’Tis the season to have a more affordable Christmas – here’s how

Gilly Ferguson,-Writer

Need proof that you can enjoy Yuletide on the cheap without feeling like The Grinch? Step this way…

Chances are that you’re looking for ways to save money this Christmas (that or you’ve clicked on the wrong article, in which case, this is awkward), but what if I told you that you can do Christmas for less, and still look thoughtful and generous, and feel like an all-round hero?  

So much money-saving advice still hinges on spending – albeit less – with designer dupes, deals and discounts galore. The first rule is to only spend what you can genuinely afford – and be savvy with whatever funds you’ve got available.

Next, stop to ask yourself if you really need to buy that ‘must-have’ gadget for your neighbour and her new squeeze, and try to identify any spending triggers – whether that’s comparison syndrome, boredom or social media.

As someone who has historically shopped with their emotions (every purchase is the purchase that’ll make me feel happier/better/complete) – I’m also on a mission to buy better, and shop less. 

So, from the best budget gift ideas and DIY decs that you’ll actually make, to the pro advice, hacks, discounts and deals – here are 11 useful ways to save money this Christmas.

How to spend less on Christmas in a cost of living crisis

Plan for big sales, like Black Friday

Opt Organic – for fabrics made minus chemicals & produced using less water

Set up price alerts to nab a deal

Opt Organic – for fabrics made minus chemicals & produced using less water

Prep Christmas cards, wrapping paper and sticky tape in advance (see below)

Opt Organic – for fabrics made minus chemicals & produced using less water

Make a list (even better, a spreadsheet) to track your spending – this will help you to keep the costs under control

Opt Organic – for fabrics made minus chemicals & produced using less water

Make a ‘no-unnecessary presents' pact with people you feel obliged to buy for. Or failing that...

Opt Organic – for fabrics made minus chemicals & produced using less water


Agree on a budget

Dollar. Dinero. Cash. Moolah. No matter the moniker, talking money with loved ones can feel excruciating – but if the cost of living crisis has given us anything, it’s the opportunity to open up a dialogue around spending. Few would begrudge a Christmas cut-back or two in the circs, so why not agree to a mini-budget?


We’re not talking politics, more a sorta Secret Santa, with gifts capped at £10 and under. If you’re struggling with bargain gift ideas, check out our handy guide here (Talking Tables games included). Also, hello £10 gift vouchers.


Introduce an activity advent calendar

It’s easy to let your spending run out of control at Christmas, but if you want to spark some joy (minus the expense), why not create a clever activity advent calendar that can be re-used year after year?


Add 12 or 24 activities behind a door, or in a drawer or envelope – they can be as simple as ‘watch a Christmas film’ or ‘go for a seasonal stroll’ (to have a nose at your neighbours’ Christmas lights), because activities with kids and grandkids needn’t cost a fortune. Why not buy a bargain bag of sweets and spread them out across the month? Fill-your-own calendars will also help you to shop more sustainably for Christmases to come. 

‘The problem with Christmas gift giving is that it’s a zero-sum game – I give to you and you give to me. What you effectively do is say: “I am choosing what you spend your money on.” And would you have actually chosen to spend that £20 on a tie? One of the greatest gifts you can give is the gift of releasing people from the obligation of having to buy for you when they’re skint. If you put pressure on someone who has less than you to buy something back, actually you’re misprioritising their finances.’ 

Martin Lewis
Money Saving Expert (speaking on Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicombe’s sexy and relatable podcast, Parenting Hell)


Do DIY decs

There’s something undeniably wholesome about DIY Christmas-tree decorations (see our expert video guide here). My favourite? The angel of music, ideally made using an old music sheet. How? Concertina two strips of paper, one wider (for the gown) and another for the wings. Trim the edges of the wings and fan out, then tie a piece of thread around the centre. Glue the edges together, stack, then glue a poppy seed head on top for the, er, head. Failing that, if you do buy a bauble this year, make it one of these beauties.


Craft clever cards

Looking to save money on Christmas cards? Plan ahead – and leave yourself enough time to post using second-class stamps, particularly for older relatives who may prefer the real deal. (For everyone else, there’s e-cards.)


