Christmas is always a pricey time of year, and if you have left everything to the last minute, it could cost you even more.
If you’ve still got to book trains, buy presents, plan menus and buy food for the family – the idea of stumping up for all of that over the next week or so might feel completely daunting.
But, there are some ways you can cut the cost and make Christmas more manageable this year, even if you haven’t been very well organised with your timings.
Tom Church, consumer expert and co-founder of money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk, has shared his top tips for sleighing Christmas on a budget, even at the eleventh hour.
According to research from Latest Deals, 51% of people are budgeting £20-50 per person for Christmas presents this year. A further 21% have earmarked £100-300, while 10% have set aside £50-100.
Just 2% of those who took part in the poll were not planning to exchange gifts.
1. Make a list and check it twice
‘If you’ve set a clear budget, don’t get derailed by last-minute impulse buys,’ says Tom.
‘If you’re out shopping on that super busy last weekend before Christmas, take your list with you and don’t deviate. Shops will be pulling out all the stops to catch your eye and while it’s tempting to grab a few extra stocking fillers, or trade-up your gift idea for something bigger and shiner, those extras can quickly mount up.’
2. Fill up those stockings for free
You can get your hands on a fantastic range of freebies that make great stocking fillers on the freebie sites. Tom suggests looking at LatestFreeStuff.co.uk.
‘Currently, there are some real gems available, such as a Fenty Skin Toner, personalised storybook for kids, and Dior beauty samples,’ he adds.
3. Hunt down speedy delivery services
‘Generally speaking, when shopping online you would need to order your presents from UK retailers at least 10 days in advance of Christmas Day to ensure you get your hands on them in time. However, there are some exceptions,’ says Tom.
‘Amazon Prime customers can get their orders delivered by the next day, at no additional cost. It’s worth checking around, as other high-street favourites such as Argos, Next and Marks & Spencer can take orders to the wire but there may be an extra delivery charge involved so do double check dates, fees and availability before you place your order.’
It isn’t Christmas without some sparkly lights and tinsel, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to turn your home into a last-minute festive haven.
Tom shares some of the stories of members who have created spectacular DIY decorations on a tiny budget.
1. Craft a life-sized Christmas Nutcracker for free
Mandy Mowbray, from Bishop’s Waltham, made a 7ft Christmas Nutcracker decoration without spending a penny. She used cardboard tubes, a lick of paint and some leftover craft supplies to make the handsome figurine and with the aim of spreading some Christmas cheer.
Mandy says: ‘I secured the arms in place with metal bolts and butterfly nuts. This means it’ll be easy to take him apart after Christmas and put him into storage.’
2. Make a beautiful festive door arch
Sarah Whiteley, from East Yorkshire, didn’t want to pay a fortune for the festive door arches she’d seen in the shops for £250, so made her own for just £47.
She used a metal arch from Amazon, some wet foam brick blocks as a foundation, and foliage from her own back garden.
‘I bought a red flower garland for £8 and cut it up to add a dash of colour to the arch. I secured the flowers with florist wire so they wouldn’t fly away in the wind,’ she added.
Some twinkling fairy lights and glitter spray later, and Sarah had a picture perfect arch for her cosy cottage.
3. Design a DIY bauble wreath
Money-saving mum Louise Foster, from Cheshire, crafted a dazzling oversized Christmas wreath with budget buys from B&M, Screwfix and ASDA.
The £51.50 project saved her up to £150 compared to buying new. Plus, if you already have the baubles hanging around in the loft, you could crunch down the cost to just £11.50.
‘When I saw how much similar handmade wreaths can sell for, it felt so good to be able to save that much by making my own,’ she says.
‘To get the same result I’d recommend you avoid mixing different sized baubles on the outer edges. Use only larger ones for a more solid foundation. Plus, working from the biggest to the smallest baubles is more visually appealing, as it’ll give the wreath more depth.’
While travelling this Christmas is definitely going to be limited, if you are lucky enough to be able to safely visit family in a different part of the country, the cost can quickly creep up.
‘If you’re travelling to see family, it’s easy to get stung by transport costs at the last minute,’ says Tom.
‘Cheap train tickets sell out quickly and the cost of car hire shoots up over the Christmas week, which can leave you with limited options if you want to make the most of the five-day window to see your nominated friends and family.’
1. Compare the best deals on train tickets
‘If you’ve missed out on Advance tickets, you may be able to still get a discount with a Railcard by National Rail, which offers a third off selected train fares,’ says Tom.
‘You can buy one online and use it immediately.’
2. Clamp down on extra car hire costs
‘If you need to hire a car to make your journey, consider any added extras that may save you money in the long run,’ he says.
‘For example, you can sometimes opt to pay a slightly higher daily rate to dramatically bring down the excess you’d need to pay in the event of an accident.’
3. Catch the coach
‘National Express coaches are travelling over Christmas, including on Christmas Day and you can save a third on the cost with a National Express Coachcard,’ suggests Tom.
‘Before you set off, however, be sure to check your luggage capacity, which is limited to your ticketed allowance.’
We all know what Christmas is really about. Food.
Eating with our loved ones, creating memorable meals and maintaining foodie traditions is a big part of the festive period, but stocking the fridge and the cupboards doesn’t come cheap.
1. Order online
If you can’t save yourself a trip to the supermarket, you can still speed it up.
‘The majority of supermarket food delivery slots are now booked up. If you missed the boat, you can still save some precious time by ordering online to click and collect in store,’ says Tom.
2. Seek out the best money-saving food offers
‘If you’re on a strict budget, Tesco has the answer,’ says Tom. ‘The supermarket is offering five different festive vegetable packs for 29p each. The offer expires on Christmas Eve but you could pick up extras to prep and freeze to use beyond the festive period and cut your food bill into the New Year.’
3. Cook some treats from scratch
‘Making your own versions of festive favourites, such as mince pies, can work out cheaper than buying them ready-made. Plus, it’s fun,’ says Tom.
He adds that you can also join Facebook groups dedicated to creating bargain meals from supermarket shops, which could provide some fantastic inspiration.
Do you have any money saving tips to share? We want to hear from you.
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