Last updated: September 8, 2023
Are you planning a frugal Christmas this year?
Perhaps you’ve overspent at Christmas before and really don’t want to end up in any debt again this time around.
You might also just have a much stricter budget in general this year.
That’s a true fact of life for so many of us.
The cost of living is only increasing all the time, and everything seems to get more expensive year on year.
Planning a frugal Christmas is a great way to make sure you don’t overspend during the holidays.
There’s no need to end up financially worse off in the new year just because Christmas is looming again.
Plus, a frugal Christmas doesn’t have to mean a dull Christmas.
In fact quite the opposite.
Having a frugal holiday season can be really fun to plan, and you can still have a wonderful time as a family without getting caught up in any of the usual Christmas expense.
Below are lots of simple ways to make a big difference to your finances next festive period.
How do you have a frugal Christmas?
Below are several great ideas to help you have a frugal Christmas this year, and enjoy every minute of it too.
Write down your usual Christmas obligations
An honest appraisal of what you usually spend money on at Christmas is the first step towards ensuring you have a frugal Christmas time.
Spend some time brainstorming what you usually do at Christmas, and come up with a reasonable budget for how much you usually spend.
Take into consideration things like your traditional family outings or who will be hosting Christmas lunch.
Make sure you write down everyone you usually buy gifts for.
Take care to include all the Christmas extras like wrapping paper, drinks and snacks, parties and meals out, and Christmas décor.
Once you have your usual Christmas budget in front of you, follow all the steps below to eliminate the unnecessary.
Decide who to buy gifts for
If you have a large family, it’s easy for Christmas spending to get out of control.
You don’t need to spend a ton of money buying gifts for everyone.
If you’re considering a more frugal Christmas, consider only buying gifts for immediate family.
Another option is running a family Secret Santa using a service like Elfster.
This is also a great way to deal with gift obligations to friends and colleagues.
By taking part in Secret Santa, everyone only needs to buy a gift for one person, and not a whole group of people.
Generally you set a budget for each gift too and it doesn’t need to be a huge amount.
A frugal Christmas budget means deciding who you really need to buy a gift for and who you don’t.
Create a gift list and stick to it
Once you have your list of people you need to buy for, come up with a really nice gift for everyone on it.
If you have young children but a tight budget, come up with up to perhaps three perfect gifts per child.
With a short gift list, you will be able to focus on finding these gifts at the most affordable prices possible.
It also means you won’t overspend as you know exactly what you are buying as a gift.
Start buying gifts as early as possible
Spread the cost of buying Christmas gifts by picking them up throughout the year.
Keep an eye out for any sales that occur throughout the year, with your tailored gift list in mind.
Major sales to pay attention to are Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day when you can get some really good deals.
You can also browse through thrift stores, the dollar store, flea markets and at white elephant and yard sales.
When Christmas arrives, you won’t be worrying about spending a lot of money in one go as you’ve spread out your gift buying throughout the year.
It can also be a lot of fun to hunt down great deals.
Be smart when it comes to stocking stuffers
The best way to deal with stocking stuffer gifts when planning a frugal Christmas is to only buy essentials.
Giving essentials as stocking stuffers is such a good idea as it means you don’t need to spend as much throughout the year on these essentials.
You can buy a loved one’s favorite things that they will use or need at any time and not just at Christmas.
Frugal stocking stuffer ideas include:
- favorite drinks and snacks
- shower gel, deodorant and other essential toiletries
- pens and pencils
Source free gifts or make your own
Gift giving doesn’t have to cost money if you prepare in advance.
There are lots of ways you can find freebies to give as frugal Christmas gifts.
From upcycling to Freecycling to regifting, there are so many options for sourcing free gifts that you don’t have to spend money at all if you don’t want to.
These ideas are perfect for those whose budget can’t stretch to buying gifts:
Consider regifting any gift with purchase items you receive throughout the year.
Look out for free stuff being given away on your local Facebook page.
People really appreciate a homemade gift too, like jam, cookies and knitted items.
Here are some amazing DIY frugal Christmas gift ideas that people will love.
Increase your income
Supplementing your regular income with extra cash is a great way to prepare for Christmas, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
There are lots of ways to earn extra money throughout the year, from mystery shopping to being paid to test websites.
Doing small tasks like these regularly throughout the year can have a big impact when it comes to Christmas costs.
You should always make sure to check if you can get cashback on any of your online purchases too.
Imagine the difference it would make if the cost of Christmas was covered through a side hustle throughout the year.
