This article was originally published in November 2019. Updated November 2020.
Already panicking at the thought of planning the perfect Christmas on a shoestring budget? Stop right there!
After all the difficulties and uncertainty of 2020, the pressure to create the perfect Christmas may feel even greater than usual this year. But the secret to relaxing over the festive season is to remember, there’s no such thing as the perfect Christmas. Social media might suggest otherwise, but remember, it’s just a highlights reel. That dreamy snap was probably just one moment of calm between the standard family arguments over the TV remote and whose turn it is to wash up. Don’t fall into the comparison trap this Christmas.
A tight budget shouldn't hold you back from enjoying the festive fun. Spotting opportunities to save cash will help your money go further, and help you avoid a financial hangover in January. From booze to baubles, and everything in between, we’ve pulled together our favourite saving hacks to help you eat, drink and be merry on a budget.
Save on… food and drink
Hosting Christmas this year? The pressure to put on a delicious spread can be daunting, but don’t let money worries add to that.
1. Fresh vs. frozen
Swapping to frozen versions when it comes to groceries could save youon your weekly shop. And there’s no reason to stop just because it’s Christmas. Considering the majority of your plate is made up of veggies - sprouts, potatoes, carrots, etc. - switching to frozen from fresh could save you a significant amount. There are no prizes for peeling 20 potatoes single handedly, and we bet you no one will be able to taste the difference anyway. Plus, whereas fresh veggies will go off within a week or so, you can reach for any remaining frozen veg when the New Year diet kicks in!
2. Mix ‘n’ match
Head to Lidl and Aldi for the basics this Christmas - more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean more tasty. We’re not suggesting it’s a basic, but Aldi’s champagne was named one of the, and it’ll only cost you £11 (if you’re buying a branded version, you could expect to pay over £30 for a bottle). If you really can’t drag yourself away from the more expensive supermarkets, it’s best to buy booze in bulk. Many shops, like , offer discounts if you buy a case of 6 or more of wine.
Head toto compare prices on alcohol across all the major supermarkets and make sure you’re getting the best deal.
3. Start early
A lot of Christmas treats are available in supermarkets from early September - this is the official start of food retail Christmas season. So it might be worth stocking up on non-perishables (like chocolate boxes and ingredients for the Christmas cake) when they’re at their cheapest.
You can find more tips and tricks for hosting Christmas day on a budget.
Save on… decorations
Beautiful decorations don’t need to cost the world - a bit of creativity and willingness to get stuck in can go a long way. Instead of hitting the shops to get your decorative hit, why not make them yourself? If you’ve got children, or friends who do, get them involved for a cost-saving way to spend time with loved ones while getting into the Christmas spirit.
4. Do some DIY
If you’ve got a garden (or failing that, any woodland near you), you could collect twigs and greenery, dry them and paint them silver or gold. Stick them in a vase and decorate with some baubles, and you’ve got a lovely festive arrangement. This kind of thing will keep for years to come if you store it carefully, and it works a treat if you don’t have enough space for - or can’t afford - a Christmas tree.
Use any leftover greenery from above to make your own wreath. You can pick up a foam wreath base very cheaply fromor similar home stores, then let your imagination run wild. If you’re lacking inspiration, check out these .
If baubles seem like a waste of money, you could make your own very easily. Try this: slice up some oranges, sprinkle with cinnamon and leave to dry somewhere warm (or bake until dry). You can then thread ribbon through each slice and hang on your tree - it’s guaranteed to make your home smell festive! We lovecheap and cheerful Pinterest ideas, too.
5. Consider second hand
DIY not your style? We suggest asking around if anyone has any decorations they no longer want - parents and older siblings might have some they’d be willing to pass down. Or failing that, your local charity shop might have what you’re looking for.
6. Hit the sales
Be sure to raid the Boxing Day and New Year sales for festive decorations. Retailers reduce anything vaguely festive after the big day has passed, so you could pick up decorations for next to nothing, and be extra prepared for next Christmas.
Save on… presents
7. Don’t stick to December
We’ve all got that one person who’s notoriously hard to buy for (looking at you, Dad). Ironically, it’s usually the same person who’s seemingly got everything, and insists they “really don’t need any presents, honestly”, which isn’t particularly helpful when it comes to gift shopping.
If this sounds familiar, our #1 tip is to be on the lookout for gifts all year-round. (This also comes in handy if your idea of hell is battling the December crowds with zero inspiration.) Keeping your eyes peeled at all times means you’ll have plenty of time to find a present you know they’ll love, rather than pressure-buying that overpriced pair of socks on Christmas eve. There’s absolutely no shame in buying gifts in March and squirrelling them away for a few months.
8. Think ahead to next year
Most retailers run seasonal sales, like Boxing Day and Summer sales, which are a great time to bag a bargain for 2021. Sign up toto be notified when certain brands start their sales. If you can’t wait for the sales, tonnes of online shops offer occasional discounts to subscribers to their mailing list, so it makes sense to sign up to receive emails from your favourite brands.
Of course, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no-brainers for finding great deals on presents. Read our top tips for saving in the sales. Just be wary of shops pushing their prices up in preparation for Black Friday, or you might not be getting the amazing deal you thought you were.