Mama OWL Blog: Tips for a thrifty Christmas

Tips for a thrifty Christmas

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Christmas can be an expensive time of year, particularly as children get older the items on their wish lists seem to get more and more pricey - the latest gadgets and tech don't come cheap. Before I get into ways of saving money and how I find the best deals, I want to point out that Christmas is as expensive as you make it. Remember that your time and presence is more important and worth more than anything you can buy in the shops. Family traditions and making memories together will always trump even the most expensive present. When they get older, they won't remember the gifts that they received, but they will remember the time spent with them.

As a family of seven, with a large extended family, I have had to find ways to save money and manage my budget. Years ago I was terrible with money and always started the new year with Christmas debt, but now I have turned it around & we never start the new year paying off Christmas, it is all paid for in advance and I also manage to collect a box of gifts through the year, too.

I have previously shared some simple ideas for household money-saving in regards to making every day changes & savings including meal planning, and using sites like topcashback and paidshop, but these are more Christmas-focused & hopefully will help make a difference to your pocket. If you have any tips to add, please do share them in the comments section.

I know it sounds simple and sometimes it doesn't quite work out - you borrow £10 here, £5 there and soon it's all gone. If that is you, a Christmas savings scheme like Park could be worth looking in to, and if you get family or friends to join you can earn commission on their orders, too. The Post Office also run a Christmas savings club, as do ASDA and Tesco.

Alternatively, you could save all of your £2 coins throughout the year in a jar that you can't open without smashing/using a tin opener to discourage you from dipping in, or giving your savings to a trusted relative or friend who will keep it safe but not allow you to borrow from it during the year, removing the temptation. If you know that you can manage to save without dipping in (well done, it can be difficult at times!), shop around for a great savings account to keep it in. Don't forget that Toys R Us have started their own layaway scheme, too, to help spread the cost.

I start shopping in the post-Christmas sales, not just for gifts but for items like cards and gift wrap too. I have a box in the cupboard that I keep things in, and buy throughout the year in sales when I spot a good deal or a bargain. This goes for food too, I've started buying non-perishables to put away for Christmas, adding one or two things to my groceries each week - turkey gravy, jars of mincemeat and cranberry sauce, freezer items and the like.

Price check online for things on your shopping lists, compare prices and try and find the best deals, don't just buy the first thing you come across. Places like Argos often offer voucher deals around Christmas time such as £5 for a £50 spend & £10 for £100 spend - if you're going to spend £200, break it up into 2 transactions at £100 each where you can & get £20 back instead of £10. Look out for promo codes online, visit MSE, and sign up to emails from your favourite retailers for extra discount codes & offers. Check before check-out!

Work out what you can afford to save throughout the year, then work out how you will distribute it between each person you have to buy for (don't forget to work food shopping into your budget), and STICK TO IT. Don't be tempted to pick up a little extra this or that, or if you do - write it down! Make lists and plan, and stick to your budget. If you buy little things in the sales through the year, don't forget to deduct them from your total. Don't overspend, you don't need to. Christmas is not a competition.

Keep track of what you have bought and for who using spreadsheets, or just on a notepad somewhere safe. I like to buy using a list of categories including book, game, DVD, pyjamas, etc so I know everyone has one item of each and how much I have spent per item to help me track my progress & spending.

Stores like Boots and Toys R Us often have multi-buy and BOGOF offers running, or offer free gifts when you spend over a certain amount on a brand. If you're put off because you already have the free gift that's offered, perhaps it would make a great gift for someone else! Take advantage of click & collect services offered by stores like TRU & Argos, too, as then you can just walk in & pick up your order without being tempted in to spending more.

Supermarkets have great loyalty card offers, Tesco offer Clubcard boost on points throughout the year which can double your money in certain departments, & Sainsbury's have some great deals with their Nectar card. You can use your points towards gifts, clothing, or festive food shopping.

In November & December on the run up to Christmas, try and use up everything that is in your freezer and cupboards and make meals out of things that you already have. It'll slash your grocery bills, reduce food waste, and free up space for all of those Christmas yummies (as well as making room for any dinner leftovers ready to be made into bubble & squeak or turkey sarnies!).

Plan your Christmas meals and only buy what you need, just because it's Christmas it doesn't mean we all need to go mad buying things that will languish uneaten before being thrown out. I'm not saying don't treat yourself, by all means do, but by saving money on food you don't really need and probably won't eat, you'll have extra money to spend elsewhere.

Homemade gifts really are that bit more special, and I know that I for one love to receive things that people have clearly put thought, time, and energy into. If you have any particular skills - sewing, crochet, knitting, baking, jewellery making - why not use those and make some Christmas gifts? It will save you money, and you can give a gift that has been handmade with love and care - better than anything off a shelf.

If you have a large family or group to buy for, you can create your own Christmas hamper - cheaper than buying individual gifts, and much more personal. A favourite of mine is a "Christmas Eve hamper" containing popcorn, little bags of sweets, hot chocolate, marshmallows, a bottle of wine (for the grown ups!), biscuits, candy canes, and a Christmas movie. You can of course add in whatever you like, and if you buy one or two items in with your usual grocery shopping you can spread the cost over a few weeks.

As well as the links above, here are some of my favourite online shops for deals and bargains - The Works  The Book People  Yellow Moon

Sometimes we're all too quick to count down the days,
that we forget to make the days count.

Me add three


  1. Some fantastic tips there! I'm a good one for making lists and never sticking to them! This year I'm going to try :) xx

  2. Thank you, I hope that they will be as useful to others as they are to me! Good luck :) x

  3. Great tips...
    I've took advantage of Tesco this year and their Clubcard boost...I paid £3 real money for £45 of presents....hehehe

  4. Some lovely tips here, Christmas is definitely NOT a competition! Personally I'd love something small or homemade or nothing at all rather than anyone get in debt because they feel like they need to buy! Thanks so much for linking up to #ChristmasCountdown :-)

  5. Some super tips there. We finished our shopping in October for our little boy. Leaving November for friends and family. We enjoy spending the month of December indulging in christmas activities. We started shopping in July and have made the most of the sales. Popping over from #ChristmasCountdown


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