It’s almost time for the most wonderful time of the year - Christmas. For many, however, Christmas is also the most expensive period and, with the cost of living crisis continuing and prices of everything increasing, many people are understandably concerned about the money they have to spend during this festive season.
From serving the traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, to giving gifts to family and friends, to sending cards to distant loved ones - it’s easy for Yuletide spendings to spiral. But, fear not, NationalWorld has spoken to various experts for their top tips on how to cut down spend on all areas of your Christmas costs.
Here’s what you need to know about how to cut down your festive budget for 2022 and save some valuable pennies.
Use cashback sites
Alasdair Baker, who runs money saving blog The Penny Pincher, advises using cashback sites, such as TopCashback, when shopping for all Christmas-related items online. He said: “Lots of people know about cashback sites, but don’t always use them for everything, but should.”
You can get cashback from a variety of sites, from top brands to smaller retailers. You can also get cashback from supermarket websites if you are buying your groceries online too, so always remember to check cashback sites for every retailer you use before you click that buy button. Many retailers offer bigger cashback amounts for new customers, or have exclusive deals in the run up to Black Friday and Christmas.
Use tools to compare prices
Consumer champion Helen Dewdney, who gives tips on her website The Complaining Cow, advises using various online tools to help ensure you are getting the best price for the items you buy - especially if it’s a must-have product of the season and prices for it could vary wildly across retailers, and some you may not even know about.
She said: “Look at the Google shopping tool, you may find other places for the items you are looking for. Use price comparison sites which aren’t just for financial products too, such as Pricerunner and Idealo. These will cover the well-known and less known online stores for the price on the same item.”
Use recyclable gift wrap
Claudia Kozeny-Pelling, the owner of Translate Digital Marketing, really thinks outside the box when it comes to saving money. When it comes to wrapping all those Christmas presents, she either uses recyclable brown parcel paper and reusable ribbons or reuse gift bags that have been given to her previously. She says not only does this help her cut costs, but it also helps her be more eco-friendly too.
Make your own Christmas cards - using old ones
Each year, many of use receive Christmas cards which we display for a few weeks and then, as soon as the festive season is done, they are put in to the recycling bin. Maddy Alexander-Grout, who is a money saving Tik-Toker at Mad About Money and Chief Marketing Officer for money saving site My VIP Reward, has a much better use for them though - and you will thank yourself for following her advice during future Christmases.
She said: “I keep my old Christmas cards from previous years and use them to make my own cards. All you need is some A4 paper, scissors and glue, cut all of the pictures out and get creative. Kids will find it really fun and it’s so much more personal, plus it occupies the kids and gets them in the Christmas spirit. You can also make you own gift tags using old Christmas cards in this way.”
Sign up to emails from your favourite retailers
If there’s a retailer you frequently buy from, be it the favourite brand of a family member or a good all-round site for gifts for lots of people on your Christmas list, then make sure you are signed up to their email list and/or newsletter. The same applies if you are hoping to bag an item you know many other people will want to snap up this year.
Consumer expert Dewdney said: “Sign up for emails to get the best offers first, many will email you early with discount codes, so you can use them before they go out of stock.”
Be honest about the amount of money you have to spend - and stick to your budget
Before you part with any money for your festivities, you need to work out what your budget is; both overall and for each individual area. So, write down all your incoming and outgoing spends and then use that to realistically decide how much money you can afford to spend overall on Christmas - then break that down in to present spend, food spend and so on.
Bronwyn Smith, transformational therapist and mindset coach said: “Acknowledge where you are financially and perhaps do things differently. If you need to be more frugal, don’t try and buy the same level of gifts this year as you have in previous years. We’ve all had lean years. I tell my family that I’m on a budget and their presents will be smaller sometimes, and they have done the same to me. We are all okay with it and your family will be too.
“It is okay to decide to spend a smaller amount on gifts or not buy gifts at all. If there was ever a time for your loved ones to understand that people’s financial situation has changed, including yours, it is now. One year I bought my sister a magazine subscription for a year. As she was receiving the first magazine in January, I gave her the December issue. She thought I had just bought her a copy of her favourite magazine and she was fine with it. She thought ‘that’s all my sister can afford and good on her for buying something I love in her budget’. It was an added bonus when she realised it was a subscription.”
