There are loads of expenses to think about when it comes to Christmas. Here's how to save on your festive essentials.
Fresh trees will last you about six weeks so bear this in mind when you’re deciding how far before Christmas you’re going to buy. To get the most out of your festive fir, check the pines when you buy. If they’re green they’re fresh so you’re good to go. If they fall off when you shake the tree, you’re not going to get your money’s worth so look elsewhere. A heavy tree means that it’s fresher because of its higher water content so check for that if you can.
You’ll get a £20 voucher for buying a real IKEA Christmas tree for £25. The offer is available from 23 November-23 December 2017.
The Forestry Commission will get you a FSC-approved tree which is sustainably grown and netted by the team. Trees start at £57 each.
If you’re really strapped for space, ask for some scrap branches at your local tree seller and fashion a make-shift Christmas tree for free. Get some foliage from the garden and tie a ribbon around it to make it extra festive.
As it’s going to be hanging around for a little while, it’s advisable to get the best tree you can afford. Look for one which has at least a 10-year manufacturer warranty for proof of durability. It’s a good idea to tape the purchase receipt and warranty to the tree’s box should you need it in future.
Of course, you should measure the area the tree’s going to be placed in first to make sure it fits. And the pre-lit or no light argument? It’s advisable to go for a pre-lit tree because, even though they’re more expensive, you’re not having to buy lights every time they need to be replaced.
There are some cracking artificial trees on offer at the moment. Tesco has a six-foot fir for £19.99, Argos has a five-foot tree for £12.99. If you’re opting for pre-lit, there’s a three-foot tree for £6 from George at Asda.
With decorations it’s best to build a collection over a number of years as well as making your own. You can use absolutely anything to put a quirky slant on a Christmas tradition. We have an Eric Cartman figure with foil wings atop the Christmas tree in the Jordan household. He’s lasted a good decade, at least.
Get the kids involved and it can double as a fun Christmas craft session for you all. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for cooking and crafts.
One thing you don’t want to skimp on is the lights. Once a few lights go, it’s a right faff replacing them. Buy a sturdy, good quality set of lights that will last you for years.
Secret Santa gifts help keep prices low if you’re buying for a group of adults. Set a £5 or £10 limit and make sure nobody finds out who has who. If you're doing Secret Santa in large groups, websites like sneakysanta.com can help with the logistics
Online shoppers should have a look for online voucher codes before they make a purchase. Even if the saving is only a couple of quid, it’s better than nothing. VoucherCodes is a great money-saving source where you can nab some money-off purchases from the UK's top retailers including Debenhams, Boots and Thorntons.
For those who like to live on the edge, it might be worth waiting until the week before Christmas as prices might be cut right up until 25 December. Last-minute shoppers, rejoice!
Head to Poundland for some ace stocking fillers. Novelty shops like Hawkin’s Bazaar also have tons of knick-knacks which are made for stockings. There’s even an entire site devoted to stocking fillers if you get stuck.
Can you give any unwanted gifts (assuming they’re still unopened) to other people? This can be a dangerous game as you have to be sure you’re giving them to someone other than the person who gave them to you.
Charity shops can be a good bet, particularly for CDs, DVDs and presents for children. You’ll also be helping a good cause.
Personal vouchers offering gardening, babysitting and personal skills can be both meaningful and fun. Go to Fun-Vouchers for templates or crack out the crayons and get creative with your own.
Save even more by crafting your own homemade gifts. Have a go at scarves, chutney, ornaments or a mulled wine mix: just follow our guide on How to make successful homemade Christmas presents.
Dig out your old CDs, DVDs and electronics and send them to musicMagpie, Zapper, CeX and Zaffit for some extra cash. It’s better to mix and match: find out why at Selling Selling DVDs UK: musicMagpie versus Zapper, CeX, Ziffit and Momox
Food and drink
Make your own food if you can. Mince pies are dead easy to make and will save you a considerable amount. Start off with this mince pie recipe from our sister site loveFOOD. Don't forget to leave one out for Father Christmas!
Start adding items for your Christmas to the weekly shop now as it’ll save a mad rush later. Book your Christmas delivery slots well in advance. Various supermarket delivery pass schemes will notify you so that you get priority booking. See The cheapest supermarket delivery deals for more.
On that note, you should start making Christmas dinner now as well. You can get your Christmas pud sorted and drip-feed it rum throughout December. Soups can be made further in advance and frozen too.
It’s best to buy your tipple now as the prices will creep up over November and December. Skimp on the mixers as you won’t really be able to taste them once they’re mixed with the booze anyway. For the more obscure plonk Bargain Booze is a wondrously cheap source of any tipple that you can imagine.
Wilko does cheap mini cracker sets for £3 if you’re dining with children. Or you could have a little bit more fun and make your own for £3 with The Works. You can use penny sweets (or chocolate liqueurs for adults) and save yourself on the groan-inducing gags.
