How you can still enjoy Christmas without breaking the bank

From cut-price trees to home-made crackers…How you can still enjoy the magic of Christmas without breaking the bank

The festive season is upon us – but as we face a cost-of-living crisis, many households are bracing themselves for a bleak Christmas with little to cheer about.

Due to a national shortage of turkeys, as bird flu wipes out half of the free-range stock, our Christmas Day menu could end up making Ebenezer Scrooge blush.

And with the cost of groceries soaring by an inflation-busting 16 per cent, those Brussels sprouts will seem like a luxury.

But as you think twice before turning on the fairy lights – let alone any heating – due to record-high energy bills, consider how the spirit of Christmas is one of the few things that still remains free.

By following our tips on how to make your own decorations – everything from festive cards to the baubles for a tree – you can still share in the magic of Christmas without breaking the bank.

The festive season is upon us. By following our tips on how to make your own decorations, you can still share in the magic of Christmas without breaking the bank

Root out a bargain 

Nordmann trees are the most practical for homes as their needles take longer to fall than the traditional Norway spruce.

According to the consumer group Which? some of the cheapest Nordmanns are at supermarket Aldi – £15 for a 5ft tree, or £25 for 6ft.

Although it can be more expensive, a £25 pot-grown 4ft Nordmann from Tesco will prove better value if you can later grow it outside, bringing it in every year for festivities. Those who fancy growing a tree from scratch can pick up a Nordmann sapling from as little as £10, but you must wait up to a decade for it to grow into a 6ft tree.

Nordmann trees are the most practical for homes as their needles take longer to fall than the traditional Norway spruce. Pictured: File image

Artificial trees offer an alternative solution and although they are fake, they should last for years to come.

According to Which?: ‘Another idea is to upcycle old trees. You can hang branches horizontally – string them together alongside a wall in a pyramid shape with the longest sticks at the bottom and the shortest at the top. Decorate the branches with energy-saving LED lights and baubles to make it feel like Christmas.’

You might consider renting a tree, but it usually works out more expensive. For example, Cotswold Fir offers a one-month rental from December 7 for a 4ft tree for £52. Cost for delivery and collection is a further £25.

Festive foraging  

This winter of austerity is the ideal time to brighten up the mood with hand-made decorations around the home.

Alison Martin-Clark, of Staplehurst in Kent, does not believe you need to spend money at the shops when a walk in the woods and a pot of paint can provide a creative solution that costs next to nothing.

The learning support assistant says: ‘You can cut small branches from a tree, but I like to search for fallen wood that has been blown off in the winter winds.

‘Hazel is a particularly attractive branch with its beautiful, wavy curves.

‘I then get a pot of white emulsion paint from the shed and give the branch a coating.’

This winter of austerity is the ideal time to brighten up the mood with hand-made decorations around the home. Pictured: Alison Martin Clark shows off a wreath foraged from the woods

Alison adds: ‘For decoration, use old baubles and fir cones dipped in paint and perhaps sprinkled with glitter.’

Cones also make attractive baubles to hang on a larger Christmas tree. For those wanting to make traditional baubles for a tree, shops such as Hobbycraft sell plastic ‘fillable’ or ceramic baubles for £1 each that can be painted or filled with festive trinkets or sweets.

Paper chains can also make a great alternative to tinsel – £3 for an 8ft line of decoration.

For inspiration and guidance, online videos from House Beautiful and Hobbycraft help.

Find the holy spirit 

Celebrate the advent of Christmas by starting with a wreath for the front door.

Helen Round, a Royal Horticultural Society garden manager at RHS Rosemoor in Devon, says: ‘All that is required is often already out there in the garden or can be foraged from neighbours or on a country walk.’ She suggests picking sprigs of evergreens such as holly, conifer from a hedgerow and perhaps a small-leaf plant such as the shrub pittosporum.

You can buy a natural vine base ring as a base from a florist.

A 12in ring costs about £3 and can be reused every year.

You will also need a £2 spool of florist’s reel wire to tie the evergreens together and attach them to the ring.

Helen says: ‘Take a single sprig of holly – ideally with some berries, conifer and pittosporum – and wind the three tightly together as they can loosen when dry.

‘You may need a dozen of these bunches. You then wrap each bunch around the ring until it is all covered in green.’

She adds: ‘There are no rules over what is right or wrong – so have fun with your imagination. For example, add pine cones or oak autumn leaves for more colour.’

Practical help can also be found on online videos, such as those offered by the RHS and Country Living magazine.

Play your cards right 

A hand-made card is always more appreciated than a standard printed one – and costs pennies rather than pounds. When looking for inspiration, Lyndsey Dangerfield believes hand-prints offer a great place to start as they are quick and easy to make.

The 45-year-old bookkeeper and artist from Benenden in Kent says: ‘Taking time out with children to make cards is not only fulfilling but gets the whole family in the Christmas mood.

‘If seeking inspiration, why not just roll up your sleeves and dip your hands on an inkpad – and press them into antler shapes on a card.

‘You can then draw a face and have a wonderful personalised greeting card. The same trick can be used for making penguin or Christmas-tree designs.’

Lyndsey and her children Catherine, eight, and Tom, six, also make their own wrapping paper using potato prints and ink stamps to turn plain paper into festive wrapping.

Hobby shops sell coloured inkpads for £2 and yuletide wooden ink stamps from £1. A pack of 50 plain cards can cost £3, a roll of paper £1.

Alison Martin-Clark suggests also making sure that cards received do not go to waste by cutting them into Christmas gift tags for the following year.

Go crackers! 

Old toilet rolls make a great base for Christmas crackers – with the cardboard tubes wrapped with festive paper with a couple of inches overlapping either side. Then you twist the paper at each end of the toilet roll and keep the narrow necks together with ribbon or string.

A couple of 2in-wide strips of thin card should be stuck on the inner circumference of the wrapping paper after these twists – to give guests something to grab hold of.

‘Snaps’ inside a cracker cost £3 online for a packet of 24. You can make hats with a £1 roll of Christmas tissue paper or festive wrapping, with tape and scissors.

Inside the cracker put your own handwritten jokes, aiming for laughs rather than the usual groans. Gifts can be personalised.

Ideas include packs of plant seeds, mini racing cars and key rings. For adult luxury fillings, also consider miniature spirits bottles.

Help in making and filling crackers can be found on websites such as The Cracker Company, Cowling & Wilcox and Neve’s Bees.

Source: Read Full Article