Six tips for a thrifty Christmas

Christmas needn't cost a fortune. Background image: freefoto.com
Christmas needn’t cost a fortune. Background image: freefoto.com

Christmas is time for excess. Whether it be eating so much stuffing you are sick on your side plate, or slumping in front of the Queen’s Speech in an eggnog induced stupor, it is day built around consumption.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no Grinch. I Love Christmas. I love waking my whole family up at 6am to open presents, I love playing board games, drinking mulled wine and having heated debates about who will be killed off in this year’s Eastenders special.

It’s time to face up to the cold truth though. We are, as a nation, skint. With an economy as limp as Dot Cotton’s sex life, mass unemployment and rising living costs the Christmas season often brings more stress and mounting debt that it can festive cheer.

Britons have been cutting back on Christmas spending since 2008 and York council and Citizens Advice Bureau has recently published a helpful guide to budgeting for the holiday period.

With the financial strains of Christmas in mind YorkMix have created collection of tips to help save some pennies, and hopefully some stress too!

Secret Santa

If like me you have a family large enough to make the Von Trapp’s look modest then the cost of even token gifts can really add up. An ingenious way around this is to set up a family Secret Santa.

Set a price limit that everyone is comfortable with and chuck all the names in hat. This way everyone gets one good-sized and personal present instead of a stocking full of tat. Not only will a Secret Santa save you and your loved ones tons of money but it also means what you do fork out is better spent.

E-cards

Get to grips with the digital era and replace costly paper cards with e-cards. You can send them for free from websites such as egreetings.com or 123greetings.com. If you feel like the swap to e-cards is a potentially bold or stingy move then this can all be done under the pretence of an environmental awakening. Bang on about saving the trees and global warming a few times and no one will question your new eco-warrior guise.

If you simply must send paper Christmas cards then there is no shame in going Blue Peter and making your own. Handmade goods are super cool right now and making your own cards will earn you at least 100 hipster points.

Offer your services

We all know that no gift is more valuable than the precious gift of time. If you have a skill or talent then this money saving tip can really work to your advantage.

The possibilities of the services you could offer are limitless but here are a few ideas: a hair-cut, a painting, a manicure, gardening, cleaning, music lessons, knitting, a massage, baked goods, or a three course meal. You could even make an official looking ‘voucher’ using your painstaking Microsoft Paint skills to present on Christmas Day.

Bring a dish

Hosting Christmas dinner can be a tear-jerkingly expensive not to mention time consuming affair. A turkey with all the trimmings can soon spiral out of control when you factor in Aunty Jane’s gluten intolerance and your nephew’s new organic, vegan diet.

An easy way to spread costs is to ask all your guests to bring part of the meal each. If everyone brings a dish then an equal amount of time and money is contributed by the whole clan whilst (in theory) creating a feeling of family unity.

Alternatively you can always entertain yourself by pretending you are in a Come Dine With Me Christmas episode and giving the food ratings out of ten. Guaranteed to set a new record for earliest annual family brawl yet.

Grab discounts

Sign up to the weekly newsletter from the Money Saving Expert for a wealth of offers, discounts and voucher codes. The emails provide a round-up of the latest deals along with tips and guides for all your finances.

Current deals include a 50 per cent off discount code for Body Shop and a Soap & Glory Bundle for less than half price. Check out the shopping section of the website for more offers to whittle down your shopping bill. I love these website so much I can’t even bring myself to make a thinly veiled sarcastic comment.

Second hand gifts

If you are willing to put in the time then charity shops and E-Bay are your best friend this Christmas. There are so many new and hardly used items nestled in the depths of shelves and internet listings.

Admittedly searching relentlessly through masses of crap to find a treasure can be soul-destroying, but the buzz when you do is unbeatable. Issues like a lack of original packaging can be easily overcome by getting creative with some tissue paper and ribbons at home. It is well worth putting a day or two aside to have a rummage through York’s first rate charity shops.