How to save money this Christmas

Don’t shop early for Christmas

The way Christmas seeps into everything we do for 2 months before the actual day baffles me. According to the Disneyland ad this year: (2015)

We all wish the magic of Christmas could start earlier

Well I for one don’t.


And I am not being bah humbug about it. It is just that it is only October and the Christmas frenzy has begun.

As has the buying of cards and presents and wrapping paper.

Magazines are already telling you how to have the best Christmas dinner ever, how to dress your table, with gifts for him, for her, for boys, for girls persuading you to spend, spend, spend to fill your house and other people’s houses full of stuff no one needs.

If you don’t do this, you are of course a failure – that is what the ads are telling you. You will be judged on your ability to cook as well as Delia, bake like Mary and style like Kelly Hoppen.

And what happens to all this stuff?

Stuff that will eventually go to landfill.

Stuff that becomes clutter.

Stop now!

Really stop. Repeat after me.

I do not have to spend lots of money to enjoy Christmas.


Soon after Christmas signs will appear in charity shops

Donate your unwanted christmas presents here

Unwanted Christmas Presents.

Last year, a Birmingham restaurant, Fiesta del Asado, was offering money off meals in exchange for a donation of an unwanted Christmas gift. the items were donated to charity.

One of those unwanted gifts may have been bought by you. You know that scarf/nightie/ornament you bought for Auntie Mary? You hated it, knew she would too, and when you gave it her she said ‘you shouldn’t have’ and really meant it. Yet you just had to get her something, because it’s Christmas.

What a waste of time and money.

Many unwanted gifts become clutter. People feel they have to hold onto them due to guilt. Yet you are contributing to their clutter. And that is not a good thing to do.

Instead of giving people gifts they don’t want or need, give to charity instead. Oxfam are one charity that offers gifts for life. One year I bought my mother a bicycle for a midwife in Africa. Mom had a habit of returning to me everything I had ever given her. Of course I was falling into the trap of buying because I thought I had to and she didn’t want the wok, the carving knife, the pasta maker.  She hated cooking. For a while I bought her stuff I wanted knowing full well they would be returned to me. Eventually I realised what I was doing so one year I bought my mother a bicycle for a midwife in Africa. She couldn’t return the bike.

Do not get into debt at Christmas

Before you even hit the shops or click the mouse, ask yourself these questions. Can you afford it? Will they love it? Do they need it? People get into debt at Christmas. All for one day.

Save trees, save money, stop sending cards

No one will notice. For many it is a chore. How many times do you hear people complain about having to spend an evening writing cards? And then moan about having to write a letter for each or them.

If that is not reason enough, think of the cost. Postage is so expensive, 63p  for 1st and 54p 2nd class. If you send only 10 cards that is £6.30.

I met a woman who sent over 50 cards to people she never sees. Time writing 50 cards, is time you will never get back.  And Money. £32 on postage and anything from £10 to £30 on the cards. Think what she could do with that money instead. When I said this to her, you could see the realisation spread across her face. She had never thought like that before.

Your card adds to someone else’s clutter. Out of guilt, they send you one back, then you have 50 on your mantel shelf. And you keep the sentimental ones, baby’s first Christmas, the ones handmade by the children at school. I have just this past week thrown away Christmas and birthday cards (I don’t send these, either) that are 30 years old. If you don’t send them you will have fewer sent to you and more trees may be saved.

What to buy instead of stuff?

You don’t have to buy actual physical stuff. Most people have got all that they need. That is why shops stock novelty Christmas tacky gifts So you can buy waste money on something for the person who already has everything they need.

Gift experiences

Lots of restaurants offer vouchers for lunch or dinner. Has someone ever said how much they would like to go somewhere special? gift it to them this year. Or use one of the many voucher offer sites.

How about cinema tickets? Yes it can be the local cinema you always go to but why not treat them to The Electric Cinema or an Everyman  to make it that little bit more of a special occasion.

A spa day with a friend. How lovely would it be to spend a day with a friend, catch up and get a massage?

Do they love the ballet or the theatre?  Book tickets.Go with them.

What about National Trust membership?  A gift that can last for a year or for life and The National Trust benefit too. This also encourages people to visit new places and have days out. Surely that is better than a scarf or a Christmas onesie?

Gift something you no longer want or need

If you like me are decluttering, gift items you no longer need to others as a present this Christmas. People won’t mind especially if it is a vintage china plate or a signed James Martin cook book. Yes, those were gifts I gave last year. Neither had cost me a penny and the recipients knew that, yet were still very happy with their presents.

It really is the thought that counts.

Digital gifts

Download music (legally) instead of giving a CD. The artist still benefits and you are not creating clutter.

Gift Netflix instead of a DVD. Ditto.

Be social

Cook a meal or have a potluck dinner party. Spend time with your friends. Not just FaceTime.

Give your time

Make some personalised gift certificates that friends and family can redeem with you. You could personalise them with some of the ideas here.

Go for a walk with a friend. Fresh air and company. Away from the tech.

Offer to babysit for a friend who has children.

