepiece of the meal. However, there are plenty of ways to be frugal (but festive) when it comes to meat.
Frozen turkeys provide a delicious alternative at a fraction of the cost. Don't be afraid to check out typically budget supermarkets either, such as Aldi and Lidl, as these are often just as good as the more expensive retailers.
It might be worth checking if you even need a full turkey. A crown or pre-packed turkey breasts might be a cheaper option depending on the size of your family.
And if you have leftovers, there are lots of amazing Turkey Leftover recipes. Yum!
Consider other meats this Christmas (or go vegetarian)
Chicken is a great alternative to turkey and is a crowd pleaser for most. If you fancy something different, have you considered duck or salmon?
Going meat-free is an even cheaper option and will cater for the whole family. There are loads of supermarket options, or you can get creative and make a vegetable tart for your main.
Sharing is caring
Save money by buying ingredients in bulk and sharing with friends or neighbours. The cost split between everyone will be less than buying individually.
You could also do this with ingredients you only need a bit of (eg gravy granules or cranberry sauce).
Bulk-buy your alcohol (or avoid altogether)
If you can't imagine Christmas without a tipple, make sure you buy in bulk and make good use of festive offers in supermarkets.
Alternatively, challenge yourself to a no-booze Christmas. Your head (and bank account!) will thank you.
Save money by using supermarket coupons
We're big coupon fans here at Magic Freebies and are definitely waving the pre-Christmas couponing flag.
Start collecting coupons now and you'll reap the benefits come Christmas time.
Want even more food-related money-saving tips?
Check out these 17 ways to eat for free.
Buy now and freeze to save money on your Christmas shop
Freezing food is essential if you want to save money over Christmas, as it means you don't have to buy fresh a couple of days before the big day.
This is tough if you don't have enough space, but it's a crucial way to save money this Christmas. Why not ask neighbours or family members to borrow some of their freezer space?
How to save money on decorations this Christmas
Turning your home into a Winter Wonderland doesn't have to cost a fortune. Check out these top ways to cut back on decoration costs.
Make your own decorations to save money this Christmas
If you're looking to buy new decorations this year, have you considered making your own?
There are lots of great tutorials online and it's an opportunity to really get creative. Get the kids involved and keep them entertained over the festive season, plus they'll make a wonderful keepsake for Christmases to come.
Save money & buy a fake Christmas tree
Artificial Christmas trees are by far the more cost-effective option for your Christmas centrepiece.
Save yourself money (and time) on picking up and disposing of a real tree - once all your decorations and tree lights are on, you won't even be able to tell the difference.
Buy cheap and reuse each year to save money
Don’t buy luxury decorations from unique and expensive Christmas shops. Many supermarkets and DIY stores stock big boxes for less.
Be sure to package them up carefully and reuse each year rather than being tempted to buy again.
Set up a bauble exchange with friends
A great way to get a whole set of Christmas decorations for free is by swapping with your friends/colleagues!
One of our lovely users sent in this tip, saying:
I saved a fortune by doing a bauble exchange with a colleague at work. We both wanted to change colour scheme and each had the others colours. Simple and didn’t cost us a penny for a whole new look!
How to save money on transport this Christmas
Travelling during the holidays can be stressful, but it's something that most of us will have to endure year after year. So if there's any way you can save money, that's a bonus, right?
Book train tickets early this Christmas
Did you know you can book train tickets for up to twelve weeks in advance? Hurry though, these cheap seats tend to vanish quickly around the festive period.
Opt for coach over train travel
If you're really looking to save money travelling home for Christmas (we're looking at you students), then you might want to consider getting the coach.
Megabus tickets start from a measly £1 and most coaches are air-conditioned with toilets on board. Admittedly it will take longer than the train, but cosy up with a good book and you'll be there in no time.
Save money & drive home during the early hours
Head off in the middle of the night and avoid the heavy daytime traffic. You'll also save money on fuel as you won't be stuck in stationary traffic.
If you're travelling home via other means of transport, pick unusual times to beat the rush.
How to save money in the home at Christmas
Switch your energy provider to save money
If you’ve stuck with the same provider for a long period, chances are you're not getting the best value for money.
Sites like uSwitch and Compare the Market help you find the best deals, then you just need to call your supplier to see if they can match or better the price.
You could easily be saving up to £300 per year.
Unsure where to start?
Check out this Ofgem guide on switching energy supplier and shopping for a better deal.
Save money & check your policies
Did you know that a third of all freezer claims happen over the Christmas break?
Dig out your home insurance documents and check whether you have freezer cover, ensuring your goods are insured in the case of a power cut or freezer malfunction. It's also worth checking that your boiler is functioning correctly, as there's nothing worse than a broken boiler come Christmas morning!
Claim free loft insulation this Christmas
Energy firms are now facing sanctions if they don't meet eco quotas. British Gas are offering free insulation for all qualifying British homes (you don't have to be their customer or on a low income).
Arrange your consultation today and start saving up to £175 a year on heating bills.
Turn it down and save money
Keep your energy bills down and turn off fairy lights when you go to bed and turn your thermostat down if you’ve got a house full and the oven on full pelt. Turning down your room thermostat by one degree saves around £55 a year.
That's lots to take in, but hopefully these ideas will help you adjust your expensive traditions and start to make cheaper ones just in time for Christmas this year.
As always, if you have any ideas of your own, please!