Let’s face it: Christmas is mostly fantastic. Great food, heartwarming television, and the company of good friends (and tolerable relatives!) are enough to make the season a jolly one. But there’s one component of Christmas that’s always unwelcome – the bill.
Unless you have a strong idea of what you’re in for, it’s easy to get carried away and spend beyond your means. That is, if you don’t have the benefit of our incredible guide to how to have Christmas on a budget! We’ll go through all of the components of a great celebration that doesn’t cost too much. Do it right, and your guests won’t even know the difference. Let’s get started!
How to Christmas Shop on a Budget
If we were to distill our Christmas budget advice down to a single word, it would be ‘planning’. Head out without an idea of what you need, and you’re likely to buy impulsively. And those impulse purchases will likely be things that you don’t really need. Good for the retailers; not so much for your wallet.
A different approach is called for. Write down the amount you’d like to spend, all-in-all. This will allow you to keep track of when you’re straying over budget – but it’ll also give you a baseline that you’ll be able to refer to the following year.
Divide your planned spending into several categories. These might be food shopping, presents, decorations, alcohol, or anything else you might be planning. You might think that food shopping is something you’d have done anyway – and it’s difficult to distinguish between a ‘luxury’ food item and a staple one. A gigantic turkey, for example, certainly qualifies as something you wouldn’t have bought at any other time of year; the bread into which you stuff the leftover turkey on Boxing Day doesn’t.
Once you’ve come up with rough categories, you can start sub-dividing into the actual items you’re going to be buying. For presents, allocate each person on your list a budget and stick to it. You can still be impulsive if you see something that your cousin/best friend/mum would appreciate, but you’ll need to make up the ground elsewhere. Note that the numbers you come up with are maximums, not targets: feel free, therefore, to spend a tenner when you’ve budgeted twenty. Christmas shopping on a tight budget is easy this way!
Christmas on a Budget Gift Ideas
One of the biggest expenses of the season comes from buying gifts for all your friends and relatives. Consequently, if you’re shopping for awesome Christmas gifts on a budget, you’ll want to prioritise: spend money on people you’ll see on the day, then worry about the people you won’t. If you’re so inclined, you can arrange with your friends that you aren’t going to buy one another Christmas presents this year. If they’re facing the same money worries, they might not take much persuasion.
What to Get Mum and Dad on a Budget
Deciding what to get mum for Christmas on a budget can be difficult, particularly if she’s given no indication of what she’d like. Edible gifts might work well – just get her a slightly posher version of her everyday favourites. If she’s a big tea drinker, a pot of the high-quality loose-leaf stuff is almost certain to please. If she likes chocolate, then get her a gift set from one of the fancier high-street chocolatiers – just remember, you’re on a budget.
If you’re considering what to get Dad for Christmas on a budget, then consider his hobbies. You don’t have the knowledge (or the funds) to help support his passion for golf, carpentry or remote-controlled-surveillance-drones, but you can get him some humorous crockery, or a funny book in tribute to his passion.
What to Get Significant Others on a Budget
If you’re unsure what to get your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife this Christmas, then you just need to open your eyes a little. If you’re cohabiting, you’ll have a chance to observe their behaviour. If he’s growing a beard, then get him a grooming kit. Similarly, if she’s looking to take up walking in the New Year, then a pair of cosy boots will surely be appreciated. Think about what they’re into, and what they don’t have yet!
What to Get for Children on a Budget
Shopping for Christmas gifts for children requires that you have an idea of what they need and what they like. The best approach is to ask the parents. If they’re a fan of a particular television or film character, then a small toy based on that character or a pair of slippers featuring their icons is almost guaranteed to please. For little girls, JoJo bows are a favourite at the moment too.
Making Christmas Gifts on a Budget
If you’re creatively inclined, you might consider making your Christmas gifts. You can find tutorials for making pretty much anything on the internet nowadays, so why not bake some Christmas cookies for your grandma, knit a lovely scarf for your dad, or whip up a homemade sugar scrub for your best friend?