It goes without saying that if you have young kids, they can make the cards for you – everyone will love it and you’ve bagged yourself some bonus quiet time, too. Need more inspo? See our expert wrapping guide here. Or why not save and print the pics on the right – et voilà, your colour-in Christmas cards, sorted.


Rent it (and party like it’s £19.99)

Not yet felt the rush of wearing something that feels totally new to you, but costs much, much less? Rental is about to change your life. I sound like I’m being dramatic (I am), but nothing will de-programme your need to buy, buy and buy again or boost your earthy credentials quite like rented occasionwear. How do I know? I rent on the reg (read all about it here) – and believe me when I say that the best party-dress rentals come with zero regrets. A £310 designer dress for £19.99? Er, yes please. 


Keep Christmas for the kids

It’s already a popular arrangement for many larger families, so why not make a pact with friends and siblings this year and just buy gifts for the kids this Crimbo? Club together for an investment gift that’s made to last or treat them to one of our 21 great gifts for kids for £15 or less – ditching those token gifts for adults is a surefire way to save money.


That said, do be aware of friends and family members who get short-changed in this arrangement – it can be mildly *gritted-teeth emoji* if you’re not included in the gift equation, but are still expected to contribute, so have a discussion beforehand to ensure everyone’s happy.

‘While your kids are young, don’t judge the value of the present you give them but instead by how much they enjoy it. It’s the whole “happily playing with the box that it came in” cliche, but don’t spend too much money on them when they’re very young.’

Martin Lewis
Money Saving Expert (speaking on Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicombe’s sexy and relatable podcast, Parenting Hell)


Smarten up your stockings

By all means add in some affordable toys for kids, but why not focus on packing practical stocking presents this year too? We’re thinking new socks, undies, a toothbrush, bubble bath – anything you’d need to buy anyway, but your child gets to unwrap. This is particularly useful for under-fives, when the pleasure is mainly in the unpacking (because everything is exciting when Father Christmas delivers it).


Fake it…

For conifer converts (and commitment phobes) the thought of ditching the beloved Christmas tree for a faux-fir ‘forever tree’ may feel like too big an ask. But when you consider the savings year-on-year and throw in the fact that you won’t be hoovering up needles until April, you might just be persuaded to invest in an artificial Christmas tree.


Buy a pre-lit number, you’ll also be able to dodge the annual detangle, too. And if it doesn’t smell Christmassy enough? Give it a spritz of pine room spray for (faux) fir-real feels. 


…Make it

When it comes to gifts for hosts, teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, why not dabble in some DIY? From homemade candles to homegrown flowers displayed in a (cheap but chic) jolly jug, a homemade ceramic or some beautiful reused containers, to delicious home bakes housed in a new dish, the internet is awash with genius DIY gifting ideas. Don’t have the time (or inclination) for crafting? Alex Stedman, of The Frugality fame, recommends buying one set of candles (try the John Lewis ANYDAY Tapered Dinner Candles), then splitting the pack into smaller sets and tying with ribbon for great gifting, guaranteed. Or, if TikTok hacks are your thing, why not treat them to a luxury lipstick that can (kind of) double as a ring once the bullet’s finished too? Niche but genius.


Present the gift of time

Tom Ford calls it the last luxury and he has a point. Ask anyone what they need more of and (aside from money), the chances are they’ll say time. So, why not give new parents a ‘voucher’ for an evening of babysitting? Or gift your best friend an IOU for a week’s worth of dog walking, so she can get her life admin done? A month’s worth of lawn mowing for your mother-in-law wouldn’t go amiss, either. And, if you can spare the time, why not volunteer? After all, the best memory-makers and time-savers cost zilch, yet they often mean the most.


Spread the love

Gifting and decorating is one thing, but can you spread costs when it comes to Christmas lunch, too? Well, yes. To start with, try buying and freezing in advance – anything from cheeses to gravy or pastries* (*shop reduced in-store products at closing time); switch out the mahusive turkey for chicken and ditch the trimmings – tradition is one thing, but if no one actually eats the olives or dates, forget them; and shop online with a pre-prepared list so you’re less likely to be tempted into overspending – just be sure to check out any supermarket offers, multibuys and Christmas specials in the run-up. Finally, don’t be scared to ask guests to BYO – whether it’s booze, pud or more, most will be only too happy to contribute.

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