Stock up on free Amazon gift cards
Shopping online is a great way to avoid those Christmas crowds and get great deals.
Amazon is always a great place to get Christmas gifts, especially when you can earn free Amazon gift cards in time for Christmas.
There are very varied ways of earning gift cards, from taking photos of signs in shop windows to downloading apps.
You can also earn free Amazon gift cards through cashback sites and survey sites.
You can do many of them in a short amount of time every day.
Saving up gift cards throughout the year to spend at Christmas means minimal impact on your bank balance.
Free gift cards that you earn can also be gifted to others at Christmas, making them one of the best frugal gifts.
Try to win your Christmas
Entering competitions and sweepstakes (also known as comping) is a hobby that is easy to do.
It’s free apart from the costs of a laptop or phone and an internet connection (which most people have already), and can be very lucrative with persistence.
To focus your efforts finding free competitions for things you want to win for Christmas, create a wishlist of items you would like for the festive season.
For example, gifts from your gift list, decorations and Christmas food.
You can fast-track your comping efforts by searching for those prizes on Google and social media.
Winning prizes is not guaranteed, but it’s easy to do at night while watching TV and you never know what you might win.
Get discounted or free food for Christmas
Stocking up on food throughout the year is a great way to save on food shopping at Christmas.
Keep an eye out for discounts and deals at the grocery store, and put food items aside for the festive season.
You can stockpile longlife and non-perishable items for Christmas.
There are also a number of phone apps you can download to look out for discounts on certain food items, or even get them for free.
Additionally, you can get cashback on food and drinks through some apps.
You take advantage of the offers the app has at that moment, buy the item and then claim cashback for it.
There are also easy ways to grow your own food for Christmas dinner.
Potatoes are an easy crop to grow and can be very productive, as well as Brussels sprouts and carrots.
If money is really tight at Christmas and you need some extra help to get food, your local food bank can help you.
There is an amazing Christmas tradition now called the reverse advent calendar where people put aside food at Christmas to donate to those in need.
Utilize your loyalty points
Supermarket loyalty cards are a great method to help you cope with the extra cost of Christmas.
You can save up your loyalty points from your regular food shopping and use these at Christmas to buy both food and gifts.
There are other loyalty cards too that earn you points when spending, such as the Boots Advantage Card.
It’s possible to earn quite a lot of loyalty points throughout the year while buying essentials.
Make sure to capitalize on this by signing up to every loyalty card program for your regular stores.
You can have a very frugal Christmas by spending these points on your festive food and gifts.
Save money on Christmas decorations
Christmas decor trends don’t really change much from year to year, so you don’t need to buy new decorations every year.
Reuse your decorations every year.
If you don’t have any or yours are damaged or just too old to use, you can always find beautiful Christmas decorations in thrift stores as the festive season approaches.
It’s not necessary to buy brand new decorations.
A great frugal Christmas tip is to make your own decorations too.
You can source natural materials like pine cones and holly to create wreaths and garlands which are both pretty and fragrant too.
Don’t send Christmas cards
A great frugal Christmas tip is to stop sending Christmas cards every year.
Not only do you have to buy the cards but also the stamps.
The price of stamps increases every year and you can end up spending a lot of money at Christmas if you have a lot of cards to send.
Instead, consider sending e-cards instead.
There are some great free Christmas e-cards around and you can choose funny ones as well as more traditional styles.
As an extra bonus this is also much better for the environment.
Stay at home this Christmas
The cost of travel is often a huge Christmas expense.
Gas prices are on the up and if you want to have a truly frugal Xmas then try to stay at home this year.
You won’t have to buy gifts for extended family members or feel obliged to spend more than you want to on Christmas entertainment and activities.
There are lots of benefits to staying home at Christmas in addition to saving money.
It’s a lot less stressful, less exhausting and you can really embrace decorating and enjoying your own home and family traditions. Plus, simple things can often be the best and the ones we are most grateful for. Check out this A to Z gratitude list for ways to practice gratitude for what you already have.
Find budget Christmas outfits
If you love to dress up at Christmas you can do it without breaking your holiday budget.
Thrift stores and charity shops are excellent places to find affordable clothes for Christmas.
There are always Christmas jumpers for sale in the lead up to Christmas too.
Some of these can be very expensive, so look in secondhand stores for jumpers that have probably been worn once (if at all).
Remember Christmas is not all about the gifts
A wonderful way to enjoy a really frugal Christmas is to focus on your traditions and activities instead.
