How to have a brilliant Christmas on a budget

Family Christmas crafting on a budget

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

Looking to buy Christmas gifts on a budget? Check out our top five best value buys, all under £10

7 ways to save on your Christmas spend

1. Plan ahead

Christmas prep

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. 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.

Get started and download our printable Christmas checklist

2. Be crafty when decking the halls

Christmas decorating

Decorations don't have to cost a fortune – the pound shop really is your friend here. Homemade decs can add a lovely retro glow, too, and little ones will get a thrill from contributing to the tree or a bit of wall-space.

The same goes for Christmas cards and wrapping paper: relatives are often genuinely 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 (from the pound shop) 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

Christmas dinner

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 – you'll spread the cost over a period of weeks or even months, and avoid having to do one frantic Christmas megashop – it's a win-win.

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

Boy drinking hot chocolate

Christmas treats like a visit to Santa or a trip to the panto are magical for children, and there are often cheaper alternatives to the shopping centres and big-name productions. Look for local community events that are often a fraction of the price, and don't discount the excitement value of activities like tree decorating, or a wintery walk followed by a hot chocolate (add whipped cream or marshmallows for enhanced treat-factor).

Make a list of all the things you can do for free or next to nothing: play Christmas songs, go to a carol concert, listen to the lovely brass bands in shopping centres, admire city centre decorations. These are the bits 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. We like to go to the beach. It means that if you aren't buying them that much, they quite likely won't notice.

5. It really is the thought that counts

Christmas gifts

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 find it a blessed relief. 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!

7. Keep warm and cosy with layers and wool

Warm feet in socks

Fuel bills tend to skyrocket as the temperature plummets, and so can be a source of stress for many at this time of year. Layering up with jumpers, socks and thick thermals is a good 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. Check out our heating hacks for more tips on keeping cosy this Christmas.

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: Keep your feet super-toasty this winter – with sheepskin insoles that you can put in boots or slippers: buy now from Amazon

8. Shop smarter

Woman buying presents on laptop

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. Mumsnetters also love to share the bargains they find in the Christmas threads over in Talk, sharing the best deals online and on the high street. If you've got some time on your hands, scope out your local charity shops, and 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 (29 November 2019).

Check charity shops for presents. You can get new-in-packet ones, but you can also get some excellent second-hand toys for smaller DC. My sons both had stockings pretty much entirely from the charity shop 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.

Related: Get 10% off Thorntons goodies this Christmas using a Mumsnet code

Budget Christmas buys: all under £10

Best stocking filler for adults: Wallet Ninja, £4.99

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, £8 (was £9.99)

One of the 'top 12' Christmas toys this year, 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 probably love it.

"I think Blume dolls will be popular"

Buy now from Amazon

Best value gift for teens: Ecoffee cup, from £8.70 (was £9.95)

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, £3.97 (was £4.49)

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 board game. A great stocking filler that also serves as easy, cheap entertainment during the day.

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

Buy now from Amazon

Best value Christmas jumper: Amazon, £9.49

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

Want more Xmas tips? Head to our Christmas hub for hosting hacks and gift guides galore