No money to spend at Christmas can seem overwhelming.
You want to be able to do everything everyone else is supposedly doing, right? Everyone seems to be loudly talking about their elaborate plans.
Plans that seem far out of reach for someone who for whatever reason, has little cash to spare in the Christmas season.
Yep I've been there and to be honest, I am still in the position where I appreciate the value of the things I originally started to do when I refused to give way to pressures and once again spend on my credit cards.
If you're anything like me, you will be thinking that you need to Christmas on as much of a budget as possible.
How is it that Christmas always creeps up so quickly every year?
I found I needed a solution to the last minute money panic I felt for years and years. Waking up at night thinking - how do I possibly please everyone?
Or.. what could I juggle without causing financial hell or us having to eat soup for a month!
That's a tad dramatic, but you know the horrible feeling post Christmas, when you feel like you can't buy anything, for the fear of looming huge bill!
I was determined, over the years to find small ways to feel better in the Christmas period, about how to pay for everything.
Some ideas below I have used - some are ideas I have heard of, that have been used very successfully. I hope they might help you on the way to a truly restful Christmas on a Budget. If I have survived, so can you.
Forgive Yourself for Wanting to Appear Like Your Christmas Is Perfect.
One of the things I realised I was doing was comparing myself to everyone around me. Social media and magazines were promoting perfection at Christmas, whether it be the glorious photographs from my friends list on Facebook, or glossy pictures of families celebrating in magazines. So I stopped buying the magazines - it seemed every time I read one, it made me feel worse.
How could I possibly afford all the things they were promoting as Christmas essentials?
Facebook is a great thing, but in terms of spending money, I realised I was again spending unnecessary money on non essentials.
I limited my use, and within a few days I started to feel more positive. Within a week, I realised also how much time it had freed up. Needless to say Mr Budget was happier too.
The conversation I had with him was monumental also.
He turned to me and said.
Why don't you just forgive yourself for wanting to make everything so perfect? You are beating yourself up without any reason. Be kind.
I don't like to admit this, but he was right.
In my attempt to keep my family happy - provide them with expensive presents, and try to see everyone for a meal or whatever they had booked, I had forgotten I had a choice in everything. I could choose to budget and not reproach myself for it. After all I was being responsible and accountable for my money situation then also.
make a christmas budget
Mr Budget and I sat down and figured out how much I could actually afford to spend using a blank budget planner. I found that physically writing it down, was like I'd made a promise to myself to succeed in not going into more debt.
It felt like a contract to look after myself better. It turned out we had hardly anything to spend (£150) but this was still a workable figure, because we had made a decision to control our Christmas outcome.
Two Heads or More Are Better Than One
Within a couple of hours, we had come up with solutions for everything. It was clear that we had to be harsh to achieve this total budget. Because both of us were involved in this process, we bounced off each other different ideas, and I felt like I wasn't trying to handle it all on my own.
Things to Do If You Can't Afford Christmas Events This Year
I Worked Out What We Absolutely Couldn't Do Ahead of Christmas and Found Free AlternativesThe hard fact was that neither of us could afford to go out to scheduled events with friends.
Our solution was to get in touch with friends and explain honestly about our Christmas budget plan.
We filled our pre- Christmas and Christmas diary with meet ups that were free or involved only buying a coffee for example.
Our organisation meant that we could explain to close friends and family properly and not feel any Christmas guilt. After all we had made the effort to spend time with the people who we care about most in the world.
Cheap things to do at Christmas if you are skint:
- Walks in the park or countryside and back home for milky coffee or hot chocolate.
- DVD/film night - get everyone to bring one item of food or drink
- Take the kids to a outdoor play area
- Crafting session with the kids
- Going to your local seaside town and having a stroll along the beach with the family and the dog.
- Take an evening trip out to the local mall/shopping centre and just mooch around. You don't have to buy anything, but purely enjoy the bustle of the holidays.
- Visit Santa - a lot of places offer this free!
- Ice skating - a lot of cities or large towns set up a rink and let you skate for a minimal amount.
give yourselves Enough Breathing Space to Just Be
We were looking forward to the holidays so much, that we realised we had not given ourselves enough time to relax.
The beauty of relaxation is that it's free, or very very cheap.
