Making Christmas affordable this year

There are loads of places online to read about saving up for next year, but what if you are here and now - and you are brassic/broke/without extra funds?

Here are some real life tips and help so that you can still have Christmas without resorting to any kind of debt or loan.

First things first: 
1. If you have responsibility for anybody else, including the small-person variety, you need to be realistic with them.
Often our stress levels come from trying to do so much for other people, chasing our tails, that we end up in a soggy mess on the floor.
Be honest with them.
It's far better for a child to know that this year Christmas is going to be all about being together and surprises than piles of money, plastic crap and a massive TV screen.  So often we overlook the fact that life isn't about spending huge amounts, it's about the things we do together that make the memories.

2. Make yourself a cuppa, grab a pen and some paper and write down three columns: what you need to do/ what you'd like to do/ what you cannot do.

It might look like -

What you need to do:

Have enough food
Have some gifts for close people
Have a warm house

What you'd like to do:

Decorate the house
Have a roast meal on Christmas Day

Watch Christmas movies
Give the kids one bigger gift and some smaller ones each
Give cards to family and friends
Send messages to people who are further away
Have a winter walk
Play board games and sing Christmas songs together

What you cannot do:

Travel somewhere costing loads of money
Buy presents with money that is needed for rent/heating/water/food
Get into debt/further into debt
Be bullied into being untrue to yourself
Lose the whole point of the festive season

3. Now be realistic.

. Nobody's house actually looks like the JohnLewis/Sainsburys/Mrs Hinch house/whatever supermarket advert on Christmas day.
.You don't need to cook a roast dinner and dessert like a TV chef in a new outfit with jewellery and high heels, and serve it up on a silver platter, then relax into a new settee alongside your family who are very happy with every.single.thing in the world, including each other.

4. Decide what is important to you, and most of all, cut yourself some slack: it's your Christmas too.

So here come the hints and tips...

. Message folk now and tell them that you are not posting cards this year, instead giving a charity donation.  Saves the money on stamps, and you will be donating to charity over the next few steps...

. Make a few cards for people you actually see, and then in December give them out.  If you have kids and they like crafts, that's a rainy afternoon activity!

. Look in the attic/cupboard under the stairs/back of the wardrobe - in December put up the decorations you find.  If you don't find many, well guess what? Less is more!

. Have a Christmas craft afternoon with your kiddies and make paperchains or Christmas bunting for each room. You can cut pages from a paperback book you've read and colour in shapes (although I read that grey is in trend this year..)! Or use those Christmas flyers that come through the door from now until the time of year you need them, and cut out the Robins and trees, sticking them onto your decorations!

. You don't need a turkey. Shock, horror! I know!! Why pay out all that money for something you cant really afford and can easily manage without anyway? If you really love roast potatoes, just have a heap of veggies with stuffing and gravy! (One year we decided to see just how many different veg we could eat for our Xmas lunch - 19 was the total.....)  Meat eaters can easily use chicken instead of turkey, or have pigs in blankets or a piece of gammon....cheaper and easier to manage.   (And cook it the day before, too....)

. While we are on the subject of food, buy one thing a week extra and save it to have over Christmas.  A tin of potatoes, a tin of carrots, stock cubes, stuffing mix, a frozen piece of meat. Always check out the reduced price section - I'm sure my regular readers do this anyway - but don't forget to look at dented tins of stuff too. Often you can get a real bargain from "damaged" outers: I've managed to get a six-pack of fizzy cola that had just five tins for over half price - and when the outer packaging is off, what is the difference?! 

.Gifts.  If you are on a budget (and who isn't?) be honest with yourself and with other people.  Tell the kiddies they will have one larger gift and lots of little ones. Whatever you do, don't let them make a list!! (- Its Santa who makes the list....) Then visit the local supermarket or Argos or wherever to buy the one gift, and for the smaller ones wrap up 'gifts' such as socks, pyjamas, a new jumper, toys from the charity shop, puzzles the same, books, etc. 

. Check out your local Facebook selling page. Type in "FREE". I seriously check this a couple of times a week, and have got: 'new' curtains for my lounge and kitchen/diner; made cushion covers and clothes from given-away fabric - sheets, duvet covers, clothes larger than me; I've got a couple of pretty vases to re-gift; jars with lids to put home-made jam in; cake tins; biscuit cutters that I spray-painted as decorations!

