How to Keep Christmas Cheap

How to keep Christmas cheap

It’s only a month ’til Christmas… time to get scared and start panicking about those presents you haven’t bought yet! Or rather, time to think about how to keep Christmas cheap. Of course, you could always be a complete idiot and read the Guardian – as ermine says, if you follow their advice, you certainly won’t be doing anything on the cheap! But please don’t do that…

Here are 5 useful and frugal tips on cutting down the cost of Christmas:

  1. Don’t buy presents for every man and his dog. If you want to buy presents for people, really think about what they’re into or what they might need right now, and buy something meaningful to them i.e. not what YOU would want. Giving gifts is one of the five main ways of showing love to people – and it’s a wonderful thing (incidentally the other four main ways of showing love are ‘quality time’, ‘acts of service/helpfulness’, ‘physical love’, and ‘loving/encouraging/reassuring words’); but gift giving is not wonderful when it’s self-centred or operates under pride e.g. how much money you spent on someone’s present is irrelevant;
  2. On that note, set a spending limit for each person’s present. We typically buy presents between £5 and £15. Christmas is not about expensive gifts, it’s about the peace, joy, and abundance we can have through the message and works of Christ. Or for you pagans out there, it’s about celebrating the lengthening days post-Winter solstice – light is growing day-by-day and probably some other nature-y stuff that I don’t really know about;
  3. Christmas and pretty much every celebration often has a strong element of nice food. There is nothing wrong with this – it should be enjoyable, it’s a holiday! But you’re not going to feel great afterwards if you’ve stuffed yourself silly with chocolate and way too much turkey, in fact you’ll probably just make yourself feel a bit sick. So don’t go crazy! Get food that is good, special, but not in outrageous quantities. Christmas dinner itself doesn’t have to be that expensive – you could buy a large turkey for £30, or you could feed 6 people a 5 course Christmas dinner for under £30 – thank you Delia Smith! Or if you really want to be frugal on the food front, check out our beloved Thrifty Lesley’s Christmas meal plans (2013 plan, 2014 plan) – remember, we cut our grocery bill by more than half using her website;
  4. If you have kids, please please don’t go crazy buying them tons of presents. They probably have too many toys already anyway. Our son, who was 1 at the last Christmas time, went crazy with excitement over all the toys he got – despite us telling everyone not to buy him anything… I guess we could have spread out the Christmas presents over time, and with hindsight I really wish we’d done that… although we didn’t really know how he would react and if he’d understand anything anyway – clearly it didn’t matter because he still went crazy even at that very young age;
  5. Spreading out the cost of Christmas over time is also a pretty useful way of preparing and keeping costs under control – but please don’t do what the Guardian article said and stick everything on a credit card, even if it’s a 0% interest one. It’s always better to prepare and plan in advance – decide in advance how much you want to spend on food, gifts, and other entertainments. That way, you’re more likely to stick to a reasonable spending limit, instead of thinking: ‘oh I’ll just buy this as well, it’s 0% interest, so it doesn’t matter’. Do this instead – from January, divide your pre-determined Christmas spending limit into 12, and save that amount every month. You could also do this for birthday gifts which you buy throughout the year, which is what we do.

Do you have any tips for how to keep Christmas cheap? Let me know, leave a comment below!

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  1. Ah the point 5 the infamous Guardian article I was raging about it on Facebook for good few hours when I read about it on Simple Living .

    We have very similar rules on Christmas to your set we tend to spread the cost of presents over the year and buying about 80% of presents for all uncles and aunties on boxing day where for a price of under £5 you can get really good items for next year presents. The same with all Holiday cards being on sale. We have spend about £300 this year on Christmas throughout the year and only that much because we are at child bearing age and nearly every sibling has one or 2 kids running around past few years. On my side of family we have a rule of no gifts for adults.

    As for presents for our self she is getting amazon vouchers for her books on kindle, my better half would consume 30 books a month if she could afford them. I am getting some exercise equipment so stuff we would get anyway.

    1. Hey t5log, welcome to There’s Value!

      Love the way you spread the cost. We’re in a similar situation as you say, also with the siblings having 2+ kids each. We don’t usually send cards, only to the overseas/far away people we probably won’t see. We also are trying to rein in the adult presents for siblings, although I feel that some of my family would be even more annoyed with me (i.e. they don’t understand, are jealous, and not disciplined enough to manage their own finances) than they already are so would complain or gossip behind my back.

      As for your better half, have you considered Kindle Unlimited? £8/month for unlimited downloads from a selection of 700k books. Not too shabby, although I’m not one that goes in for subscriptions that often. Just wondering how do you divide your income? We are changing ours in the new year so that we’ll have a distinct ‘education’ category within which we could place something like a kindle unlimited/book fund.


      1. At the moment we are in quite difficult spot. I feel like Neo in Matrix who suddenly woke up and realised that everyone else is asleep. My partner unfortunately is still hooked in to the machines and have not yet seen a light.

        At this moment we don’t have joint account we have each our own accounts and we shared finances in the way I pay for rent, TV license and home repairs. She pays for bills and everything else. It roughly comes at about the same spending each. We did have arrangement that we will commit to certain purchases. So for example we were both saving for house deposit and we both been putting some money aside towards it.

