The decorations add to the atmosphere and magic, but are a bonus.
Gifts can be a lot of fun, but I think they should be secondary to the real Christmas feelings, but it takes effort to avoid the commercialism of Christmas in the western world.
So if we take away the expensive trimmings, Christmas doesn’t have to cost us a lot of money.
If we keep a lot of the trimmings, it will cost us but here are some ways to minimise those costs. Hopefully others will add to my list so we can all have a Merry Frugal Christmas this year!
- make Christmas gift tags and cards instead of buying them
- make paper chains out of junk mail as a cheap alternative to tinsel or bought streamers
- if hosting an event, ask people to bring a plate to share
- when cooking for Christmas events, make a green salad, rice salad or pasta salad instead of a plate of char grilled vegetables or other expensive vegetable options
- plant lettuce, tomatoes and others so that they will be ready for harvesting at Christmas time and you have a really cheap salad or vegetable dish to present
- where appropriate, you could regift some things
- make some gifts – choose ones with materials you already have or can get cheaply. Some good simple gifts I’ve made include bath salts, cake ingredients, herb vinegars and beaded necklaces
- use a plain red sheet as a table-cloth – brighten it up with glitter, tinsel or baubles off the tree and it will still be cheaper than most purchased Christmas table cloths
- find inexpensive alternatives to Christmas wrapping paper – use kids’ artwork, use brown paper with some stickers or drawings on it, recycle last year’s paper, buy in bulk, use gift bags that can be reused, etc.
- get the kids to make decorations – this saves buying decorations, gives the kids genuine self-esteem and is probably cheaper than many other entertainment options for the kids!
- have a tree of thanks instead of the common decorations – cheaper and very special
- when people ask what you (or your kids) want, tell them! It may not save you Christmas money but if you are given something you need it will make your overall budget go further. And that includes getting others contribute to a large gift you want to give your kids
- make vouchers so you give the gift of your time and skills rather than things that cost you money. Try vouchers for babysitting, walking dogs, gardening, spring cleaning a house, giving a massage, running errands or doing admin tasks.
- think of resources to give as gifts. For instance a list of good books or information about choosing a computer could be really valuable to others
- do your Christmas shopping throughout the year. This gives you the chance to grab things on sale (and avoid any mark ups in December) and spread out your spending (which may not save you money in total but makes it easier to bear – and it can save interest payments from over used credit cards)
- set a budget for gifts. Personally I find this very hard to do but if you have a budget it does keep things under control. $10 a head for 20 people is $200 – if that sneaks up to $15 or $20 for even half those people it will now cost you $300 – it adds up quickly so think about what you can afford in total then divide it between the number of people (evenly or otherwise).
OK, 16 is my favourite number and I’m about out of ideas for now but they will all save you money and get you thinking of other things to do. Have you built up any traditions or habits to make your Christmas more affordable?
Maybe you don’t like the idea of a frugal Christmas at all – if so, let us know how you manage…