Thrifty Christmas(37 Posts)
I would love some advice on making Christmas affordable this year. It's just the four of us. Money is tight, not horrifically so, but I don't want to resort to credit cards. I never went overboard with the presents anyway, but somehow always ended up spending more than I planned. I grew up with a single mum, and Christmas was always magical, yet never about the stuff - and that's what I want to create for my kids, but sadly without the huge extended family as we live too far away. I have a Dd, one, who will be getting a doll's pushchair from my mum, and a doll from my brother. And my DS, 5, who will be getting a bike from my mum and a helmet from my brother. They will be their main presents, and my family are happy for Santa to bring them. so it's more cheap stocking fillers that I need to buy (or make), free things to do - any great craft ideas, And ways to save money on the food. Its just us on the day and I have a week off work. I am vegetarian but we used to always have a turkey, but the kids love chicken, so I think a roast chicken with festive trimmings. Then homemade cake. My cousin gave her son a 'big box of junk' (this is what he asked Santa for) for his main present last year and he adored it, so I'm already putting that together (think blue peter style toilet rolls, boxes etc with some glue, paint and scissors). Any other ideas for me? I am hoping to set up some nice new traditions.
- Christmas Day walk. We've always done this after lunch, my DM loves looking at all the Christmas lights on people's houses. Plus it's free and normally ends up being a laugh.
- Buy a new board game as a family present (can be second hand, much cheaper that way). My family always got a Christmas puzzle in too which I loved helping with but my DBs hated, appreciate that might be a bit twee for some!
- Find second hand copies of your favourite Christmas films from when you were young, then you can all have a snuggle up on the sofa and watch that at some point (could be something to do on one of your other days off to pad out the week, I do this all year round with DS as it's too pricey for me to go the cinema much so we turn the lounge into a cinema instead)
- Food wise, people always go waaaay overboard in my opinion and end up with far too much at Christmas. Make a plan for the food and stick to it. Also check a local butcher for meat, I was shocked to find ours was both cheaper and much better quality!
- Present wise I wouldn't worry too much. I don't remember much of what I got when I was younger, its the other things we did that stick out!
Board games are a great idea. Any suggestions? We have a few but they are all very educational and not hugely fun. I'm looking at our finances and hoping to keep it all within £200 (that's food, presents, cards, new clothes, any trip out to a puppet show, decorations everything). I think I can do it if we plan super carefully. We normally aim to spend £100 a week on food including any meals out/school lunches/ coffee/ ice creams etc, so it's basically twice our food budget.
How about making some homemade decorations with the kids? We always have a few craft afternoons and the kids love it. We make orange clove pomanders and dried orange slices, cover the kitchen windows with paper snowflake displays, decorate and cut out paper angels. Looking at the age gap between yours maybe salt dough or cinnamon dough decorations might be fun. The five year old would be fairly competent and it's a lovely sensory activity for the one year old. A roll of cheap brown paper ( Poundland) and some white paint can be transformed into wrapping paper with potato stamps, stencils or finger painting.
Baking together is a big part of Christmas too, even more so if you have a particular recipe that is only made at Christmas. Tiger have gingerbread house kits and you just need egg white and icing sugar and sweets to decorate. Even stirring the cake mix and making a wish adds a magical dimension to a job that has to be done anyway. You could also add charms to the cake like you'd find in a Halloween brack or a lucky sixpence.
A bar of chocolate melted and spooned into a Christmas themed silicone mold and covered with sprinkles is a very achievable project with a five year old. The one year old could shake the sprinkles on too! Wrapped in cellophane bags and tied with ribbon they are a lovely present and it's very satisfying for kids to give a gift they've made themselves. A mold is a great investment because it will get used year in year out and the messy bits snap off so even a toddler can achieve a very good result.
Homemade play dough can make a cheap and cheerful stocking filler. The cooked recipes give great results and depending on what you have in the cupboard you can add food colouring, glitter, essence for a nice smell, etc. Hide a smooth pebble or a plastic toy in the centre of each call of play dough for even more fun.
Going for a walk to gather pine cones is a great way to spend an afternoon and you can do all sorts with them: the small ones can be pushed into the bottom of pillar candles with the help of a hair drier, they can be arranged in a bowl with orange slices and cinnamon sticks, they can be dipped in glue and glitter and hung on the tree.
Mine all loved to be sent into the sitting room to make igloos out of the sofa cushions and when they were very little tearing up tissue paper and tossing it around to make snow kept them busy for an hour. They did it anyway and it was easier to embrace it than fight it. Lots of ordinary afternoon games can be given a Christmas dimension.