        I know now that this arrangement is stupid. Unfortunately waking up from spending is a long process and I cannot just suddenly turn our life upside down. I am in a process of getting my SO interested in concept of saving. When I started talking about FIRE she just looked at me like I am lunatic and decided that it all sounds great but it’s not achievable on our wages. I know we need to implement some sort of budgeting but for now it’s baby steps.

        I think she needs to see that saving more doesn’t mean reducing quality of life. I will give her a credit however that despite being entangled in consumerism she was reasonable good at saving money until we had kids. Prior to our relationship she lived with her parents and ended up with £10k saved on her account. Now however with kids I think hormones took over rational thinking and “it’s essential to buy blue car seat because our 11 months old son cannot possibly use use purple one that his sister was using”. She also falls for the same lies I was falling for few years back “This brand new car is on offer reduced from £10k to £9k you must get it now before it’s to late”

        Slowly she is slightly intrigued by my idea of investing in divided and saving more and I think I am getting through to her. I think after few months if she see me succeeding we will be ready to talk properly about making proper budget.
        The Five Laws Of Gold recently posted…How It All StartedMy Profile

        1. Firstly, I think it’s okay that you have separate finances. If you’re married, then it makes more sense to have a joint account. We are married, but we don’t have a joint account and I it is always a faff every month to move money around to where it needs to go. We recently tried to open a joint account but we just didn’t have a good time to go into the bank together. However, we are managing under the current system.

          It’s great that you’re talking to your partner about money and budgeting, I think if you’re carefully mentioning it from time to time, the ideas will slowly sink in. It is like planting a seed, you have planted the ideas in your partner’s mind, now you have to water them every so often.

          I wish you the best of luck with it and I hope that your investing plans will work out too, the key for you being too yeti to keep costs and fees to a minimum e.g. use a broker who has a regular investing option for cheap stock purchases e.g. AJBell YouInvest, Interactive Investor (both £1.50), or Halifax Sharebuilder (£2). If you look to and then search for ‘cheapest brokers’ you’ll find a table you can see many more options.

          1. Thanks M. I was looking at that table the other month. What is your opinion of Salftrade according to the table at they have no platform charge and buying fees as long as you buy something every quarter. I plan on buying every month so that should not be a problem. In addition they have flat fee for DRIP of £1.50 should I choose going that route.

            And I agree with planting seed metaphor. It took me years to get out of spending mindset I cannot expect my SO to change her ways overnight.
            The Five Laws Of Gold recently posted…How It All StartedMy Profile

          2. I’ve not heard anything negative about selftrade, and it seems quite cheap. I looked at them many many years ago when I was thinking about starting our joining an investment club, but it seems their prices are a lot less nowadays.

            I personally don’t do DRIP because I let the dividends accrue together and then add them to my monthly investments. You Save a little on fees by doing this.

  2. Hey M

    Timely post as I’ve just posted something vaguely Christmassy!

    Some great points there, especially the one with kids – very hard not to go overboard with them. When my niece and nephews were a lot younger, I bought them expensive presents, perhaps to try to make up for the fact that I didn’t get a chance to see them very often. I’ve realised that they are actually just as happy with small gifts, in particular things that they can’t get where they live, eg British comics and sweets, which is great as these are relatively cheap to post out.

    Thank you for giving me the idea of putting money aside for this time of year – in the past, I’ve juggled with 0% credit cards, although with a strict plan to pay them off, it’s not as good as being able to pay for present with hard cash!
    weenie recently posted…Humbug plus Free MoneyMy Profile

    1. Thanks Weenie. I guess the thing for me is I don’t want to go crazy but I do like giving gifts and we have a large family. It’s important to me to celebrate Christmas, birthdays, etc. but remember the focus of the celebrations. We also have family and friends overseas who appreciate British gifts, which are never going to break the bank!

  3. Hi M agree lots with what you’ve written here. I’ve “budgeted” for Christmas for years in terms of presents, but I often wish I put a tenner a month aside for the food. It would be nice to visit the supermarket with £120 just to blow on a week’s worth of nosh. The gifts for kids is a big issue, and something that nearly everyone agrees is out of control while it continues and continues. When my son was about eight, he asked relatives for cash and told them he was giving it to charity. That caused some interesting responses, I can tell you. Including my own. Charity? Who gave him that idea? Didn’t I pay enough in tax…..

  4. great tips TV!

    Mrs GF and I don’t spend gift on each other at all throughout the year, but put a proportion away for experiences thought the year. A trip, a meal, whatever that may be and it has worked brilliantly for us over the years.

    We have expressly requested no toys for Miss GF as she’ll only be 6 months this Christmas. I’m in the process (still) of setting up her JISA and will be sending all parties a link to the page where they can add something to that if they really wish.
    Getting Fired recently posted…An average lifeMy Profile

    1. Two great ideas, the experiences fund and the JISA. we have a similar thing where we put aside 10% of Mr TV’S income for travel, trips, and festivals, but we don’t spend all of it every year. What is saved goes towards BIG trips every 4-5yrs e.g. our 5th wedding anniversary next year, and Japan in 2020

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