Editor's note: this blog post was originally written in 2016 and has been updated for clarity and updated information.
It's never too early to start thinking about how to save money during the Christmas period. If your festive funds are looking a little light, join the club! This time of year is 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.
Looking for a good place to start? I've found plenty of ways you can sprinkle your Christmas fund with some seasonal cheer, from bagging local bargains to making alternative decorations, you can have the 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.
Did you know the average Christmas spend per household is around £800? That's insane!
Get a headstart on your spending now by grabbing a pen and paper and 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? Don't worry, it's challenging but you can always find ways to cut this down. Perhaps you can find cheaper alternatives on your regular Christmas shopping list? It's all about cutting back and creating some healthy new traditions at this stage.
Decide where your Christmas fund will be kept
Are we talking spare change in a coin jar? Or are you in the process of setting up another current account to deal with Christmas funds?
Whichever category you fall under, make sure your family and friends are on board and support you in building your festive funds in the coming months.
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.
Did you know...
In 2017, 30% of UK planned on spending
Here is how to cut the most expensive part of Christmas down.
Sell on unwanted goods...
If you've been the victim of a hideous gift, great news! Earn some 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.
You're not limited to selling old or unwanted gifts either. Make money from your unwanted CDs, DVDs, games, electronics and even your clothes, by selling them on sites like MusicMagpie and WeBuyBooks.
If your stuff is in bad condition, you can always just give it away to charity or list it on Freecycle.
...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. and make sure to keep checking back there so you don't buy double of anything!
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!
Get paid to shop this Christmas
For those who prefer to do their Christmas shopping online, there are ways to earn cashback from your online purchases.
Using cashback websites like Quidco or Topcashback is easy:
- 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!
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!
Save money using social media
Social networking sites are good for keeping in touch with friends, but they are always great ways to save money.
Type in "money saving" or another frugal term and connect with those who share their cost-cutting tips!
It's also worth following big retailers such as Amazon, eBay and Debenhams, as they often post about the latest deals available on their website or in-store and offer exclusive discounts on these channels.
Stay loyal to your loyalty cards this Christmas
Make sure you are using your Boots Advantage Card or 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 might cash in on your Christmas food shop.
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!
Grab sale bargains
Plan in advance and shop end of sale bargains in the Autumn. Definitely keep an eye out on sales all-year round, but Autumn sales tend to be when stores want to clear the way for their Christmas stock.
This is great for finding your gifts but also for hunting down your perfect dress for the office Christmas party!
Beat the postman on price this Christmas
Save money this Christmas and send eCards rather than paper Christmas cards. You can send hundreds for free, without forking out for cards and stamps! Plus, you're doing your bit to help the environment.
How to save money on Christmas Dinner
I don't know about you, but my favourite part of the big day is Christmas dinner. However, if you've got the task of hosting this year you might be worrying about costs. Fear not, there are plenty of ways to cut down and save when throwing your Christmas bash.
Bring a dish to dinner
If you're hosting for lots of people this year, why not ask everyone to chip in and bring along their favourite Christmas dish? You can provide the basics and set up the table and 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!
So many people put emphasis on the turkey as the centrepiece of the day, but when it comes to food you can definitely be frugal (but festive) this Christmas.
You don't always have to go fresh, as frozen turkeys can 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 some 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.
Save money by using supermarket coupons
We're big fans of coupon here at Magic Freebies, and we're definitely waving the pre-Christmas couponing flag.
If you start collecting coupons now or ask for stamps in shops like Morrison's, you can get exclusive discounts on your big Christmas food shop.
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.
Want more inspo?
Find out more top ways to save money on food.
How to save money on decorations this Christmas
Making your house look all pretty and festive 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 as an enjoyable way to keep them entertained over the festive season, plus they make a wonderful keepsake for Christmases to come!
Save money & buy a fake Christmas tree
Why spend money on picking up and disposing of a real tree that ruins your floor every year?
It's so much more cost-effective to purchase a fake tree that you can pop in the loft and pull down for years to come. Once all your decorations and tree lights are on, you won't even be able to tell the difference.
Have a refillable Advent Calendar
Have you seen those homemade, refillable calendars? They look super fun!
You can choose what you want to put in them every year and they work out cheaper than buying chocolate ones every year. Plus, you can personalise them with treats that your little one will really love.
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.
Buy in bulk and be sure to package up carefully and reuse each year rather than being tempted to buy again.
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 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 (I'm 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 there in no time.
Save money & drive home during the early hours
This is something my partner and I tried last year and it worked like a charm.
By heading off in the middle of the night, you'll avoid the heavy daytime traffic and 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 and if you’re uncertain there are loads of guides available online to help you switch effortlessly.
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, which makes sure your goods are insured in the case of a power cut or freezer malfunction. It's also worth ensuring 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 face sanctions if they don't meet eco quotas, so some companies (e.g. British Gas) give free insulation to anyone in England, Scotland or Wales with a suitable home (you don't have to be their customer or on a low income).
Have a google and check to see if you’re entitled this winter.
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.
Wow! That's lots to take in, but hopefully these ideas will help you adjust your expensive Christmas 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!