On Christmas Eve, after the pjs are on, wrap up in coats and hats and gloves and go outside to look at the stars and see if you can spot Santa. It's free and has kids love the incongruity of being outside in their pjs! Do you have a special Christmas Eve story to read in bed? A torch lit story under the duvet like Eskimos in an igloo can be very special with the added benefit of being warm, snuggly and sleep inducing.
For stocking fillers a small bag or box of smooth pebbles with pictures drawn on or painted on (or cut out and glued on with a couple of extra layers of pva glue) make "story stones" or a low cost alternative to the story cubes you can buy. The idea is that you spill them out randomly and use the pictures to make up a story.
Reading back over this it sounds like an awful lot but mostly it's just afternoon rainy day activities that you have to think up anyway, just given a Christmassy twist.
Some fab suggestions here, just a few free/cheap things to add which we do:
* Collect pine cones to turn into decorations (tonnes of ideas on pinterest).
* Use a large cardboard box (ask your local corner shop to keep you one if you don't have one handy) fill it with blown up balloons and stash any smaller presents inside. Wrap/decorate the box. Has the added bonus of becoming a fort/car/house etc afterwards.
* Simple homemade treasure hunt either indoors or outdoors (again Pinterest has loads of age appropriate ideas). Ours leads to their Christmas Eve box, but you could always have it leading to a craft activity or just have a prize at the end eg a chocolate santa.
* Christmas movie night and a carpet picnic. Just your normal tea but on the carpet and no need to buy a dvd if you don't want to, just time it around a Christmas movie on the tv.
* Christmas drive/walk to see the Christmas lights in the neighbourhood. You could also do a sort of i-spy game, first one to spot a santa, first one to see blue lights etc.
* Not sure where you do your food shop, but I can highly recommend Aldi or Lidl, our food shop (family of 4 plus DSS at weekends) used to be over £100/week at Tesco and it's literally halved since we switched to Aldi.
* Home bargains is fantastic for stocking fillers (especially stationery and crafty bits) as is poundland.
Aldi's chocolate is great quality. The chocolate reindeer are around a third of the price of Lindt ones.
We usually have a large chicken, it works out much cheaper (even free range) than turkey from our butcher and we get lots of leftover meat to do different meals with and some to freeze for another time.
I agree with PP who said plan your meals so that you don't go overboard with the food shopping.
Go for a nice walk in a forest if you have one near you,wrap up warm and take a flask of hot chocolate with you and collect some pine cones and some holly,we've done that every year for years now with our 5DC,my Mum and Dad used to do the same with me when I was growing up,we'd take home the bits we'd collected and me and my Mum would make some Christmas decorations and a Christmas display for the table,whilst my Dad made us hot tea and toast.
Those times are some of my best memories,my Mum used to get some craft spray and some oasis for us to use to make the table decorations.
You can pick the spray and things like oasis and a nice pot for a pound each now.
Make paper chains to be hung up for Christmas,you can usually buy sets of them in places like the works,pound shops and the card factory has them some times as well.They're usually only £1 a packet as well.
For stocking fillers try the works,pound shops and 99p shops,the card factory and hawkins bazzar,hawkins bazzar has quite a few pieces in there for under a pound.
Yes definitely go to places like poundland, the works for Stocking fillers, your dcs main presents are great.
Look at pinterest for ideas for crafts, loads of brilliant inspiration on there.
Days out ideas- cheap cinema? our Odeon does film showings for £2.50, then maybe lunch somewhere not too expensive.
Norad website on Xmas Eve to track Santa, my dc love this
I used to print out a few Chistmas themed colouring pages for their stockings. Rolled and tied with a bit of ribbon and a bit of down time on the big day.
Playdough with glitter was a tradition for quite a few years as well.
Loving the big box of junk, one of mine would have loved that.
Pinterest has loads of craft ideas. I;ve liked some of the fingerprint/footprint ones so we can see how they have grown each year. Footprint reindeers and some fingerprinted snowmen on baubles are two we've repeated lots.
Salt dough is another nice one, and again we bring out the decorations to hang on the tree for years. Just make sure they are stored in a dry place, and perhaps separate from the other decs. Remembering the year I took out a rather yucky solid block of decorations as they'd got wet at some point in the year. You can seal them with clear varnish, wish I;d thought of that earlier.
I thought of some more Thrifty, you could make homemade crackers as well(the sort you pull not the one's you have with cheese ) You can buy the kits with all of the bits in for a couple of pounds.
You could also make some salt dough and make decorations for the tree with your DC,if you have a look on pinterest I saw someone had spruced up a plain door wreath(a £1 one)with homemade salt dough decorations on it and it looked amazing
A thrifty but cute present idea I saw as well was the multi crayons you can make,you just need some old/broken crayons and a mold or a cookie cutter that can go in the oven
www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=make+your+own+shaped+crayons they would look great in a stocking along with the print out Christmas pages a PP suggested.
