25 Budgeting Ideas for Christmas

You don’t need expensive gifts to show your family and friends that you love them.

1. Set a Budget

Before the holiday shopping season even begins, decide how much money you want to spend. Think through all the different aspects of holiday shopping: gifts, travel, food, decorations. Divide your budget into the different categories: how much do you desire to spend on gifts? how much will travel cost? how many special events are on your calendar and how much will they cost? If the numbers aren’t lining up, what changes and/or ‘sacrifices’ do you need to make?



2. Be Aware of Retail Tricks

If merely creating a budget was the only thing needed to keep us within our spending limits, we’d be all set – not just for the holidays, but for life. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Even with budgets firmly established, many of us overspend. One reason this happens is because retail stores are shockingly good at getting us to part with our money.

Loyalty cards, retail credit, decoy pricing, loss leader (think Black Friday), incentives to return to the store, constant sales – all of these represent tricks that retail outlets employ to get us to part with our money. Be on the look-out for them – especially during the holiday season.

3. Limit self-gifting
One of the most significant holiday trends over recent years is the increase in “self-gifting” – people treating themselves to presents when they are out shopping for others. With another Christmas of uncertainty, new research from Mintel reveals that the nation is taking to self-gifting as a quarter (24%) of Brits plan to splash out on a gift for themselves this year, rising to 42% of 16-24s according to Mintel.

The desire to get back to physical shopping is strong with 63% of Brits saying they missed the usual atmosphere of visiting shops around Christmas 2020 and 43% of consumers looking forward to shopping on the high street this Christmas. Nevertheless, 43% plan on doing more of their Christmas shopping online this year compared to last year



4. Cut down on convenience costs

Some of the most hidden costs of the holiday season are “convenience” expenses. The holiday season throws us out of our usual family rhythms by adding extra responsibilities and activities. As a result, the price we are willing to pay for convenience begins to rise – sometimes, it is just easier to order fast food when running late for an appointment or getting a pizza for the kids if we need to attend the office holiday party.

In addition, all of the time spent shopping often leads to other unnecessary purchases: expensive coffee drinks, pretzels, smoothies, just to name a few. These expenses appear minor. But over the course of a month, because of the “Latte Factor,” they add up quickly.



5. Establish expectations early

If you decide to cut down on the number of Christmas gifts you will be giving this holiday season, it is important to establish those expectations early. For example, for our kids at Christmas, they receive three gifts from us: one thing they want, one thing they need, and one experience to share with the family. But it wasn’t always this way. When they were younger, before we decided to pursue minimalism, we used to buy them a lot more gifts at Christmas. Therefore, when we decided to make the changes to our gift-giving habits, we took some time to inform them about it.

Similarly, if you intend to take a new gift-giving approach to your extended family, it is helpful to inform them early about your decision and why you decided to make it



6. Look for shortcuts to make travel cheaper

For some families, one of the largest expenses of the holiday season is travel – being together as a family to celebrate the season is important to a lot of us, and it is important to many others as well. And while there are always going to be expenses incurred while traveling, we can still look for ways to limit them: shop around airlines and travel dates, avoid baggage fees by packing light, pack meals for on-the-go, and do your research on hotel costs, just to name a few.



7. Track spending

One key component to wise financial stewardship is to track your spending on a daily basis. This is true for life, but it is absolutely essential to avoid overspending during the holiday season. If you have set your budget thoughtfully (Tip 1), it is important to pursue due diligence in staying inside it.

Because of the extra shopping during the season, the importance of tracking your spending during the month of December cannot be overstated. And you do not need fancy software or materials to accomplish this step. It can be completed with a simple piece of paper and pen—at the end of each day, just record the items you spent money on that day. And compare it regularly with the budget you created.

8. Price compare on apps – which means you can find cheaper prices! So don’t run to the pricey Christmas section in the garden centre as it may look beautiful, but you can get a similar effect by using their styling as inspiration and heading to the supermarket or internet to buy your baubles and tinsel and by tracking spending you can monitor exactly what you have to spend and can’t spend. Apps offer different solutions for saving money – for example – saving money on petrol and also looking at what other places have deals on rather than just buying in store.


9. Use apps like Top Cashback or quidco


10. Attend free/low cost community events


11. Recycle – Chances are, no one will remember what baubles and tinsel you’ve used for Christmas past, so dig out your old box of decorations. If you want to refresh your look, why not suggest swapping some decorations with a friend? You’ll both have a refresh without spending a penny.


12. Write a gift list and stick to it


13. Loyalty cards – Many store loyalty cards can save you big money in the long run. If you have cards for your favourite stores already, consider cashing them in December to help with your Christmas shopping costs. If you don’t have a card, sign up now to make use of the extra Christmas costs and rack points for future savings.

14 Cook your own meals – The kitchen is a great place to create Christmas present alternatives. Make sweets or bake brownies, wrap them in cellophane and tie with a ribbon to create a beautiful and considerate gift. If baking isn’t your bag, there are plenty of other homemade gifts at your fingertips. Candles, soaps, or jewellery are all possible, and supplies are cheaper if you make similar gifts for multiple people


15. Prioritise expenses – pay your bills
Instead of gifts you could offer help instead like free babysitting, gardening etc


16. Don’t spend money on Xmas cards – do an e card


17. Buy pre loved – Donating and buying preloved clothing helps to reduce the amount of textile waste in landfill. Preloved becomes reloved, reducing wand also usually more cost efficient.


18. Choose experiences over gifts – The best things in life are free, or so they say. New parents may value a voucher for free babysitting above a Bluetooth speaker, and friends might be delighted at your planning of a (free) day out for you all, or cooking a delicious meal.

19. Set up a savings account, put a bit away each month – may not be possible but a £1 saves each week equals £52 in a year.

20. Make gifts like homemade jams or treats – Knowing how to decorate outdoors for Christmas on a budget can be tricky, but far from impossible so make your own Santa signs, window displays or even a DIY Christmas wreath using ‘How tos’ online. Tie baubles to your trees, ribbons to the gate, and check online for second-hand outdoor lights.  

21. Agree price limits on gifts
This is one of the most popular and effective money-saving hacks out there. Agreeing limits with family and friends means that you eliminate the fear that someone has bought you something much more expensive, and allows everyone to keep a hold over their budgets.

22. Watch for free – Christmas is the time for good telly – but you don’t need to break the bank. Most streaming platforms offer free one-month trials. Sign up in December and enjoy relaxing at home with a good family film – just don’t forget to cancel before the trial is done.

23. Save on postage – Delivery costs can add up. If you are considering using the same platform more than once, look into delivery passes. ASOS offers free, premium delivery for the year for £10 and Amazon Prime costs £7.99 a month with the first 30 days free. 

24. Gift a memory
Photo printing is relatively cheap (ASDA offers photo printing from 5p) and you can buy inexpensive frames from Ikea, Wilkinson’s, or your local supermarket for a thoughtful, personal gift that won’t break the bank.

25. Waste not want not – If you haven’t managed to get through all of your Christmas food, make sure you’re planning ahead by freezing it straight away for January meals. If you receive gifts that are going to get shoved into a drawer, try exchanging them for something you needed to buy anyway or selling them online.


Avoiding overspending during the holiday season may not be easy. It certainly requires extra time and effort. But trust me, your January-You will thank you for it.

It’s time to put up the tree and open the Baileys – Christmas is creeping closer day by day but is this time of good cheer making you feel stressed about your bank balance? Unlike Santa, you don’t have to get into the red this Christmas.

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