We built this into our holiday and actually felt more refreshed when we went back to work again.
Our days have consisted of long baths, lie ins, films in bed with many cups of tea and biscuits. The list goes on. We felt so much better also because we were in effect, managing the payment of our debt, without diving deeper into debt each year.
Ideas for Christmas relaxation days when you have no money:
- Order a takeaway in and watch films all night. We had previously bought a wine box from Aldi and this lasted us the majority of the holidays.
- Walk the dog. The family dog provided hours of free entertainment. They always need walking right? Part of our daily 'free' holiday involved taking him to different places that we knew he would love. We underestimated what simple pleasure just watching him splash around in a shallow river or stream.
- Stay in your pyjamas! Another day we didn't get out of our pyjamas all day and enjoyed our favourite broadsheet newspaper together. It was delicious thinking that we didn't need to be anywhere at any point in time. We realised we had lost the urge to rush around; this on reflection was our key to great mental health at Christmas. We had truly managed to relax.
Real Friends will want you to Succeed with your Christmas Budget
This had to be the biggest lesson learnt - it clarified who our friends really were.
I don't regret this whatsoever though. Our real friends have experienced life's ups and downs with us and been excited to try our new budget thinking.
They didn't care that we couldn't buy much - they just wanted our time. As a result, we feel so much closer to our real friends now, because they really do understand us.
So my message is, don't be afraid to tell them how you feel and share what you need to do - you will feel better that you have shared your situation with them.
You will feel like you are on the road to cutting your spending, financial stability, savings and security. Every step towards this goal is important, no matter how small. It all counts!
So now the question is, how exactly did we do Christmas when we didn’t have any money to spend?
Here are some tips for gifts, events and things to do at Christmas that you can achieve with small amounts of money.
How can I do Christmas cheap?
Set a Christmas Budget That You Can Afford
Set a budget and try your best to stick to it. This is easier said than done.
This year, I will be using Christmas versions of my cash envelopes. For each budget area, I will allocate a set budget. When the cash is gone, it's gone!
Maybe buy a set of colourful envelopes and put cash into each of them. This will serve as your budget for Christmas food, Christmas presents, going out and any other expenses relevant to you.
Last year, I did it purely via card, and I didn't find it as easy. This year, I have been enjoying using the cash envelope system, as it keeps me accountable to myself for what I am spending.
Buy Elements of Your Christmas Dinner Every Week
Buy one thing a week towards Christmas dinner and freeze it or store it. Start two or three months in advance.
You could even have a separate section in your freezer, so you don't end up eating it as part of the normal week's eating plan. Put anything such as: wine, stuffing mix... away in the cupboard. Supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl are superb places to pick up food bargains for Christmas.
Christmas presents on a budget
- 1Make an ideas list
- 2Set a spending limit
- 3Pay in cash
- 4Go alone
- 5Only spend on what you were going for, no spending on you
- 6Look out for sales at discount stores
- 7Combine Christmas gifts for couples
Shop around the sales all year round
To spread your spending over longer, and afford more, looking at sale bargains could be a way to buy some of your Christmas gifts.
Becky over at Family Budgeting has a great post about bargains you can find every year. Other inspiration can be found over at Finsavvypanda , where she has found killer bargains on stocking fillers, for less than $10, that are also applicable worldwide.
Make homemade Christmas gifts for cheaper
If you have children, a great use of spare time and possible bonding time could be making presents for their grandparents for example. Making Budget Christmas decorations can keep children occupied, busily making for hours. Cass, over at the Diary of a Frugal Family has collected together superb tried and tested ideas for simple decorations and ornaments kids can make.
If you can knit, and you have time, woollen knitted scarves seem to be a hit with the children at the moment. I love the classic look of home knitted jumpers also. This could be an option - and updating young children's wardrobes also without paying retail prices.
Maybe you have a talent such as being artistic. In the past I have gifted good pieces of my artwork as gifts.
Christmas cards are more authentic and much appreciated by grandparents and parents if they are handmade by younger children.
My mum loved her Christmas card from my two year old niece! She wouldn't stop showing it to everyone. Is it something that you could spare time to do?
Do Secret Santa with your family and friends!
