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How to have a brilliant Christmas on a budget

There's no need to spend a fortune on the festivities. Avoid the January bank-balance blues with savvy shoppers' top tips for enjoying Christmas on a budget.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Dec 20, 2023

Christmas on a budget

7 ways to save on your Christmas spend

1. Plan ahead

It may seem obvious, but the sooner you start prepping, the less stressful December will be. Sort out everything you need to do before the big day, and break it down into manageable chunks that can fit in with your other commitments.

This goes for budgeting too, whether that’s creating a virtual savings pot or joining a Christmas savings club. If you're a fan of making lists or spreadsheets, this is your moment – just don't forget to stick to them.

"Write a list of everyone you need to buy presents for and set price limits – then purchase things online, using offer sites and discount codes. That way, you can stay within your budget but it looks as if you have spent much more."

2. Be crafty when decking the halls

Decorations don't have to cost a fortune. Homemade baubles or salt dough ornaments can add a lovely retro glow, and little ones will get a thrill from contributing to the Christmas tree.

The same goes for Christmas cards and wrapping paper. Relatives are often touched by a bit of homemade sparkle. So gather together your craft supplies or get handy with the potato printing – festive craft sessions are great for building excitement in the run-up to the big day.

DIY decoration ideas

Watch our video below for three easy and inexpensive ideas that can add a personal touch to your tree or home. The kids can even help (with proper supervision, of course).

"Last year I filled glass jars with LED lights to make the house look more festive."

"Make star biscuits with the kids and ice them – use these to help to decorate the tree. Make paper chains to help trim the room, and make tin foil 'snowflakes' to put up in the windows."

3. Drop the big shop

It's easy to get caught up in the supermarket frenzy, but your wallet will thank you if you tough it out and buy only what you need. Stock up on non-perishables like canned and frozen goods a little at a time in the run-up to December. This way, you'll spread the cost over a period of weeks, and avoid having to do one frantic Christmas mega shop – it's a win-win situation.

"Have chicken instead of turkey – it's much cheaper. Plan the meals that you will be having over the Christmas period, so that you can just buy the items that you need."

"Aldi and Lidl are the way to go for Christmas dinner on a budget. You can buy a little bit each week, or start putting a bit of money aside now and do a big shop later."

4. Trade materialism for memories

Christmas treats like a visit to Santa or a trip to the panto are magical for children, but may still not be on the agenda this year. Instead, look for safe activities that require little planning. Don't discount the excitement value of activities like tree decorating, or a wintry walk followed by a hot chocolate (add whipped cream or marshmallows for an enhanced treat factor).

Make a list of all the things you can do for free or next to nothing: play Christmas songs, admire Christmas decorations. These are the bits that children remember, not the mass of expensive and unnecessary toys.

Arrange other activities for Christmas Day, so that it's not all just about opening and then playing with presents. It means that if you aren't buying them that much, they quite likely won't notice.

Related: The best stocking fillers for kids

5. It really is the thought that counts

If you're watching your budget, set price limits, shop around, and don't be afraid to suggest a Secret Santa to friends and family. They might just find it a blessed relief. And don't underestimate the value of a homemade gift, be it edible or wearable. If you're a keen cook or know how to knit, put your skills to good use and save a bit of cash whilst you're at it.

6. Opt for DIY Christmas gifts

Get inspired with three of Mumsnet's favourite homemade Christmas gift ideas.

"For gifts, forget about what others are doing. Think of the receiver, what they like and need, and try to find something with THEM in mind. So even if it's small, it's personal."

"Buy decent 'family' presents instead of separate ones. Getting joint family gifts is great, and you can have a bit of togetherness using them too."

"Wrap up a whole bunch of random stuff – some good and some a bit odd. Everyone takes a turn throwing the dice. If you get a six you choose a parcel. If you get a one you can steal someone else’s parcel. Keep going until all parcels are gone. Then unwrap and see what weird stuff you were fighting over!"

Related: The very best DIY Christmas gifts

7. Keep warm and cosy with layers and wool

Fuel bills tend to skyrocket as the temperature plummets, which can be a source of stress for many at this time of year. Layering up with jumpers, socks and thick thermals is a good place to start (and easier on the environment), and blocking draughts will also combat the winter chill. Watch out for condensation though – you'll need some ventilation to avoid it.

"Layers and some of those cheap fleece blankets that are really warm and can go over duvets/bed covers. Hot water bottles are also great."

"We snuggle under layers of blanket to watch telly. The children love to pretend they are going camping indoors draping blankets around, wrapping up and singing campfire songs on my lap in our 'tent.'"

Related: The best winter coats for keeping cosy this winter

8. Shop smarter

Voucher codes and flash-sale sites can be a lifesaver at Christmas, so keep your eyes peeled, and be sure to check out Mumsnet Discounts regularly for our exclusive partner offers. Christmas savings clubs will also help you to make the most of your budget.

Mumsnetters also love to share the bargains they find in the Christmas forums, sharing the best online deals. If you've got some time on your hands, don't be afraid to ask for freebies if you're buying big-ticket items – lots of retailers work on commission so the chances are they'll be keen to make a sale. Pre-December, it's also worth checking out the deals on Black Friday (26 November 2021).

"You can also get some excellent second-hand toys for smaller DC. My sons both had stockings last year and each cost £20 tops."

"I'm getting as much on eBay as possible this year. Pre-loved is definitely the way forward."

Budget Christmas buys: all under £10

Best stocking filler for adults: Wallet Ninja

For the last couple of years, Mumsnet users have been raving about the Wallet Ninja. It's a neat card-sized gadget that serves as a screwdriver, a ruler and, most importantly, a bottle opener all in one. A stocking filler that will actually get used? How novel.

"Fantastic little gadget - would recommend."

Buy now from Amazon

Best value toy: Blume doll

Blume dolls do seem to have it all – just add water and they 'blume' right out of their pots (surprise reveal, check). This pot also serves as their home with little compartments for the included accessories, as well as a sticker book. Even if you don't quite 'get' it, your child will love it.

"I think Blume dolls will be popular."

Buy now from Amazon

Best value gift for teens: Ecoffee Cup

If you need a gift for a teen who is eco-conscious, a reusable coffee cup is a must. Not only will it reduce their use of non-recyclable paper cups, it will also save them a bit of cash on takeaway coffee from chains who offer a discount when you bring your own cup. The Ecoffee version comes tried and tested by Mumsnet users and also comes in a wide range of lovely patterns – from bright geometric numbers to William Morris florals – making it perfect present material.

"Light, easy to clean and very pretty."

Buy now from Amazon

Best value family gift: Monopoly Deal

Fancy a Christmas day game of Monopoly that doesn't result in hours of drama? It might be an idea to try Monopoly Deal – a fast-paced, portable version of the classic family board game. A great stocking filler that also serves as easy, cheap entertainment during the day.

"It's Monopoly but only takes about 20 minutes per game rather than hours!"

Buy now from Amazon

Best value Christmas jumper: Unisex Christmas Jumper

A Christmas jumper can be a lovely addition to any winter wardrobe, and it definitely doesn't need to break the bank. What's more, these reindeer-snowflake patterned jumpers are suitably subtle enough that it would certainly be acceptable to wear one throughout winter, not just for Christmas. Win.

"It's compulsory to wear a Christmas jumper in our house"

Buy now from Amazon

Prices correct at time of publication. Mumsnet carries some affiliate marketing links, so if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale (more details here).