The Christmas holiday is the perfect time to make memories and magic with your loved ones.
If you think back to when you were a child at Christmas, you might find that the best memories you have are about the magic of Christmas.
You can create this magical feeling for your family in lots of ways that don’t involve spending huge amounts of money on gifts and days out.
Spending time with your family does not have to cost money.
Find free Christmas activities to do
There are plenty of free Christmas activities you can plan or take part in.
Some great ideas for free things to do at Christmas are:
- watching Christmas movies together
- taking a holiday lights tour in your neighborhood
- having a board game night
- set up a Christmas scavenger hunt
- do some fun Christmas crafting
- bake Christmas cookies
- use a free Santa tracker app
You can also do a google search to look for local free Christmas activities in your area.
Make a DIY advent calendar
Advent calendars are a really fun way to count down to Christmas, but they can be extremely expensive to buy.
A great frugal Christmas idea is to make your own advent calendar this year.
Fill it with small items that either cost nothing or a very small amount of money.
Check out this guide for how to make a DIY advent calendar and what to put in it.
Make your own Starbucks holiday drinks
Each Christmas season sees the return of the super popular Starbucks holiday drinks.
From a gingerbread latte to a peppermint mocha, we get bombarded with images of these delicious beverages on social media.
If you’re planning a frugal Christmas, expensive coffees are Christmas expenses you just don’t need.
The good news is that you can make affordable versions of the most popular Starbucks holiday drinks at home.
Get a cheap Christmas tree
If you love a real Christmas tree each year then you can find inexpensive ones in your area that fit in with your Christmas budget.
The best places to look for affordable Christmas trees are often supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl.
A little research of your local area will help you to track down the best deal on a real tree.
If you love artificial trees, often a really good time to buy a cheap one is during the January sales.
They are usually heavily discounted along with Christmas decorations.
Of course, using the same artificial tree and decorations year after year is a great way to be frugal at Christmas.
Reuse wrapping paper or skip it altogether
Reusing old wrapping paper might seem a little miserly but it’s a really good frugal Christmas idea.
It’s also much better for the environment to reuse old wrapping paper.
Unfortunately things like glitter, tape and ribbon make some wrapping paper non-recyclable.
Just be extra careful when opening gifts to keep it in the best condition possible to wrap another gift with.
You can also decorate boxes, wrap gifts in cloth or just skip the wrapping paper completely.
Don’t give in to peer pressure at Christmas
It’s easy to be influenced by what other families or even social media personalities are doing at Christmas.
There are lots of social pressures to spend at Christmas, whether that be on the best gifts or expensive trips and food.
Often people are putting these expenses on a credit card to be able to buy them anyway.
A frugal Christmas is all about coming up with free yet fun ideas to enjoy Christmas and tracking down inexpensive Christmas gifts.
Don’t allow what your best friends or neighbors are doing to sidetrack you from your goals this year.
Create frugal Christmas traditions with your family
Every family has their own traditions at Christmas, and these are often passed down through generations.
It’s never too late to start creating new traditions and in particular, frugal ones.
Some great Christmas traditions that involve little or no money include:
- decorating the tree and house together
- having a hot chocolate party
- writing letters to Santa
- volunteering for those in need
- reading some great books together on Christmas Eve
- cook Christmas dinner together
- gift your baked goods to neighbors
- playing your family Christmas playlist
- exchange one gift on Christmas Eve
- bake cookies for Santa and his reindeer
- go Christmas carolling
Always stick to your budget
If you overspent the previous year, make a determined effort to stick to your Christmas budget this year.
There are lots of temptations at Christmas to buy new things and pay out for gifts and experiences.
But with the right amount of planning and determination, your Christmas celebrations can be amazing without you spending much money at all.
Stick to your budget and you will be so proud of yourself once Christmas has passed.
Start a savings plan
It’s always a great idea to start saving for Christmas in advance.
Starting to put money aside now means you avoid that huge hit to your bank balance when Christmas rolls around.
After all, ordinary life still goes on throughout December, and we still have bills to pay and food to buy.
If all your Christmas shopping expenses can come from your allotted Christmas budget that you save throughout the year, you won’t notice your finances taking a hit in December.
Saving a little here and there plus banking loyalty points from your regular spending throughout the year is one of the best things you can do.
These frugal Christmas ideas will ensure you have a very merry Christmas without going in to debt for it.
More ways to have Christmas on a budget
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