Instead of buying all of your extended family presents, you could arrange a secret Santa, where everyone has one gift they buy for a specific person. This works well, particularly for the adults of the family, and you would only need to pay for one present, as opposed to many. You could even set a spending limit and theme, limiting unnecessary outlay even more.
Choose and image below and save me to Pinterest!
Re-gift Old Christmas Presents and Gift Bags Carefully
Can you re-gift unused presents - be careful to make a note of who it was from though, so you don't give it them back!
I also save present bags and I remove the tags, so they are reusable. This saves me on average £20 a year.
Give the Gift of Time
Could you arrange with your family to give the gift of time?
Maybe you are good at:
Could you offer an hour of your time to help a family member, especially an elderly one?
Or just spend quality time doing an activity you both enjoy! This could potentially save hundreds of pounds and everyone gets to spend time together - something that I guess we could all do more together.
Come Together and Split the Christmas Dinner Bill
Could you arrange for as many people in your family to come together to have Christmas dinner?
This way the bill could be split. Maybe you could have a Jacob's join, where you invite everybody to say what they will bring, and everyone has a great feast, but for little outlay!
In some areas, it is possible to hire a small hall, for a cheap price, so you could have potentially more of you together!
Christmas gifts on a budget at work
At work, could you suggest that you all send each other a free e-card instead of feeling undue pressure to buy everyone something and a card. I have used ecards.co.uk to send e-cards. It also eliminates paper waste, so is more eco-friendly. Big win!
Instead of going out, the Jacob's join idea has been fun in the past for me. It is also a way of saving money by not having to afford another expensive night out before Christmas even begins.
Plan ahead for your Christmas budget 2020
Use a Christmas Savings Scheme or Plan
There are many savings plans in different formats that you can use to prepare for 2020, from just after Christmas 2019.
Park offer Lovetoshop vouchers or a card.
Choose a total budget and pay every week or month towards the total. The great thing is that there are lots of ways to pay. Some include: direct debit, manual payments by telephone, internet or you can download the app. From September onwards your vouchers or card is delivered to you.
I love this method personally because I do this every year. It forces me to save throughout the year, so I no longer have to panic about where the money is going to come from. My payments go direct to my friend who, to make more money, works as an agent for Park.
Because I have to pay to her, it keeps me on the straight and narrow and accountable for the fact that I need to be within my budget for Christmas.
Supermarket Christmas Saving Schemes.
Supermarkets such as ASDA, Morrisons, and Tesco offer saving schemes, where you can electronically save credits onto their cards over the year. So as part of your shop, you could budget £5 for charging to the card, and before you know it, you will have saved a small fortune! Bear in mind, you would have to spend the money in the store you have saved within.
ASDA Christmas Saving Card
You can save up £485 on this savings card. If you save £285 or over by the bonus date in November, you get £15 reward.
Save between £230 and £279 and you will receive a £12 bonus. Save as little as £30 and ASDA will give you a bonus of £1. When you register, you receive a card and also a fob for your car keys. So just load the card every time you shop and it will soon build up.
Morrisons Christmas Savers
Morrisons are offering digital stamps now. You can buy them instore all year now.
Save £49 and Morrisons will make it up to £50.
Save £100 and Morrisons will make it up to £100.
Tesco Christmas Savers
With a Tesco Christmas Saver card, you can save from 50p to £630
Top up throughout the year and get:
£25 - £49.50 top-up = £1.50 bonus
£50 - £99.50 top-up = £3 bonus
£100 - £199.50 top-up = £6 bonus
£200 - £360 top-up = £12 bonus
The 15 October 2019 is the date by which to top up your savings and receive your bonus in your November 2019 statement.
Making the most out of the supermarket Christmas saving schemes.
You need to read this post on Moneysavingexpert on how to get the maximum value out of the supermarket Christmas schemes this year.
It's worth also bearing in mind also, not to put all of your budget into these schemes, as there always could be a chance that the company could go bust. This is something I always bear in mind, so I generally have half of my Christmas budget saved in a saving scheme.
I hope these tips might inspire you or spark further ideas, for a peaceful Christmas on a shoestring. Christmas when you have no money may seem daunting, but it's so possible.
Let me know how you are doing. Feel free to share your ideas and tips!