Everyone loves a pantomime but they’re not always the cheapest evenings out. Go to Ticketmaster to find out where to book tickets for national shows and tours. Don’t despair if it’s too expensive as local theatres have some great offerings for much cheaper too. Look out for newspaper deals in the coming weeks.
Ask everyone to pitch in, whether that means bringing a starter, main or dessert or just putting in a bit of cash towards the event. Even making it a 'Bring Your Own Booze' (BYOB) event will help cut costs.
If you're out, either arrange a big group taxi to make the journey home as cheap as possible or arrange to stay with a friend or family member nearby.
Accessories can breathe new life into an old outfit if you’re really struggling for cash. Try a hat, a new handbag or a bold piece of statement jewellery.
Now onto games. For kids' parties it's best to keep it simple. Go for festive versions of classic party games like musical chairs which only involve the cost of the prizes. You can get away with buying multipack snacks for the occasion too.
Cut the cost of the extras you might have forgotten about.
Get a free letter to Santa delivered on time if you send them out via Royal Mail by 8 December.
Cards can be pricey, but it feels lovely receiving cards from distant friends and family in the post. E-cards are a great alternative if you don’t mind foregoing the real thing; it also saves on waste, paper cuts and copious stamp licking!
Save wrapping paper from previous years and use it again. Young children in particular won’t notice. Get creative with newspapers, magazines or packing paper for a truly original-looking gift.
Wreaths are available in Tesco from a tenner. Or you could grab a wreath for a fiver from Hobbycraft and dress it up with all sorts of bits like bells, pom poms, cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices. Make it a spot more festive with some Teleview Magik Snow (£2).
Advent calendars can be very cheap or very expensive. A supermarket is your best bet as they’ll likely offer discounts or multi-buy offers. For the latest deals, take a look at our Advent calendars 2017: cheapest places to buy Cadbury, LEGO and beauty calendars roound-up. Alternatively you can buy a cloth advent calendar and refill it every year. It doesn’t have to be sweets or chocolate either: you can use beauty trinkets, tiny figurines or even a daily forfeit.
Cash in, cashback and other money tips
Cash in on your loyalty. If you haven’t exchanged your loyalty points for a while, now is the time to do it.
Even if you don't shop at the likes of Tesco or Sainsbury's regularly, you may find you have racked up a healthy amount of points which can shave some of the cost off of Christmas.
Make purchases through cashback websites and get a percentage of your spending back. They’re really simple to use. All you have to do is sign up for free (we like TopCashback and Quidco) and have a browse through what you want. To get the cashback you just need to buy through the cashback site’s special link. Your cashback will be in your account within 14 days.
While it’s great to take advantage of the many, many offers available at Christmas time, don’t be lured in by store cards. They can generally only be used with one retailer or group and some charge as much as 25% interest. Shoppers are enticed by attractive introductory perks without any real warning of the debt dangers of running up interest on such a card. Be careful about signing up to multiple cards in a short space of time as it can do some damage to your credit rating.
The best plastic to use for your Christmas shopping is a credit card. You can choose between various perks like interest-free purchases, cashback on your spending and other rewards like air miles and supermarket points. Find out more at The best credit cards for Christmas 2017.
Check to see if you’re entitled to any unclaimed benefits and tax credit cuts. Find out what you could be getting by visiting the Gov.uk website.
Home and away
Check your home insurance to see if you have freezer cover and frozen pipes. Read more at How to protect your water pipes.
Plan trips in advance to avoid heavy traffic and roadworks at this busy time of year. Use PetrolPrices.com to find the lowest fuel prices around. If you're travelling by public transport, keep your eyes out for sales and make the most of those railcards.
Energy bills shoot up around the festive season so make sure you turn off fairy lights when you leave the house or go to bed. Turning the thermostat down by even one degree can save you 10% on your heating over the course of a year. Installing thermostats in different rooms can also help trim the costs too.
Of course there’s the more common sense stuff like blocking any draughts, using the right ring and pot lids when you’re cooking on the hob and avoid leaving electricals on standby. Saving money on energy could simply be a case of changing provider. You could get special deals by doing dual fuel and paperless billing. Head over to our energy comparison centre for more.
Start buying for the next one
You’ll probably be all out of festive cheer by this point but you can save loads by buying cards, wrapping paper and decorations in the New Year when they’re massively discounted.
It’s also a good chance to pick up bargain gift sets and electronics.
The cold hard light of New Year is ideal for reviewing your finances. If you have a bit of post-Crimbo debt, sign up for a 0% balance transfer card. You can transfer your debt over to a new card for a small fee and you won't have to pay interest on your debt for up to 39 months.
For example, the Santander All in One Credit Card gives you interest-free for the full 39 months. The balance transfer fee is 2.55% which means that if you transfer over £2,000 you'd be paying an extra £51. The representative APR is 18.9%.
Those who don't have as much debt might favour a card which has a smaller 0% balance transfer period but also has a smaller fee. With any credit card just make sure that you make your repayments every month otherwise it will negate the 0% benefits you get.
Find more top credit cards at our credit card comparison centre.
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