Ideas for Christmas on a budget

Christmas can be a cause for joy, but it can also prompt worry about finances. Costs may add up for food, toys and keeping children entertained. 

Try some of the ideas below for keeping the costs down this Christmas. You can also find out where to get extra support if you need it. 

Food at Christmas

Where you can, plan your meals in advance and only buy as much as you need. Pick up ingredients as you spot good deals.  

  • Check the bottom shelves at the supermarket. That’s where you’ll find better value items, like supermarket own brands.   
  • Make a list of what you need and stick to it – this may mean going to a range of different shops for the best offers. 
  • Go to the supermarket in the evening – between 7pm and 9pm – to take advantage of clearance prices.   
  • Cook from scratch and buy in bulk. Frozen chicken or turkey often works out cheaper, but it’s cheaper to make roast potatoes from fresh.   
  • If you have guests coming, ask everyone to bring something,  to spread the cost.   
  • Plan what to do with your leftovers, to make the most of what you have.  
  • Make some homemade treats, like chocolate cornflake cakes, rather than buying sweets. 

Christmas leftover recipes – Aldi

Chocolate cornflake cake recipe – BBC Good Food

          Christmas presents

          Children don’t need lots of expensive toys to be happy. A few thoughtful gifts and experiences will mean a lot. 

          • When writing letters to Santa, encourage your children to talk about their wishes and hopes instead of focusing only on presents. 
          • Try the four-gift rule: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read”. You could even ask your child to base their letter to Santa on this.   
          • Facebook can be useful for finding free and pre-loved toys and games. Lots of neighbourhood groups or ‘for sale’ groups advertise free items that you can go and pick up. While the toys may not be brand new, they are new to your child – and that’s what’s exciting.   
          • Arrange a book or toy swap with friends, where each child can swap an item for something different. 
          • Look at experience gifts, like annual passes to family attractions. You could even create your own coupons for days out to a beach or museum. 
          • Look at experience gifts, like annual passes to family attractions. You could even create your own coupons for days out to a beach or museum.   
          • Ask your child to help you make potato stamps for homemade Christmas cards or wrapping paper.  
          • Create your own salt dough decorations to put on the tree and gift to friends and family.   
          • Suggest a ‘Secret Santa’ with friends and family, where you each have one person to buy for. It can help to set a budget and reduce the number of gifts you need to buy.  
          • Make handmade or edible gifts. Try a recipe for chocolate bark or biscuits.

              Socialising during the festive season

              • Invite people for a pot lunch, where everyone brings an item to share.  
              • Suggest meeting for a walk rather than going for drinks or a meal.  
              • Have a virtual party – try a Christmas quiz, games night or singing carols together. That means you don’t need to worry about feeding people.    
              • Host in the afternoon, when you can offer mince pies and hot chocolate instead of a full meal.  If you don’t have hot chocolate, melt advent calendar chocolate or chocolate coins in warm milk.   
              • Host a movie night where everyone brings their favourite cinema snacks.  
              • Arrange to meet up to watch your local Christmas lights switch-on.     

                Activities for children

                It can be difficult to keep children entertained during the Christmas holiday. But there are things you can do together that cost little or nothing.  

                • Create a nature trail for your child. Collect pine cones and then use paint and glitter or glue and salt to decorate them.  
                • Dig out your favourite family games and puzzles and have a games night. Try swapping games with a neighbour for ‘new’ games that don’t cost you anything.  
                • Watch Christmas films together. Make the room cosy with duvets and pillows. Get some popcorn or any favourite film snacks. Ask your child to make paper tickets to the film so it becomes a home cinema.  
                • Make paper chains and paper snowflakes to decorate the house.  Be kind to the environment by using any post you don’t need as your material.  
                • Make Christmas masks and hats from old cardboard boxes and unused decorations. Then have a mini party with your favourite Christmas songs.  
                • Find karaoke versions of Christmas songs with lyrics on YouTube 
                • Read Christmas books with your child. You can borrow some from your local library, or share with friends and family. The book ‘Twas The Night Before Christmasis also free on Kindle. 
                • Challenge your children to make a bauble from recycling and materials that you have at home.  
                • Look through photos and videos from the past year and relive your favourite memories. 
                • Make a family list of things you’re grateful for during the past 12 months and what your hopes are for the new year. Put it somewhere safe to reflect on next Christmas.  

                    Get extra support

                    If you need some extra support, there are some organisations that can help.   

                    Our article on Coping with money worries has advice on where to go for direct help. 

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                    This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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