. Home-made items to make and give:
Mini Christmas Cakes - when you make your Christmas Cake, bake two and cut the other into 4 before you apply the marzipan or icing layer.  Wrap a ribbon around each square and ta-daa! A little cake to gift.  If you buy your cake, then buy a second fruit cake - they are about £1 in shops right now - and store it in a tight box, cutting it and wrapping it just before delivery.  
Jam - using kits are very expensive, so make your own! While you have just missed the Blackberry season*, apples are rife right now. Jams and jellies are pretty easy to make and there are loads of 'How-to's on YouTube or Google search.  I'll be making Apple and Blackberry jelly for gifts this year.  The only thing I need to spend any money on is sugar.  Jars are washed and stored, but you can get free jars on  pages like FBook. (*For future reference, we carry a plastic box in the car and from the start of August to now we pick a few when we see them, wash them well at home and add them to the freezer bag in the top of our freezer.  I've got over a pound of blackberries ready for this year's gifts.)

Button hearts - using thin pieces of wire and buttons from your button pot, thread the buttons onto the wire and bend into a heart shape before twisting the wire ends together to secure.  Feed over the top a piece of string or ribbon and you have a little gift or a decoration.  You could make someone's initial in the same way.  
N.B.  for thin wire I use garden wire (normally used for holding plants to stakes) or opened-out long paperclips, but you can also re-use the thin wire in the disposable face-masks you may have in the house.  Always check out your recycling bin for resources, too!

Which crafts can you do? What resources do you have? If you can knit or crochet but have no yarn, then check out a knitted item to unwind, or make some yarn from thin strips of an unwanted t-shirt.  Can you sew?  Then try making a family of creatures from old fabric, stuffed with teeny strips of fabric or old stuffing from an old cushion or pillow insides.  Could you sew something else for a child from fabric you already have?

.While you are thinking about Christmas gifts, look around your home.  What is not used/needed?  What do you have that you don't need/want?
Donate to the Charity shop.  Get your kids involved too - a cardboard box-filling game - what doesn't fit you, what don't you want to play with anymore, etc.  You could add those shoes you are just not going to wear...
And there's a cardboard box challenge for you too - which tins or packets of food do you not need/won't eat/ bought in error?  That's your box for the foodbank donation.

The days themselves:

Between now and Christmas week: 
Write down some quiz questions for a fun afternoon! 
Compile a Christmas Jokes folder.
Plan something small to do each day of the actual holiday days - the school holidays, for example.
Where are those jigsaws that 'need' doing?
Where are those craft kits that have never been completed?

You could make up your own family Advent Challenger - a calendar with a twist, where there is a fun challenge to do every day - watching a DVD in our pyjamas; carol singing at the (free) carol concert; having a hot chocolate and making flapjacks - all activities encouraging the true meaning of the season: being together.

Do you have more ideas you can share here for other people?
Post your ideas in the comment box below.

Tracey xx


  1. I told my kids that Santa filled their stocking and that everything else had to be paid for. It made Christmas much less stressful

  2. I tried to leave a comment and I couldn't make it 'stick', so I'm having another go.
    I love all you say about Christmas and how you can have fun without overspending. It's never wise to overspend, regardless of whether you are in debt or not. There is an old saying which is really true: a fool and his/her money are soon parted. So yes, enjoy Christmas, but it's for one day and not worth overspending on, let along going into debt.
    We usually have chicken for Christmas dinner, we are not a large family, and if we have more to Christmas dinner than usual, I also cook a gammon. One year I made a large steak pie and that went down very well but the one problem of going off piste, so to speak, i.e. not having turkey, is that there were no left-overs for sandwiches or a turkey curry or pie! Lesson learned!
    Re decorations, one way - if you have saved old wrapping paper - would be to make paperchains from Christmas paper which isn't mint this year, but a bit creased.
    I'm sure I mentioned some other things in my original comment, but I will now try and make this 'stick'.
    Margaret P

  3. PS I know what I wanted to add - mentioned in the comment that wouldn't 'stick'. If you don't want to spend money on cards and postage to people living too far away to hand a card to, then if you have some nice photos on your computer (I have many thousands) then make a photo collage and add a greeting, and email that instead. It won't cost you anything (some e-card companies, such as Jackie Lawson, charge a fee I believe.)
    Margaret P

  4. All good ideas that sound like a perfect Christmas to me - Tam

  5. We never have turkey, as none of us are fond enough of it to be eating it for days after the main event. Plus, in the early days of our marriage we had one of those wonderful 'power going off when turkey is half-cooked' incidents. Never again! I always enjoy making a Christmas wreath from things foraged from the hedgerows. It is so much fun and, since I keep the metal ring base to use again, it costs absolutely nothing.

  6. This post has been really useful - thank you for posting it.
    Some great ideas and lots of sensible suggestions that sometimes we need to hear from someone else (or maybe that's just me!)
    I will be pinching quite a few of your suggestions for my own family this Christmas to make it affordable- thank you.


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