You could make some edible decorations for the tree,stain glass window biscuits always look good and can be made for pennies
You could make some popcorn and thread that on some string and hang that on the Christmas tree as well.
You could make some chocolates and peppermint creams with your DC and have them out as treats on Christmas Day and Boxing day.
Asda sell large bars of smartprice chocolate that tastes lovely and melts well,it's only 30p for a 100g bar.
Another good stocking filler you could buy one of the bars of chocolate,remove the white smartprice wrapper and print of a personalised wrapper and stick it on over the foil wrapper with a glue stick,there are tons of different themed wrappers you can print of for free online.
With the same type of chocolate and some cookie pieces,some berries and marshmallows you could do a chocolate fondue as a treat for pudding on Christmas day.
You could make up a cookie mix jar as a present as well
You can use an empty food/coffee jar you have at home soak it in warm soapy water for 30 minutes to soak the label of,you could then print of a label to stick on the jar or you could write out the name of the cookies and the cooking instructions onto a plain gift tag and tie it round the jar with a ribbon.
Libraries tend to have a lot of good Christmas books that you can borrow, and many also have dvds as well. Have a look in charity shops too for good options for a lot less money. We have a collection gathered over years, which we put away most of the year and take out in early December.
Christmas themed colouring pages and activity sheets are great for reusable advent calendars or just "things to do". There are some great cheap/free craft ideas on the web as well, DLTK and Activity Village are 2 good websites I tend to start out from, and homeschooling ones can be great too for educational sheets which are fun and use a theme.
Walks in woods to look at nature in winter and collect pine cones for crafts are great. Walks in the local area after dark to see houses lit up - or a drive with a flask of hot chocolate and the DCs in PJs!
Lots of councils and other organizations run free or very cheap events - it is not all about spending loads on "experiences". There is a "Live Crib" outside the Lord Mayor's House in our city, and a lot of Choirs come and sing there too, which makes it a great place to wander away from the main shopping street (and coffee shops are cheaper there, and a lot quieter at weekends, despite being only 3 minutes walk from the main shopping street - as it's a slightly more office district). Or just wander the streets to enjoy the lights and atmosphere rather than going into every shop and being pressured into buying loads.
Big box of "stuff" sounds great - maybe add some string, coloured paper or tissue paper, and some actual craft bits if that doesn't blow the budget (a pack of googly eyes, or pipecleaners, or lollipop sticks, or matchsticks etc). Just to help making it more imaginative.
Bottles of bubbles are great in winter - gets them outdoors and moving when the weather is dry but cold.
Board games are a great idea, and having a pack of cards too as there are soooo many things you can do with those.
For the food -
I don't tend to buy tins of biscuits, as we won't eat them, or would eat them all and expand our waistlines. Instead, we buy a few extra packets of biscuits we like (a mix), and open these for when we have visitors. We also probably spend the same or less as a tin of sweets/chocs, by buying a bag of orangettes from Leonidas, and eat far less as a result - they are a real treat for us!
I buy a few 6 packs of cans of coke/7up etc rather than 2l bottles - as we don't tend to drink it all before it goes flat and we drink less anyway when we are opening a can each time rather than the open bottle on the table. And if we don't drink it all at Christmas, it will save in cans for another time which bottles won't.
We actually don't get all that much extra food in over Christmas - yes cheese (we all love cheese), but not groaning fridges spilling out or larders threatening to spill packages everywhere when you open the door. Nice food for the few days, yes, but not gluttony.
I build up my stocks of breadcrumbs (for stuffing etc) from heels of bread in the weeks beforehand and freeze them. We make sure there is freezer space for any leftovers we will have, and only buy what we think we'll eat (that allows for leftovers we want - turkey sandwiches, a particular seasonal gratin dish, and a curry etc - but not so much that we need to throw out food).
Some fabulous ideas here! Haven't got many to add...
Keep an eye on facebook/gumtree or free cycle for games - people will be clearing ready for christmas! My dd's are 8 and 4 this year but popular ones we have accumulated over the years!
Elc magnetic fishing
Bugs in the kitchen
Who knows whose nose (when little)
Pop up pirate
Monkey madness (best game ever no educational value at all but has us in hysterics sliding about the floor trying to collect coconuts!)
You can get cheap (I'm guessing knock off) LEGO from eBay if you buy it from a Chinese seller. We did this for our wedding favours and it worked out at about 8p-50p per minifigure, depending on which one we got.
