The best Christmas money saving tips
Gifts, decorations, nights out... it's all part of the festive fun, but the costs can add up. Here are our top tips for doing Christmas on a budget!
We love Christmas just as much as the next person (arguably even more so), but the one thing that can put a dampener on our Yuletide spirit is thinking about the major dent it puts in our bank balance.
Your family might think Christmas is all about spending thousands on presents, decorations and food, but thanks to the older generation leaving us utterly financially crippled, young people and students are starting to buck the trend and get smart with their festive finances.
With a festive sprinkling of budgeting advice and an added dash of creativity, you'll be able to have the Christmas you've always dreamed of, without the bank balance of your nightmares.
Top Christmas money saving tips
Make a festive budget
Credit: Number 10 - Flickr
There's a reason that this is our number one Christmas money saving tip! It might be painful, but take a good look at your bank balance to work out how much cash you have to play with.
Use our budgeting guide to help establish how much you've got going spare (taking into consideration your usual expenses) and base your Christmas plans on that.
If you're in need of some extra money to make your festive plans materialise, then why not consider cutting back on a few luxuries, taking on a few additional hours at work or try making a few quid online?
Don’t be afraid to prioritise
You're never going to be able to fulfil absolutely everything that features in your ideal festive fantasy, so grab yourself a pen and paper and start thinking about what's really important to you this year.
It's a sad fact of life that you won't be able to buy a present for everyone you know, or be able to afford to go to every Christmas night out you've been invited to, but once you've worked out exactly what you want from Christmas, you can start thinking about how to make it work.
Don't get sucked in by 'deals'
With festive happiness arriving in shedloads to shops everywhere, it can be tempting to get sucked in by "special offers" and "amazing deals" that you have absolutely no use for whatsoever.
It might look like retailers are spreading the festive cheer, but the sad truth is that they're trying to stop you from saving money at Christmas.
That's not to say that there aren't some amazing deals out there; you can check out some legit money savers over in our deals section.
Use Idealo to decide when to buy gifts
In the fight against retailers who are just trying to persuade you to spend your hard earned cash, Idealo is one of your most faithful allies.
All you have to do is enter the product you're interested in buying, and not only will Idealo show you how the price has changed over time, but it'll also tell you where the cheapest place to buy it is.
Camelcamelcamel does a similar thing, but helpfully lets you enter the Amazon URL of a product and see how its price has changed over time on the site.
So, while getting your Christmas shopping done early is certainly admirable, a quick glance at whether a product's price is on an upwards or downwards trend could help decide whether it's worth waiting a couple of weeks before splashing out.
Have a high quality meal at a low price
Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a ridiculously excessive meal with foods that, for whatever reason, we don't allow ourselves to eat at any other time of the year (seriously, there's got to be a market for pigs in blankets beyond December?!).
The only problem is, it's a little expensive to have turkey and all the trimmings... or is it? It turns out that it's possible to have the full package for as little as £3 per head!
You heard us right. That's turkey with potatoes, carrots, peas, Yorkshire puddings, gravy, and maybe even some pigs in blankets, for just a tad more than a takeaway coffee!
Check out our guide to doing Christmas dinner on a budget for the lowdown.
Suggest Secret Santa
Having to fork out cash to buy gifts for family, friends, colleagues, classmates... the list can add up (as can the costs!).
The key to ensuring you retain the festive spirit without launching yourselves into serious Christmas debt is to suggest doing Secret Santa instead.
In case you've not come across Secret Santa before, it basically involves putting names into a hat and each person pulling one out. Whoever you pluck from the hat is who you buy a gift for, but nobody else. There's usually a set budget for gifts, and it'll often remain anonymous too!
Agree amongst each friend/family group who wants to get involved, throw your names into a hat and decide on a budget. This way, everyone gets a nice gift and no one is left bankrupt!
Use Zeek for cheap giftcards
Gift cards truly are one of the pillars of Christmas, so it's only right that one of our Christmas money saving tips fills you in on how to save some money on them.
Zeek is a marketplace for buying and selling unwanted gift cards, with some going for as much as 20% less than their retail value. So if you're a little stuck on what to buy someone, but know they get all their clothes from, say, Topshop, you can get them a Topshop gift card at a fraction of the price!
In fact, even if you do know what you want to get for someone, you can still use the gift card trick. Just search through Zeek for a gift card at the shop you're looking to buy from, and voilà – you've saved yourself some money!
And as if all that wasn't enough, when you sign up for Zeek through us, you get £3 free credit. Merry Christmas!
Go DIY on the gifts
Credit: Phil and Pam Gradwell (to be) - Flickr
From making your own jewellery to a carefully selected mixtape, there are tonnes of homemade present ideas that'll cost you almost nothing (or check out these ideas that cost less than a fiver to put together).
Even if you're not blessed with a creative flair, there's nothing to stop you whipping up some simple creations in the kitchen.
You can kill a lot of birds with one stone by baking a huge tray of delicious [insert tasty treat here] and giving them to everyone on your list. If you're stuck for ideas, why not try our chocolate truffle recipe?
And while we're on the subject of food, don't forget our Christmas dinner recipe too, where you can feast like kings for less than £3 each!
Do IOUs and buy gifts in the sales
Credit: brent flanders - Flickr
It's no coincidence that shops wait until January to drop their prices.
Once everyone's spent an arm and a leg buying gifts for all their nearest and dearest, retailers try to trick you into spending in the new year by offering some serious bargains. Just a shame that you can't use these sales to get your Christmas presents, eh?
Well, there is a way to beat the system! If a friend or family member has asked for something specific, or you're just keen to get them a particular gift, you can always give them an IOU if you can't currently afford it.
Then, come the January sales, you can get them the perfect present at the perfect price!
Get cashback on everything you buy
This isn't just a tip for saving money at Christmas, but let's face it – you'll probably be doing more shopping during the festive period than at pretty much any other time of the year (other than when your student loan comes in, of course).
When you shop via cashback sites like Quidco and TopCashback, they'll give you back a certain percentage of your total spend. This essentially amounts to a discount off the product, and all you have to do is make sure you visit the cashback site first and go through them.
Nowadays Quidco are even offering cashback at selected high street stores, meaning you don't even have to stick to online shopping to take advantage of this money saving trick!
Give the gift of charity
There's no denying that times are tough for students, but it's also true that there are plenty of people who are still much, much worse off.
You probably have most of the things you need in your life, and your friends likely do too. So instead of wasting money on something that they'll only use a couple of times, why not make a charitable donation on their behalf?
Plenty of charities allow you to donate in the form of a gift, and some will even let you do it in the name of someone else – essentially gifting a gift!
Save the Children, WaterAid, Refuge and Oxfam (plus countless others!) all allow you to buy something essential for those who really need it, with some truly worthwhile gifts costing just £5. If Christmas is a time for giving, then this is about Christmassy as it gets!
Or even agree not to buy gifts at all!
It sounds corny, but it's true: if your friends or family really care about you, they won't mind skipping the gifts this year (or any other year, for that matter!).
Most people are pretty sympathetic to the financial plight of students (especially other students), and if buying presents is going to cause you some money troubles, people will understand!
This deal works best with your fellow students, as there's every chance that they'll be facing the same predicament. Asking them not to buy gifts for you shows that you're not just looking to hoard the presents, and could take a load off their mind too. What better gift is there than one less thing to worry about?
So there you have it, our top Christmas money saving tips! We hope you have a truly awesome time this merry season, and that your bank balance survives intact!
As always, if you spot a stunner of a tip that we've missed then do give us a shout in the comments!