How to save on the cost of Christmas

A round tree ornament features the words Merry Christmas
Claire Wong

Digital Content Producer

We’ve collected 21 ideas to help you manage Christmas on a budget. 

As we plan ahead for the festive season, many of us are looking for ways to save money on the cost of Christmas this year. Here are our ideas to make sure celebrating doesn’t come with too high a price tag.

Plan how you’ll limit the cost of Christmas presents

Gifts can be the biggest drain on your budget, and the pressure to spend more on presents for everyone can be hard to shake. But there are lots of ways to cut back on costs.

  • For big families, friendship groups or workplaces, see if you can do a Secret Santa so you’re only buying one gift instead of buying gifts for everyone.

  • Can you make things for friends and family this year? If you’re someone who enjoys crafts, or if you have children who love making things, a thoughtful handmade gift can be treasured even more than something shop-bought.

  • Explore second hand shops. There are plenty of gifts that don’t need to be brand new to be special. Have a search of your local charity shops, especially for old books and children’s games.

  • Set a budget and work out in advance how many gifts you need to buy, so you know what it’s likely to cost. That way you can plan your budget and avoid any nasty surprises.

Ways to keep down the cost of Christmas food

  • If you find yourself always being the one to host meals and get-togethers at Christmas, encourage others to get involved. Can someone else host this year, or contribute to the cost of food?

  • For big groups, suggest a bring-and-share, where each person brings something and no one has to spend a huge amount of money.

  • Before you go shopping for Christmas food, make a plan! Write out your shopping list, and check what you’ve already got in the house.

  • If you’re trying to limit the amount you spend on energy for cooking, have a look through these energy-saving recipes from BBC food for dishes that can be prepared in a slow cooker, air fryer or pressure cooker.
  • Think about what are your favourite foods for Christmas, and which things you only buy because it’s traditional. If you don’t actually like roast turkey, don’t feel like you have to buy it! There are plenty of cheaper options for Christmas dinner.

  • When you’re at the supermarket (or browsing the website for your online order), watch out for special offers’ that aren’t as good as they look. It’s nice to buy a few treats at Christmas, of course, but make sure they don’t lure you into going over budget or buying things you won’t want to eat.

  • Money Saving Expert recommends trying the downshift challenge. Try swapping a few items on your food shop for a cheaper brand. Or go one step further and do your whole food shop at a cheaper supermarket.

  • And remember, never go shopping on an empty stomach! It makes it much harder to avoid the temptation to buy lots of extra tasty snacks that you don’t need.

Homemade gingerbread men covered with colourful sprinkles

Reduce your spending on days out and experiences

If expensive days out and event tickets are beyond your budget, don’t worry. There are low cost options for the whole family.

  • Find out what free events are happening near you. See if there are local Christmas light switch ons or events at your local library.

  • If the cost of heating the house is what’s motivating you to head outside, have a look for your nearest Warm Welcome Hub. Many places around the UK have committed to opening their doors to anyone in need of a warm space, a cup of tea and a friendly chat this winter.

  • Go for a walk with friends and family. Put on your warmest coat and hat, and head for the nearest park. 

  • Create a scavenger hunt. This is great if you’ve got kids who need extra entertainment on a walk. An easy way to do this is to collect some small stones, then write a number on each one with a pen, or paint them bright colours. Hide them along your route for others to find.

  • Go to your local church’s Christmas service. Many churches will have special services at this time of year with carol-singing and nativity stories. Whether you prefer a noisy, family-friendly church or a candlelit evening service, there’s a great variety to choose from.

Christmas was never meant to be about spending lots of money

Every year there’s more movies about discovering the meaning of Christmas, yet it’s easy to feel pressured into spending money.

Spend some time reading the Christmas story, which tells how Jesus was born to a poor family, with no fuss or extravagance. The angels made a point of telling the good news first to low-paid workers, the shepherds.

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 

Luke 2:10

Get help keeping down the costs this Christmas

Remember, you don’t have to manage everything alone. There’s lots of helpful resources out there to support you and your Christmas budget. Here are a few examples of what CAP offers.

  • Use our three step guide to help you set up a budget you can stick to this Christmas 

  • Make sure you’re not missing out on government support that you’re entitled to. Check our benefits calculator to see what benefits you’re eligible for.

  • If money’s already a source of stress before you even begin to think about Christmas shopping, get help! CAP offers free support in paying off debts, finding paid work or putting together a manageable budget. Check our local service provision near you.