Cheap job lots of LEGO can be picked up there too as well as Gumtree, local facebook selling pages and Freecycle. Check Facebook to see if you have a local freebies site in your area. Our one let's you post the things you're looking for and if any one has anything they need to get rid of and see they'll donate it to you.
I bought some cheap (LEGO minifig… Not sure why this is all LEGO based btw) silicone ice cube trays from eBay for £1 and melted old crayons in to them to make shaped crayons. Perfect for stocking fillers. Check Pinterest or Google for directions.
You could give the kids each a Christmas Eve box before bed to help make everything feel a bit festive: inside there would be a new toothbrush, pjs, a festive storybook, a colouring book etc.
Another thing that might be fun is buying some cheap plates and getting the kids to decorate them with porcelain markers for you to all eat your Christmas dinner from. Make sure they're food safe though.
Poundland are selling DIY Christmas jumper kits full of craft stuff - you just need to add the jumper. If you wait until December Poundland tend to do 3-for-2 Christmas offers.
If your kids are green-fingered you could buy them some tomato seeds and stuff to plant them in. Some people say you should plant your tomato seeds on NYE for a good crop later in the year.
One year, for our family DIY secret santa (which is the biggest ballache in the world btw) I made my brother a Guess Who set using a Poundland version and printed out photos of all our friends and family.
If these are in anyway useful I'll add some more later.
Make biscuits in star shapes or any other christmas shapes you have. Make cheap icing with icing sugar and decorate with silver balls, sprinkles etc. Mine all loved this and were proud to have special biscuits to eat over festive period.
Christmas muffins? There are lots of recipes out there.
I have nothing to add but can I just say I love this thread, some of these ideas are so nice!
Wow! Just checked back and feeling really inspired. Thank you so much. The salt dough decorations, walk to find the decorations (we live by the beach so maybe we can go on a driftwood hunt), Christmas books from library, homemade Christmas jumpers - all are now on my list. Thank you all so much. Going to have a proper read tomorrow and plan out my days off.
If you are making your own Christmas jumpers, a friend who forgot the requirement for Christmas jumpers at a certain party 1 year made hers from a red jumper with cotton balls stuck on (glued) in a snowy scene with a snowman shape in the middle, and a small scrap of fabric for his scarf. Relatively simple to execute compared to other ideas (generally involved lots of sewing or knitting etc).
Another friend made hers into a light up jumper by using a battery operated set of mini lights and poking holes through the jumper, she held them in with cable ties rather than sewing the in place.
Don't over spend on food honestly it sits in cupboards for ages after Christmas and look at this way shops open boxing day and the Christmas food tends to go so cheap after just buy what you need for dinner a few tubs of sweets and cakes and some buffet you really don't need more
Near Christmas make the most of the free things like watching the lights switch on in town watching films at home do a Christmas movie night festive film festive snacks and relax with kids get the make your own festive biscuit packs cheap and enjoyable get online if you have a printer print off Christmas pics for little ones to colour and also paper chains are always a winner
gigglinghyena in thinking of doing salt dough decorations this weekend - I found some where the baby does her handprint, and my son can makes how own models. Have you done it before? Is it as easy as it seems?
And anyone know how long homemade play dough would last? I think that's a good one to make for the stockings we have lots of cookie cutters etc they can play with.
Thanks also ohtheholidays for the idea of making melted crayons into shapes with a silicone tray, I found one at the £shop shaped like airplanes.
Wilko does brilliant inexpensive crafts, gifts and their own brand Lego called blox which is compatible with proper Lego.
Posted too early, check gum tree, Facebook selling pages and ebay for cheap gift ideas. Have a look on the hot UK deals and money saving expert websites for deals, codes and discounts.
Sell old toys, books, household items in baby markets, car boot sales, gum tree, ebay etc to raise more cash towards your Christmas fund.
This idea will be useful for next Christmas but I have bought a money saving tin which you need a can opener to open and I am saving just £2 coins into it. This will be used specifically for birthdays, holidays and treats next year. You might want to get one now to start saving £2 coins for next Christmas.
Do you drive? We go for a drive to see the Christmas lights on people's houses, and to a local park to see the (rein)deer.
Yes the salt dough ornaments were pretty simple to make. Making sure the dough is not to wet/sticky is key.
The other thing was making sure they are really really dry before painting. You can stick them in the oven on a low heat overnight, but if it's too hot they puff up and/or burn so usually I just leave them out on the side till they are pretty much dry and them give them a quick run through the oven to make sure. If the kids use loads of paint I've been known to give them another run through the oven before hanging them on the tree.
I use a cooked recipe for the playdough, it lasts pretty well. A couple of months in a plastic tub in the fridge. Less if its played with a lot and drys out. You can certainly make it a week or two before the big day though.
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