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. 

Christmas on a budget cookies

Food at Christmas

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 – this is where you’ll find better value items – and buy 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.  
  • Get inspiration by watching Miquel Barclay make a Christmas lunch for £1 a portion.  
  • Cook from scratch and buy in bulk. Looking for a frozen chicken or turkey often works out cheaper. Make your own roast potatoes instead of buying frozen ones. Use vegetables to build out a meal.  
  • If you have guests coming, ask them all to bring part of the dinner to spread the cost.  
  • Plan what to do with your leftovers, to make the most of what you have. Aldi has some recipes. 
  • Try cooking a family favourite instead of a full roast dinner.  
  • Make some homemade treats, like chocolate cornflake cakes, rather than buying sweets. 

    Presents and gifts

    Social media can make it seem as if children need lots of toys to be happy. But a few thoughtful gifts and experiences will mean a lot. 

    • When writing letters to Santa, encourage your children to write 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 list 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 to have a book or toy swap with friends, where each child can swap an item for something different.
    • Look at experience gifts that you can use throughout the year. This could be annual passes to family attractions, or creating 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 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. 
      • Save on travel expenses by hosting a virtual party – try a Christmas quiz, games night or singing carols together.   
      • Host in the afternoons when people won’t expect a full meal, and offer mince pies and hot chocolate instead.  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 own favourite cinema snacks. 
      • Arrange to meet up to watch the Christmas lights switched on in your local town or city.    

      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 nothing or very little.  

      • 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. If you don’t have books, see if your library is open or share books with friends and family. The book ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas is 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.  

          •  If you’re worried that you might not be able to feed your family, try the Trussell Trust food bank finder. Local churches and places of worship often have food tables too. 
          • Turn2Us has a list of grants and other support that families can access around Christmas.  
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