Six steps to a thrifty Christmas

For the first time since we were students Tim and I are REALLY having to reign it in, money wise. We don’t have a lodger for the first time since having this GIANT mortgage, both of us only work part time and we just spent every last penny on a beautiful van called Betty. Of course, we aren’t poor, we just don’t have any dosh, if you know what I mean. We could get all entrepreneurial, and take extra hours and craft things up and sell and things, but Alan Sugar we’re not. Every spare moment is bound up in Enjoying Life and Committing to the Things We Value, of which money simply isn’t one.

So, this Christmas is becoming Seriously Frugal. Fortunately we have been practicing for a few years now, and here are six ways we are doing it:

Christmas Trees
Every year for the last few years we have picked up a discarded tree from a school or college. It does mean waiting a bit longer- at least mid-December but sometimes you don’t find one until the 20th. But these trees are ENORMOUS and WONDERFUL! Big fatties, we had to push it through our giant front window last year as it wouldn’t squeeze down our hall. The schools are normally thrilled to have it taken off their hands. We gloat as we sail past other massive trees going for £70.

Presents
For the last 3 years we have only do Secret Santa in our family. We agree a price and use an internet service so it is all proper hush, and someone else is in charge. (The one year I did it I managed to know exactly who was buying for who, I well messed it up.) This way someone gets something really thoughtful and there are not piles of pressies sitting around that provoke only pseudo-thanks.

For other people, dear friends and children, I don’t tend to do much, and if I do it nearly ALWAYS involves a jar. (These 18 ways to upcycle your jars should provide some ideas.)

Tim and I have never done proper Christmas presents, we stick to a £10 budget, and I suspect we will do the same with Ramona. I feel pretty passionate about helping Ramona to understand that Things don’t Equal Happiness, and that love can be shown in millions of ways even throughout a traditional period of gift-giving.

Decorations
I haven’t bought any Christmas decorations in my life, I am the opposite of my sister who is obsessed with them. But I have crafted some up over the last couple of years using pegs, old fabric and scrabble letters (sound gorgeous, don’t they?!) and have been rather pleased with myself! This search on Pinterest will hook you up with millions of possibilities.

Food
I have only hosted one family Christmas before and we simply shared the food gathering out. I think this is becoming increasingly normal, as people struggle to find the bulk of money to lay on an exceptional festive spread at their party.  I have a friend who every year does Christmas with  her old school chums and each year each one brings a different traditional contribution. Just this weekend someone wrote in to the Guardian Money supplement, questioning this practice and the overwhelming response by readers was that guests contributing food made for a special and wonderful celebration. Don’t be shy.

Wrapping
I am officially the world’s worst wrapper  (Wrapper that is, not Rapper- in terms of Rapping I am actually rather excellent, particularly with Do the Bartman and Ice Ice Baby). Often my gifts look like I have pulled them out of the bin (I usually have) (JOKES, honest, I only get things out the bin for myself.) (Cor, now I sound bin selfish) because wrapping requires a finesse I don’t have. I always use recycled paper and my pressies always look ugly.  However, I have a dear friend who wraps everything with newspaper and her gifts look AMAZING! Just check out the possibilities of using recycled wrapping.

Christmas Frocks
Christmas time is a time to look nice, no? To feel happy with your outfit, to feel fresh. For me, a new frock is synonymous with the festivities and has been since I was a tot. If this is the same for you I have to say: Get ye to a Swap Shop now! I already have a swap organised, at a local cafe down the road. A little google could show up one in your region, and if not just organise one for your street or even just your friends. It is THE thriftiest way to clear out your wardrobe and get some new things in, and have a whale of a time whilst doing it. I could not be more of a fan!

As you can see, I only have 6 areas that I have attacked with my Wand of Frugality. I am sure there are a million more. For those of you who have been doing a thrifty Christmas for yonks, how do you do it? Would love to collect some ideas on here.

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14 Responses to Six steps to a thrifty Christmas

  1. We love Christmas in our house. Nice ideas. We’re collecting Christmas ideas right this moment. Guess it’s that time of the year now… scary, time flies.

