Ah, Christmas (or whichever holiday you celebrate), the time that comes around every year where we spend more than we meant to and then spend January and February in hiding while paying off the Christmas money hangover.
Over the years, I’ve developed lots of Christmas money hacks which I wanted to share with you. It really doesn’t have to be the money bloodbath you fear every year, nor should it be.
I’m not going to wax lyrical on the true meaning of Christmas. But what I will say is that my favourite part is spending time with my family and eating. A lot. The present bit, not so much.
If you asked my 5-year-old self about my favourite part of Christmas, my answer would be very different. I don’t have kids but I have tried to provide some kid-friendly money saving suggestions too.
If you have kids and think I am talking utter nonsense, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, give me some more realistic suggestions and I’ll add them to the post.
I’ve broken the money-saving down into sections: Gifts, Cards, Food and Partywear to make it easier.
Instead of buying gifts for friends and family, could you give them an IOU for something instead?
Cook their favourite meal, do the cleaning for a month, take them to their favourite playground (your kids, obvs, not your friends unless they are into that kind of thing!).
You know what your friends and family either love or hate doing, so you could make an IOU gift out of it?
This is what we do with my family. Each year we set a £60 limit and then use this free Secret Santa generator to find out who we are buying for.
It means we only have to buy one gift, we spend £60 total and everyone gets what they want. The Secret Santa generator also has a wishlist that only the person buying for you can see.
It also means we don’t buy Christmas tatt or unwanted gifts that end up in a landfill.
Bad Santa is like Secret Santa but more fun. This would work best with groups of friends – I can’t image children being that happy with having their gifts swiped from them 😉
Every year a group of about 25 of my friends meet for lunch and play this, we have a £15 gift limit. It’s pretty funny.
Here are the rules…..
The Rules of Bad Santa
The true spirit of Christmas; It is better when you Receive and then Deceive.
Bad Santa is like Secret Santa only with a focus on taking rather than giving.
You have a budget of £x with which you can either buy something funny, something useful or if you really must, something terrible (but terrible in a good way).
Everyone brings their neatly wrapped and anonymous £x gifts with them and places them in the present pile.
Everyone will be asked to pick a number out of a hat and the lucky person who picked number 1 will select the first gift (preferably not their own) from the pile. They open it and show it off to the other players.
The person who has picked number 2 then chooses a gift from the pile and again opens it and shows it off. However, they then must then decide whether to keep it or swap it for the first player’s gift.
In numerical order, each person then gets to select a present, open it and decide whether to keep it or swap it for any other gift that someone has already opened.
Opening of gifts and swapping takes place until all the presents have been chosen.
The person who picked first then gets to choose from all the gifts around the table or keep what he/she has already received.
At the end, the gift you are holding is the gift you take home.
When buying gifts, it’s always a good idea to check whether you can buy them through a cashback site like Topcashback.
It’s money you were going to spend anyway so if you can get a bit of cashback then that’s a bonus. Cashback % can vary from 1% up to 14% or more.
Last delivery dates for Christmas tend to be around the 19th December (check with each individual retailer though just in case).
A lot of retailers start their winter sales just before this date.
If you can hold your nerve, you might have about a week in which you can buy a gift in the sale and still get it delivered on time.
This is what we have done before with my partner’s family. Everyone puts in £20 and the name of a charity of their choice, on Christmas Day, a name gets picked out of a hat and all the money goes to that charity.
If you feel you have enough stuff, then what about putting money together for a family experience instead?
Much more memorable than getting a new set of slippers!
If you are foodies, then what about dinner at a fancy restaurant you wouldn’t normally go to. (I have done this with my family).
Or to keep the costs down, you could get cheap train tickets to somewhere you haven’t been before for a day out.
My partner and I don’t buy anything for each other at Christmas. We would rather go on holiday together the year after so we save the money for that instead.
If you ask most family members (unless they are kids and deliriously excited about Christmas) you may find that quite a lot of them are happy not to give or receive gifts.
I know this feels a bit like taking the magic out, but I would far rather someone told me they wanted to swap my gift for something they really wanted, rather than it being stuffed in a cupboard somewhere.
Ah Christmas cards, the bane of my life. I really don’t like card giving (bah humbug) as they just end up in the bin which doesn’t help anyone.
Why don’t you ditch the Christmas cards and text or call instead. If you wouldn’t call them for a chat, why are you sending them a card? #harshbuttrue
For £9 or $14 (US) a year you can create unlimited online cards with Jacquie Lawson cards. Much cheaper than buying cards at £2 a pop (or more!) for each occasion.
You could also create cards for free using Canva and then print them out at home.
If you still want to buy physical cards then charity shops generally have good deals. I saw a pack of 10 cards in Oxfam today for £3 which is the price of one card in a fancy stationary shop.
If you aren’t careful, the price of food and booze spirals out of control and doesn’t even get fully eaten or drunk (even if you do!).
Certainly, in the UK, supermarkets have sign-up offers for using their online delivery service.
If you are going to be ordering a lot for Crimbo, then you could book an online delivery through a sign-up offer and get a 20% or £20 off deal or whatever is offered.
The best way to waste food is to go panic buying at the last minute and end up with way too much (or too little!).
Planning the menu way for the Christmas period means you are organised and don’t buy anything you don’t need.
My family and I use Google sheets so we can circulate a draft menu, get everyone’s approval (my family loves food but are also very fussy) and then we order it online in bulk.
The other way to stop food wastage is to get some great Christmas leftover recipes so you can get creative.
You can just google ‘Christmas leftover recipes’ and see what takes your fancy. Here are some from Jamie Oliver who tends to do some good ones.
If your family are drinkers then booze can burn a big hole in your pocket, here are some suggestions to keep the costs down:
If you plan on painting the town red over the Christmas period, you might be thinking about a new sparkly outfit.
I don’t know about you but clothes are so damn expensive these days if you want something that won’t fall apart after two washes.
Insider tip here (I’ve worked in retail for a long time), Christmas gear often gets marked down earlier as retailers know they can’t sell it after 31st December.
I sign up for the mailing list of my favourite shops and then wait for the sale emails. Or you could add what you want to your wish list so you don’t have to go hunting about when it does go on sale.
If you can’t wait that long, put the item or items in your basket and then wait 24 hours. Some retailers will send you a % off code to encourage you to purchase.
The good thing about it is that they physically receive, check, photograph and list the items themselves so you get an unbiased view on the condition of the item.
You could host a clothes swap at your home for your girl mates. Everyone brings unwanted clothes and swaps them (while drinking prosecco, clearly).
Anything left over that no one wants goes to charity.
You can get some great deals on eBay, you select from ‘New’, ‘New without tags’ or ‘used’ depending on your preference.
Some of the items have only been worn once so you would never notice the difference between that and a brand new item.
Sell anything you don’t wear to make cash for the new item. One woman’s ‘this old thing’ is another women’s ‘that’s exactly what I wanted!’
Phew – that is everything I can think of to help you save money this Christmas – hope it’s helped!
Just whatever you do, give yourself a budget and stick to it. It’s just one day, it’s not worth splashing a motherload of cash and then paying for it in January.
Although this sounds cheesy, family and friends love you regardless of whether you buy them anything or not!