A cheap Christmas seems wrong somehow.
I mean, Christmas is ALL about giving generously and crazy spend, spend, spending on Christmas gifts and decorations and Christmas parties with tables weighed down with mountains of Christmas food. Isn’t it?
And a frugal Christmas on a budget sounds dull beyond words. And a NON-starter with kids!!!
But do you know what?
The truth is, a cheap Christmas can actually be the secret to a truly lovely family Christmas because a cheaper Christmas can be a :
- a simple Christmas free from the crazy chaos of yet more unused clutter
- a slower Christmas that doesn’t leave us collapsing exhausted on Christmas day
- a green Christmas that doesn’t generate mountains of waste and toxic pollution
- a kinder Christmas with time to look out for those who really need our care
- and a truly joyful Christmas with space to connect deeply with our loved ones and love and laugh together.
So how can we do it – a cheap Christmas on a budget – and get our families and especially our kids to buy in to more frugal Christmas gifts, decorations and food?
Well the trick – as it is so often – is to start where people “are” and work from there.
By tapping into the mixed feelings we truthfully all have, in different ways, about “spend, spend, spending” we can help our families see a cheaper Christmas can be a lovelier Christmas in their own terms.
A Lovelier Christmas
Sure our kids have a wish list as long as their arm but they’re passionate about the planet so we can help them see a cheaper Christmas with less waste and new stuff really would be a whole lot greener.
And us parents long to give our kids the most “perfect” Christmas ever but we know in our hearts our time is a far more precious gift than another mountain of soon forgotten clutter that puts the family in debt.
And however beautiful the sparkling decorations on the Christmas tree, we all know the brightest light at Christmas is shone by our goodwill to others, especially those in need.
So here’s a big list of lovely ideas for a simpler, slower, greener, kinder Christmas to help us all spread tidings of comfort and joy, on a budget.
75 Lovely Ideas for a Cheap, Frugal Christmas
- Embrace Scandinavian style decorations:
- … a small minimalist Christmas tree
- … wrap gifts with newspaper & twine
- … make ornaments with old buttons & ribbon & wire scraps.
- Go to local amateur Christmas shows rather than fancy shows in town
- Enjoy a winter walk in the woods and gather up for free fallen:
- … pine cones
- … holly leaves
- … and fir tree branches
- … to make lovely natural decorations.
- Organise carol singing on your street.
- … or a Christmas karaoke of fave songs.
- Buy brilliant toys second hand e.g. bikes, climbing frames, dolls houses, wooden toys.
- Join Facebook buy & sell groups in your neighbourhood to find pre-loved gifts …
- … and share your wish list because someone local may well have one never used and needing a good home.
- Pass on a family heirloom whether it’s…
- … a much loved teddy or soft toy
- … a pile of books
- … a watch or jewellery
- … a music collection
- … or vintage clothes
- They may not be worth loads but when you share the family stories that go with them, they become priceless.
- Arrange a toy swap to pass on great family games (you’ve played to death) and jigsaws (you’ve done) for the Christmas period.
- Turn down the lights, snuggle up and read Christmas stories aloud together. Dickens Christmas Carol still takes some beating.
- If family are a long way way off plan January or February meet ups when travel is much cheaper and everyone’s got more energy for fun.
- Share a family Christmas video rather than sending out cards.
- Sort through boxes of old photos and make mini photo albums for stocking fillers.
- Cut gift tags from old Christmas cards.
- Use old fabric to sew gift bags.
- Hoard ribbons & bows to reuse in Christmas decorations and gift wrap.
- Go to free carol concerts at a local church.
- Forage for winter berries and fruit …
- … and make home-made jellies & jam
- … or chutney and pickles as gifts.
- Plants pots of bulbs in autumn and force grow them to be ready as Christmas gifts.
- Put one day aside over Christmas to volunteer as a family. It could be
- … serving at a homeless shelter
- … singing songs at an old people’s home
- … sweeping snow for elderly neighbours.
- Ask for super cool, zero waste gifts that actually save us money all year round.
- Ask your kids what would Greta do? So many kids have been inspired by Greta Thunberg so get them to channel her in their Christmas lists and love less more.
- Find your best local sledging hill, and when it snows sledge all day for free rather than pay a fortune to ice skate for an hour.
- Write a leftovers plan detailing exactly how to freeze, rehash or store any leftover Christmas food, so you can do it easily.
- Agree a no gifts deal between adults …
- … make a collective donation instead to a charity that is special for your family.
- Encourage kids to ask for experience vouchers that will save the family money on trips and treats all year round. I’ve got a big list of ideas but easy winners are:
- … theatre vouchers
- … travel vouchers (trains are very green)
- … sports tickets.
- Borrow from neighbours thing you’re short on whether its baking tins, glasses or bed linen for visitors …
- … and share your spares in return.
- Sign up for local freecycle groups and keep your eyes peeled for …
- … things you can upcycle cheaply
- … free craft & decorating supplies e.g. paints, fabric, ribbon, twine, paper, buttons.
- Make simple homemade presents like :
- … traditional Christmas shortbread
- … Christmas fudge or peppermints
- … an adorable little mending kit like this in an old jar you have going spare
- … a patchwork cushion from fabric scraps
- … packets of seeds collected from seed heads in your garden. Poppies are fab.
- Get on eBay or Facebook marketplace or some such as early as you can in October and November and start selling all the stuff you have going to waste like …
- … never used gadgets still in boxes
- … expensive outgrown toys e.g. bikes, dolls houses, trains, ride ons, roller skates
- … never worn party clothes
- … excess Christmas decorations.
- Use Christmas wish lists to get family to help out with good quality winter clothes kids need. If you look after them, they’ll hold their value when you sell them on.
- Shop local in small independent shops … they are not the cheapest but less stuff means less temptation to go crazy. And those little shops are the heart of our communities.
- Gift yourself – our time and our skill is often the most precious thing we can give. It could be anything from:
- … help decorating or gardening
- … baby sitting for new parents in your family so they get some rest and relief
- … or teaching an instrument or craft.
- Have a movie swap and exchange classic Christmas movie DVDs with neighbours.
- Start a tradition to mark the winter solstice with a bonfire of all your fallen leaves and a special yule log.
- Declutter kitchen cupboards of unopened food packages your family will never eat and take them to a food bank.
- On a clear night go for a night hike, stand in awe of the stars and remember the simple power of the Christmas story : the birth of a child in the most humble surroundings who called on us all to light the world by loving our neighbours as ourselves.
I do hope these little tips help in some way and you and your family truly enjoy a lovely Christmas. For more simple, frugal ideas for Christmas and the New Year try these:
- How To Enjoy A Zero Waste Christmas
- 30 Super Cool Zero Waste Products That Actually Save Money
- 101 Little Things You Need To Stop Buying To Go Zero Waste