Naturally, there are some gifts that’ll always be appreciated. You can never really have too many pairs of slippers – and so a new, comfy set will be just what’s required on a chilly Christmas Day. The same goes for fluffy socks, really.
Christmas Activities on a Budget
The best things in life are free, or so the saying goes. If you’ve got a board game or two lying around, this is an excellent time to break them out. Classics like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit have an advantage in that everyone already understands the basic rules (even if you do find yourself reading the ‘property auction’ section of the monopoly rules to an incredulous uncle around two turns into the game).
The cheapest games, of course, are those that don’t require any devices at all (beyond, perhaps, the timer that everyone has on their mobile phone.)
The obvious classic. Some hard ‘house rules’ against picking obscure French arthouse films that no-one has heard of are in order. You’ll also want a time limit of some sort to prevent things getting out of hand. The most infuriating suggestions are often those that everyone knows, but whose titles contain abstract words that can’t easily be acted out. “Wuthering Heights”, “The Dark Knight” and “Oklahoma” are all in the right ballpark.
The premise of this game is quite simple and well-known – every player has a name written on a post-it note stuck to their forehead, and they have twenty (yes or no) questions to guess who it is. Again, don’t pick anything too obscure.
Of course, there are myriad games to play if you’ve got a deck of cards handy. Among the best for large groups is ‘liar’, in which players take turns to put cards (of the same number) into the middle, either matching the previous player or going one higher or lower. Of course, you’re free to lie about the cards you’re surrendering, but if someone calls you out on it by shouting ‘liar’ (or something a little less temperate), you’ll then have to pick up the whole lot. Conversely, if someone mistakenly accuses another player of lying, then they have to pick up. Play until someone has gotten rid of their entire hand.
Christmas Dinner on a Budget
So, how to host Christmas on a budget? If you’re feeding the whole family, then you’ll want to give them the best you possibly can – particularly if you’re entertaining in-laws who live in a palace! But at the same time, Christmas food shopping on a tight budget is a bit of a minefield.
Before we run through some ideas for Christmas cooking on a budget, here’s an easy principle to remember: just because the packaging looks fancy doesn’t mean that the food inside is any tastier than the ordinary stuff. In fact, many supermarkets will literally just plonk the regular stuff in the fancier-looking packaging. After all, most Christmas shoppers lack the time to check these things (and, frankly, would prefer not to know).
A second thing to consider is that some items are indispensable, while others are not. Get the best turkey you can afford, and some suitable potatoes. Maris Piper and King Edward varieties will provide the required fluffiness in the oven. Vegetables like sprouts, carrots and parsnips are all cheap as can be anyway, so there’s no need to skimp on them.
The more extravagant trimmings can be cut down or dispensed with entirely. While strips of bacon might provide a dose of salty goodness, they are something of a luxury. Go for one or two pigs in blankets per person, at most. They will be gobbled down sharpish and there won’t be any leftovers.
While pre-packaged stuffing, gravy and cranberry and bread sauce can save you a little time, you’ll spend more if you go for all of them. Get that stuffing made yourself the day before, and make the gravy using all the juices that are inevitably going to flow from the bottom of the bird as it roasts (and, if you’re especially well-prepared, a home-made stock).
When it comes to the turkey, consider exactly how much you’re getting for your money. If the bird will provide eighteen servings, then it’ll be easier to justify spending twenty or thirty pounds on it. Even if you aren’t entertaining quite so many people, you’ll get leftovers enough to last you right up to New Year. Turkey is versatile and will work fantastic in a sandwich, a curry, or simply served cold.
You needn’t have a sub-par celebration just because funds are a little on the tight side. By budgeting carefully and avoiding impulsive spending, you’ll be able to save a packet. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy a joyous festive season without having to contend with a nasty hangover in January.