Visit your Nan/Mom/Aunt/Grandpa more often. They will appreciate that a lot more than a card and a novelty singing santa.

Someone moving house? Help them with the packing/unpacking/decluttering/hanging pictures.

Make something

A cake, some jam, a handmade gift is alway appreciated, especially food. If you aren’t a cake or jam maker (like me) buy cake or jam or chutney from a local maker. Look for a local craft market where local people sell handmade crafts and food. Keep it local. Yes I said local lots of times.

Make a list

And encourage others to do so, too.

Sometimes there are things that people really do want. And that is why I love lists.You know that they are getting exactly what they want and you are not wasting money. In my family the lists usually include a link to where to buy the items too.

Give money – to enhance experiences

My daughter has started the trend of asking for foreign currency. I didn’t like the idea of giving money for gifts, I used to think it was lazy and ostentatious. My Uncle used to iron money (yes he ironed money) and then displayed it inside the card so everyone could see how generous he was. And how he valued you. Now, as my family travel more, currency to spend on holiday, always good.

Plant a tree

You are not sending cards but others are. We need more trees.Why not buy a tree for a friend and The National Forest? More information here.

Skip Christmas

Go on holiday. Rent a big house in the country and go for walks and play board games. No tree and no presents. I know that this may make you feel uncomfortable, but what if you did? You won’t know if you don’t do it.

My plan on my first visit to Australia was to Skip Christmas. Didn’t turn out as I planned, it turned out better.

Not convinced?

Then read these posts.

The Gift of Death

Ethical investments as gifts

20 Ways to Declutter for the Holidays

The etiquette of unwanted Christmas presents

How to return unwanted Christmas gifts

Happy Holidays.


Just seen this on 30/12/2015 – not even the New Year and 4 Birmingham restaurants are offering a discount for donations of unwanted gifts. I did try to tell you…..



4 thoughts on “How to save money this Christmas

  1. I love this post! For the last couple of years we have had very low key Christmases as we have no family near where we live and had not been able to travel home to see the little bit of family we do have. This year will be similarly low key – we going away in January so will save our money to put towards our travel adventures. The other thing is I don’t need anymore clutter – it just won’t fit in our caravan when we buy it!

    1. Thanks for commenting. I suspect when we move to the small house I will still need to let go of some more things. What I don’t want is new things coming in to create clutter, I would rather have the money to travel, too.

  2. Yes you are being Bah Humbug!
    Christmas time is wonderful and I don’t care how early the lights go up, thy’re pretty and make a home even more homely in the winter months.
    We don’t send cards, haven’t for years, I can’t think of a more empty gesture. I’ll maybe send 2 or 3, ones I care about, but I’ll leave sending some cheap bit of crap to every person ever met to my mum, thanks.
    We hardly buy anyone gifts, just the kids really, we don’t feel obliged and never will.
    There is one friend I have something special in mind for, because it will make her smile, not through a feeling of having to. It’s a huge weight off my mind not to “have to” any more, it used to cause me terrible anxiety, having to buy the perfect “thing” for no good reason.
    Because we have very little “stuff” and have made frugality a way of life ,Christmas is far more special. We appreciate gifts, good food and decorations, in a way that we never did before. Our gifts are either needed, badly wanted, or something that will give the kids great joy. Nobody outside the 4 of us buys us anything and I like it that way, if somebody does, it’s a surprise bonus.
    My pet hate…money gifts. It just shows obligation without consideration or effort, hate that, and if somebody made a donation to charity in my name I’d be cross, that’s for them, to make them feel better, why 2nd hand it on to me? Experience gifts are cool, we very much enjoyed our Tingly experience, but it’s a difficult thing to get right and may disturb the recipient’s plans or end up costing them extra.
    Amazon vouchers would be good, we spend a fortune on Kindle books and my Amazon commission doesn’t cover our expenditure.
    You can do Christmas easily, while still being clutter free, without being a Scrooge!

  3. Oh we have a lovely family Christmas. We have a tree, lights, decorations, I just don’t put them up in November. I would love for it to be in a very wintery Christmassy place, with snow and a big fire. Maybe we will turn up in Romania one Christmas? With some Amazon vouchers.

    Money gifts are rare, I agree with everything you say about them. The currency thing is recent, my daughter is going to South Africa soon, so her birthday gift from us is Rand. Usually it is a hair cut. She has a good job and can buy what she needs or wants.

    My friend one year bought a Christmas dinner for a homeless person, instead of buying me a gift, that made me happy. She didn’t do it to make her happy or feel good about herself. This year she is helping me with the house move, helped with operation kitchen declutter and making me some cushions from fabric that was previously clutter, not to be repurposed (she sews I don’t).

    Like you I don’t do tat, utter waste of money and because we are relatively frugal, when we push the boat out it is a real treat. This weekend I am taking the sewing friend to a one off exclusive breakfast at a Michelin starred restaurant . The few people that I do ‘buy for’ at any time of year I know well enough what they do and don’t like so experiences aren’t a shock.

    So not Bah Humbug. and not Skipping Christmas. 😉

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