  2. Love this – although I wish I had the time to make more Christmas presents. We’re trying to do Christmas on a strict budget this year too. We’ll still be buying a tree and making our own Christmas food (we’re staying the 3 of us at home this year, just us) but my daughter’s main present is a £10 second hand wooden doll’s house with furniture. Plus I’ve made a load of chutney to give as presents to family and friends in decorated jars. And for the kids – it’s homemade crayons. When it comes down to it, it’s about special family time together and non-work related fun. I’m quite proud of my 2 year old – when I ask her what happens at Christmas, she replies, “Love Mummy and Daddy. Family!” I’m working hard to earn money at the moment for a mortgage, but that’s for stability and for us to have a place of our own. I certainly don’t work for “stuff”. Plastic tat that inevitably gets broken and thrown away. x

  3. jojot says:

    I’m not (and if I am it’s only a bit).

  4. lally Young says:

    I love xmas, I have wrapped all the presents in our house today. It took me four hours, I mix new goods with second hand new goods from the charity shop and the people will never know were they come from. Which is nice for me. I think outside the box and the most simplest thing is actually ask the family want they want and explain it is xmas on a budget. Make hand made/ homemade gifts. We have a budget for each family member and we have stuck to it. I am glad I have done it. Its out of the way now!

  5. “Bin selfish” is definitely my phrase of the week! Sounds like you’re going to have a really lovely Christmas. I’m sure Ramona will have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by the people she loves and who love her :)

    We’re lucky enough to have a huge Christmas tree growing in our garden, so we’re chopping the top off and decorating that. The first year in our own house we were so poor we painted the tree on the wall…. http://hooklineandsinkher2.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/woodlice-invasion-oh-golly-gosh.html

    xx

  6. Pingback: Favourite posts this week - Bake 'n' Shake

  7. smallftprints says:

    Our holidays are very frugal. We head outdoors for decorations … last year I collected acorns and pine cones and made a very simple, but beautiful, door decoration (basically glued them onto a fat ribbon and tied it to the door knocker). We are second-hand, thrift store shoppers so we typically find tree ornaments for very cheap (and I love that they are “recycled”). We’ve tried to get creative with gift giving. One year we made our own cookbooks for family members … another year we filled jars with the ingredients for our favorite chili. I love the idea of getting a slightly used Christmas tree … brilliant! :-)

  8. Lilybett says:

    The thing our kids look forward to most at Christmas is playing a game we call Heather’s Revenge but probably has a million other names. Everyone provides a small/ cheap/ recycled/ joke/weird (or all of the above) present. One year there was a piece of pizza in a shoe box, a scratch card taped to a brick, shoelaces and a jar of gherkins among other things. You wrap them up so they can’t be identified and then it’s all about sitting in a circle and rolling doubles on a set of dice. If you do, you get to pick a present from the middle or steal someone else’s. The game can go on for hours as everyone steals back and forth. Then we all sit around and watch what everyone unwraps. It’s hilarious and the kids think it’s the best part of the day. We asked my nephew if we should play it again and he squealed and got a dreamy look in his eye and said: ‘remember when I got those gherkins?’

  9. love this post. i am so going to try that free tree idea. i often make my own christmas cards. i love receiving cards because it’s the only thing i get in the mail these days that isn’t a bill. one year, i cut out christmas-themed comics and glued them to card stock. i started early in december, when the comics started on christmas themes and had over 80 cards made by the time i was ready to hand them out. they were funny, individual and creative. You can check out these and other cards i’ve made here: http://thriftshopperforpeace.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/the-12-days-of-thrift-hearted-christmas/

  10. Ruth says:

    Nothing shop bought has ever been allowed on our tree – it all must be hand crafted with love and christmas joy :) And we never buy wrapping paper – it’s recycled or newspaper and it looks beautiful (well I think so anyway) which reminds me, I must start collecting Metros! I absolutely live your blog and all your thrifty craft ideas x

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