Research in the UK has revealed that more and more people are cutting the cost of Christmas this year as we all continue to try to tighten the purse strings and ensure that we can afford to pay for the essential things like heating bills.
A report by the UK charity, Family Action, “Cut Price Christmas” has suggested that the cost of such a Christmas for a family of four is £182. However research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation calculated that to achieve a socially acceptable Christmas a family of four would need to spend £505*.
At a time of rising bills and food costs, this seems like a terribly frivolous amount to spend. I know that my boyfriend and I have already agreed to only buy one small present for each other this year and to save our money for more important things. I am sure that pacts like this have been made up and down the country over the past month or so. Indeed, new research conducted by American Express found that UK consumers were intending to employ new strategies this Christmas in order to keep costs low*. Tactics include ‘Secret Santa’ systems, agreeing a limit to spend on gifts and requesting specific gifts. Despite that consumers are still predicted to spend more on gifts this Christmas compared to previous years.
So I thought it might be that time of year to put together my top tips for a frugal, yet stylish, Christmas**:
- I always go a little overboard when it comes to Christmas cards as I know how much I love to receive them and put them up all around our flat but the cards themselves and the postage costs can all get pretty expensive. So for more distant friends, rather than send paper cards by post, why not send e-cards?
- If you’re like me though and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without writing out your Christmas card list and sitting down to write them, then why not make a few for close friends and family? Glitter glue makes everything look festive – I think!
- Shop the sales – I don’t mean the January sales (really, who is that organised?!) but most stores seem to have sales on throughout the year and many shops are currently holding special sale days in the lead up to Christmas. For stocking fillers and “extras” I check the sale racks, particularly the jewellery and accessory parts as these often offer the best value for money and no one can resist a lovely scarf or a pair of sparkly earrings at Christmas.
- A bottle of something bubbly. For parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts/employers this seems like a perfectly acceptable gift. Many places offer discounts when bulk buying, so you could easily get half a dozen bottles and have six relatives sorted with one buy.
- On a similar note, you could buy a girlfriend a cocktail glass and mini versions of the components for her favourite cocktail.
- A few years ago, one of my girlfriends bought some champagne flutes and painted them for each of her friends. These are truly beautiful and thoughtful gifts.
- Take one biscuit jar or cake tin. Fill with the ingredients for cookies or muffins or whatever and include a copy of the recipe.
- Buy a lovely mug (John Lewis has a good collection of Christmas mugs) and fill with hot chocolate sachets, marshmallows and a milk frother. Or for a tea lover, fill with speciality teas and a strainer.
- Personalised cookies. Many stores do sets of Christmas cookies cutters, you can then ice them with friends’ names. You can even put a whole in the top (before putting them in the oven) and add some ribbon so that they can hang on a tree.
- A hamper. This can be made up of food and/or drink but doesn’t need to be. How about a Pamper Hamper? Bubble bath, bath pillow, body lotion, candles, book and a bottle of wine. Or a ‘girls’ night in’ hamper? DVD, candles, nail polish, face mask, toe separators and a bottle of bubbly. An old shoe box can easily be covered in some Christmas paper and be used as the hamper.
- Learn to knit – obviously this is probably something that you’d have to start for next Christmas but just think of the joy of giving someone a scarf that you have made yourself.
- If knitting’s not you’re thing but you are a bit of a whizz on the sewing machine, you could make presents for friends, anything from a stocking to put the presents in, to tree decorations, or even a skirt.
- Candles. Are cheap, particularly tea lights and a lovely holder doesn’t have to be very expensive either. You could pick up a few plain tea light holders and a box of Christmas scented candles and split between friends and family for a festive treat.
- If, like many I know, myself included, you collect Boots Advantage Card Point, Nectar Points and/or Tesco Clubcard Points, remember these at Christmas and use them to purchase gifts. With the help of these points you might even be able to splurge on something special for someone that you might not have otherwise bought. Alternatively, use the points for your everyday spending needs and save the money you’d normally spend on these for presents.
- Make sure to sign up to the various discount voucher sites out there and check their offers each day, two of the best are vouchercodes.co.uk and Money Saving Expert.
- Framed photographs. Grandparents always appreciate photographs of their grandchildren. Or how about a series of photos of somewhere special.
- Host a Christmas party for close friends, heat up a bottle of mulled wine and bake special Christmas treats – often the effort that is put in to such a party will suffice for a gift. This year I actually plan to attempt to make my mince pies – with a little help from a jar of mincemeat and some ready-made pastry!
- When it comes to decorations, it is always nice to have new but we all have last years decorations, so instead of buying all new again, use them and just buy one or two new decorations to add to the tree this year. Marks and Spencer is a great place to get lovely individual decorations and they are always 3 for 2 at this time of year. In addition, tree decorations also make lovely (and reasonably cheap) Christmas gifts.
- Lots of Christmas parties to attend and nothing to wear? Why not recycle something from your wardrobe and make it feel new by picking up a pair of sparkly earrings or bling cocktail ring in the sales? Adding new accessories to an old dress is a great and cheap way to update it.
What are your tips for a frugal, yet stylish, Christmas?
If you would like to do your bit for families not quite so fortunate as yourself this Christmas, you can find out how you can take part in Family Action’s 12 Days of Christmas campaign.
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