Christmas on a budget doesn’t have to be austere either: with a little imagination and creativity it can actually help you focus on what matters to you and your family and let go of mad shopping that you don’t want to do anyway!
Set up a treasure trail – A fun way to prolong the present excitement is to lay a treasure trail around the house with clues that lead to the main present. If you make it a long trail, you could break it up with little treats like chocolates along the route. By the time the kids find their main present, there will have been a wonderfully exciting build-up! If you have more than one child, consider doing several different trails that cross past each other in the house. If you make this a really fun event, it should mean that the focus is on the big present and you can have less little presents.
Draw/write a note of love – If you need to cut back on gifts this year, adorn each gift for a friend or family member with a special handmade note telling them what you love about them and what you wish for them in the coming year. It’s good to remember at the end of the day that this is what giving presents is about – offering love to someone special. Everyone feels warm and glowy when they read a special, personalised note. In fact, if you can’t splash out on presents at all this year then sending or giving a love note to someone is a wonderful way to say ‘I love you and you’re special to me all year round’.
Consider an alternative Christmas dinner – Christmas dinner with all the trimmings can get fiendishly expensive, especially as everyone else in the UK is buying the same stuff! Cranberries and chestnuts suddenly rocket in price… Why not break the mould and start a new Christmas tradition? Perhaps you’ll sit down to a Christmas curry or tagine, feast on fish pie or treat yourself to tapas. As my mother-in-law points out every year, traditional Christmas lunch is pretty heavy on the old digestion and leaves you feeling like flaking out on the sofa for the rest of the day! So ring the changes and opt for a different (and likely cheaper) kind of meal that leaves you feeling zingy and fresh.
Send e-cards – Now that postage stamps have gone up in price, sending 50 cards second class is expensive – and that’s not even considering the cost of the cards themselves. Save cash and trees by sending e-cards. There are plenty to choose from online – some all singing, all dancing and some charity ones too.
Scour the charity shops – I’ve found bargains galore in charity shops – from books that hardly look read to toys still in their boxes. Don’t be shy about gift shopping in charity shops, they really do have some fantastic stuff (including new items). Other options include fairs (school fairs often have bargain jams, pickles and home-made wares) and local co-operatives – there’s a homeless co-operative near us that sells gorgeous knitted toys incredibly cheaply.
Decorate your house with natural items – Save oodles of cash on expensive decorations and use what nature gives us for free. Opt for fallen branches and leaves rather than cutting stuff down, or if you want some fresh holly or mistletoe, find some that has lots of growth and leave plenty for the birds. Branches can be spray-painted silver or gold and strung with fairy lights as an alternative Christmas tree and table decorations of greenery look far nicer than anything you can buy in the shops.
Make salt dough decorations – If you want a tree heaving with pretty things, make some salt dough! This is really easy to make with flour, salt and water. The recipe is half a cup of salt, half a cup of water and a cup of flour. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl, adding more water or flour to the recipe as needed (if too sticky or too dry), then knead until a firm dough. You can add a little oil to make it more flexible if you like. Use a rolling pin to roll it flat on a floured surface. You can get hold of shape cutters in all kinds of fun shapes now and remember to punch a hole in the top of the shape (using the handle end of a paintbrush for instance – make it large as it will shrink as the shape dries) so that you can thread them with ribbon and hang them up. Bake in a low oven or leave to dry in a warm place for a day or two before painting and/or decorating with glitter and sequins.
Use plain wrapping paper – Plain wrapping paper looks really nice on its own with a pretty ribbon. However, it comes into its own when you get the kids to decorate it with Christmas pictures! Or you might like to make potato stamps to create your own unique Christmas wrap. Plain paper can be used all year round for wrapping paper, and you can have loads of fun adding a personal touch each time.
Make mulled wine – Mulled wine is a great alternative to buying expensive bottles of wine for the table. Because you mix it with orange juice it tends to go a bit further and you can use cheap bottles of red wine or those on offer to make it. Who can refuse a warming glass of mulled?
Shop in the January sales – If you want to be really organised for next Christmas, make the most of the January sales. You’ll find lots of Christmas things with huge discounts, and can stock up on gifts for the coming year. If you have the storage space, this is probably the best way to do Christmas on a budget. You’ll be very pleased with yourself come December!
Article by Lucy Corkhill