How to make your cash go further and have more fun doing it

First published in What's On

It is recognised that most families spend far too much money on Christmas, so here are 20 ways to make the family budget go further this time. You will probably end up enjoying Christmas more, too, with the worry of cost reduced considerably.


* Have a Blue Peter style craft day with the children so they can make their own presents for family and friends – book marks, napkin rings, desk tidies made from empty boxes, cardboard tubes and decorated by the youngsters always hit the mark and will be treasured for years.

* Check out the charity gift aid sites such as You can match the gift to the recipient, so that if, for example they love animals you could have them adopt one as part of a protection programme.

* Instead of spending pounds on on wrapping paper that will be ripped from a present and thrown away, buy tissue paper. You can buy a dozen sheets of colourful tissue paper for 50p. Or be really cheeky and if you’re buying a gift and the shop uses tissue paper to wrap the item simply ask for a few extra sheets! It’s also much easier to dispose of and much better for the environment.

* To encourage kids with musical instruments to practise you could ask for your present to be a special Christmas Day performance in your own living room. Let’s face it, the cost of your kids’ presents to you often comes from the household budget so you are saving money and receiving a memorable occasion as well.

* Wrap presents in newspaper. It can be decorated with seasonal ribbons and tape. Environmentally friendly and a great money saver. Particulary good for large presents, and those that are an awkward shap! Financial Times is pretty ... it’s pink!

* Buy some batteries for the adults, pop them in a box and write on the gift tag ‘Toy not included’. It will raise a laugh and you will be buying a gift that will definitely be used and appreciated next time their torch or TV remote ‘runs dry’.

* Buy next year’s Christmas cards in the January sales. You can also pick up wrapping paper, gift bags and novelty items at knock-down prices.

* Shop for discarded, unwanted presents on e-Bay. Gift set presentations will be seasonally packaged and just because someone else doesn’t want their gift it doesn’t mean it won’t match the taste of one of your family.

* Recycle old cards to make gift tags. Cut the card in half to separate the front from the message and cut around the main image. Punch a hole, add some ribbon and you will have a stack of tags ready for next year’s gifts.

* Spread the cost of Christmas by making arrangements for special treats with close family in the New Year. Arrange to go for a meal or a trip to a show once Christmas is over. You can retain the excitement by wrapping an item which gives a clue concerning the show you will be seeing.

* If you have a very large family see if you can get the adults to buy a gift for just one person. Get the adults to draw one name out of a hat and buy a gift for that person. When you gather on Christmas Day everybody gets a special present and each adult needs only to think about what to get for one person instead of 10 – and spend one-tenth of the cash.

* Personalise items with photographs to add value to potentially mundane gifts. For example, you can buy glass coasters for under a fiver and slide photos inside – this means you can give a similar present to different family members so it saves you time, too! Check out specialist household shops or department stores.

* Home-made goodies always go down well. Ever tried making jam, cooking special cakes, shortbread biscuits or even something as simple as gingerbread men. It’s all in the presentation, so make sure you dress your gifts and wrap them with a flourish.

* Keep a list of people for whom you need to buy presents and shop all year round. Summer is a great time to buy presents as stores clear out stock, ironically, ready for Christmas.

* Give yourself! Make vouchers for things such as a night of babysitting or day’s work in the garden. You could also offer to help with spring cleaning.

* Instead of buying wrapping paper you can use Christmas material to make bags of all shapes and sizes. The material can be used for making Christmas stockings and draw string bags for presents. This also means that there is no mountain of wrapping paper to clear up on the 25th – simply collect the bags ready to be used again next year!

* Leave the credit card at home. Set your budget for presents, draw your cash (not all in one go) and deal in cash only. If you don’t have the money with you, you can’t spend it. It’s amazing how this will shrink your spending, and when it’s all over you will have enjoyed Christmas without the worry of being hit with a huge credit card bill in January.

* If money is tight don’t buy for adults in the family. Make a pact that only the children receive gifts, because they are probably the ones who really appreciate the presents. And toys can be bought at car boot sales and charity shops. It will be much cheaper and if you are selective about quality the gift will be seen as good as new.

* Don’t cave in if children demand the latest expensive ‘must have’ gift and you can’t afford it. Manage their expectations well ahead of Christmas. In fact, they come to appreciate your time and presence spent doing things together far more than any outrageously expensive gift.

* Produce a hand-written recipe book with meals and treats tailored to the recipient’s taste. You will be giving a really thoughtful, personal gift for the cost of a note book.You don’t need to spend a lot of money to show you care.

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