Pay for things in cash
On the subject of budget, if you think you may struggle to stick to a budget then one way to help you be more disciplined is to set the budget, then go withdraw that amount in physical money from your bank account, and when you go shopping only take that cash with you.
Having to hand over physical banknotes - and seeing the amount of money you have decreasing - will help you think more sensibly about every purchase you make and whether or not it is really something you want or need and if it is cost effective to buy it. In turn, this should help you to stop making impulsive purchases that you perhaps can’t really afford.
Smith also advises paying in cash for all gifts - and limit the amount you spend on gifts per person. If you do need to buy something on your debit card, for example with an online purchase, put the amount in money you have spent to one side and put it back in to your bank account so you can’t be tempted to overspend.
Avoid Christmas themed products
As the festive season gets closer, Christmas-themed versions of our favourite foods begin to appear on the supermarket shelves. In fact, in many cases there’s no changes to the product itself, but the packaging has been adapted to have a festive theme for a limited time - and you may find the price of said product has increased as a result. If you can, finance TikToker Alexander-Grout, suggests that to save money it’s best to buy Christmas snacks in advance and avoid things in Christmas packaging - just make sure you check that best before date to make sure what you get will still be good come Christmas Day.
Don’t automatically buy everything from one shop
We know that it can be more than a little bit tempting to get everything from one shop as it saves you time - but it won’t always save you money. It’s worth shopping around a bit for each of the items you want to get the best deals possible. We know there will always be other things to take in to account to, such as the cost of delivery if online shopping or the cost of travel costs if buying in person, but it you take a bit of time to look around and do your sums you could save some cash.
Dewdney said this can especially be the case when thinking about the extras many people need to buy - such as batteries for the kids’ presents. “Don’t be tempted to buy the accessories with the item from the same place,” she said.
“When the pop up flashes “buy the batteries” don’t do it just for ease. Any savings you make will get spent on the batteries, so buy them from somewhere else. Unless they are cheap.”
Cut the cards and pick up the phone
You’ll be surprised how much money you can save by having a conversation with someone rather than sending them a card. Most of those who have a mobile phone contract will have unlimited minutes now, and even those who use a landline tend to have a deal where they can talk for a certain amount of time for free before costs are incurred. Therefore, phoning loved ones to say ‘merry Christmas’ rather than writing it in a card could save you many pounds, especially if you usually send quite a few.
Kozeny-Pelling said calling her loved ones rather than sending them cards has helped her family save cash, and also add a personal touch to her celebrations. She said: “We’ve also cut down on sending real Christmas cards, which was mainly for environmental reasons, though postage isn’t cheap either these days. Instead, we email or call friends and family. I’ve found many appreciate a phone call or personal message more than a standard Christmas card.”
Shop at charity shops and on free websites
A good way to save money is to shop second-hand as charity shops and second-hand websites and apps are full of items which are full of items that are of perfectly good quality, but are just no longer suitable for the original owner. Some products have never been used, but because they are not ‘brand new’ in the sense of coming straight from the supplier, they will be sold at a cheaper rate. There’s definitely some deals to be had - and if you’re really lucky you might even get something for free.
Alexander-Grout advises using apps like Olio to find free gifts, especially things for babies. People are always giving away things they don’t have space for like cribs, moses baskets and pushchairs just because they no longer have the space for them.
Shop early or late
The best bargains to be had often come if you shop well in advance of Christmas. For example, you could buy presents to give to people at Christmas 2023 in the January sales. Alexander-Grout said this is particularly useful when it comes to older relatives who won’t change their tastes over a few months, such as grandparents or parents. Shopping in this way also helps you to spread the cost of Christmas over the year, so it doesn’t feel like such a burden on your bank balance come November and December.
On the opposite side, you could also shop last-minute to pick up some bargains - though be warned the bargains can come very last minute. Alexander-Grout said: “Most department stores start sales early, if you don’t mind a bit of chaos head out on Christmas Eve then the same goes for food and there will be a lot of yellow sticker bargains the day before supermarkets close for two days.”