For many, instead of joy and happiness, Christmas can be a time of stress and worry when you think you can’t afford Christmas.
To make matters worse, this can continue long after the festivities are over if you end up getting into, or increasing your debt which you then have to struggle to pay off for the rest of the year.
If this resonates with you, know you are not alone, far from it. Millions in the same position or have been there at some point in the past.
While everyone’s personal situation is different, we hope at least some of our practical tips and advice can help.
We hope we have something to help everyone.
There are all kinds of reasons many of us struggle financially and looking for tips for living on a tight budget, all year round, but it can be especially when you have little to no money for Christmas presents, extra food, decorations and parties.
Job loss, new baby, illness, the reasons people can’t afford Christmas can be endless.
You don’t need to tell everyone you can’t afford Christmas if you don’t want to, or think it will help.
You just need to be creative and perhaps put some perspective on things and realise not everyone needs an expensive gift or even a gift at all.
Even with little to no money for presents, you and your loved ones can still have a great Christmas.
What to Do If You Have No Money for Christmas
There are all kinds of things you can do to help you afford the best possible Christmas.
You don’t have to do them all, just hone in on the ones that work best for your personal situation.
Stop All Tit for Tat Giving
This Martin Lewis video resonates every year. Let’s stop the tit for tat giving.
Often you’ll find other friends and family feel the same but didn’t want to bring it up.
Martin says it best in this short 3-minute video, well worth a watch.
Set a Budget – Stick to It
Plan in advance who you are going to buy for and set a price limit for each person.
The same goes for decorations, food, Christmas dinner.
Most important of all, stick to it. Do not go over your budget spending plan.
If you simply can’t afford presents, consider all the alternative options, such as free gift, or in some cases no gift at all.
Work through the ideas on this page for all the options.
Can you remember every gift you received last year or the year before? Let alone who they were from.
Probably not and guess what, neither can everyone else.
What you probably can remember, is having fun at the moment and that’s what Christmas is all about.
Focus on the fun and not the gifts.
Do you have any items or past unwanted gifts you could regift to anyone?
If you don’t already have a storage place to keep unwanted gifts for possible regifting consider starting one.
Rules for regifting:
- Don’t regift to the person who gave you the gift
- Make sure the item is unopened and unused
- Ideally, give the gift to someone who will appreciate it
If you are regifting any old gift to someone just for the sake of it, question whether they should be on your gift list at all.
Have you read a particular book recently that you know someone on your gift list would also love? Consider giving that as a gift. Write a note with the book to make it personal, let them know how much you enjoyed it and hope they do too.
Do you have any past gift photo frames? Put a meaningful photo in the frame, for example, find one on Facebook, get it printed off for free at freeprints and there’s your ideal gift.
Put Your Environmental / Sustainability Head On
When it comes to planet earth sustainability and important issues future generations will have to deal with such as the increasing need to reduce waste, Christmas seems totally ludicrous.
It doesn’t have to be about how you can afford presents, but more about looking out for the planet for kids futures.
Planet Earth simply isn’t large enough to sustain the whole world living like consumers in Western Europe and North America, Australia.
If the whole world consumed as we do, the earth would need to be x2-3 times bigger to sustain us all.
- Wrapping paper
- Christmas Cards
- Unwanted gifts
- One time use novelty gifts
See here how much waste Christmas creates. So simply stop buying it. Change your thinking and think about reusing and recycling.
We as a collective society could all do with being more responsible. Yet the problem is it’s out sight out of mind for most people.
It’s a vicious circle. Governments and businesses want us to spend money for their profits and tax income. We don’t have to be part of the circle.
Give or Buy Second-Hand Gifts
Second-hand bikes are ideal. Kids grow out of them so quickly anyway.
Check eBay for second-hand gifts still in really good condition. Doesn’t have to be in the original box, just find fun original ways of wrapping.
Check sites like Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace, Preloved Sometimes people just want to declutter and are happy to let items go really cheap.
If your children are really young you could look around local charity shops and car boots for really cheap gift ideas, especially toys.
The sooner you start doing this the better as other people will also be doing the same
Salvation Army Gift Boxes
The salvation army-run an Annual Christmas Present Appeal specifically for children who might not receive a gift.
All gifts are new and range in suitability for ages 0 to 16 years of age.
Referrals for use of the appeal can be done via Salvation Army Centers which can be found right across the UK here.
Social services, health visitors and schools may also be able to refer you.
Make a Gift
There are all kinds of things you can make for Christmas gifts.
As a child, one of the best presents I ever had was Fort made by my Grandad. I was too young at the time to remember receiving it, but I do remember playing with it in the years after. I also remember being proud when Id be reminded my Grandad actually made it.
My mum and auntie make little gifts every year for some members of my family. Whether a chicken doorstop or pretty decoration, they were always gratefully received.
Do you have any skills, like knitting, crocheting, carpentry, literally anything?
If not, just give something you fancy a go.
Free Samples and Free Stuff
This won’t work for everyone, but there are literally hundreds of items you can claim for free via sites like latestfreestuff.co.uk.
Spend time on getting as many as you can that will make good individual gifts or stocking fillers or put them into gift bundles.
Best sites from free stuff:
- Latestfreestuff.co.uk (use a new email before signing up for free stuff)
- Magicfreebies (use a new email before signing up for free stuff)
- Freecycle Keep stuff out of the landfill, ideal for things like Christmas trees and much more
Enter Free Competitions to Win Gifts
There are hundreds of free to enter competitions you can enter every day. Even whole online communities around entering competitions.
The key is only to spend time entering competitions for items you want to win.
Be they for yourself, a gift or something you can resell.
Enter enough of them and it’s only a matter of time until you start winning some.
Can You Sell Some of Your Unwanted Stuff?
Do you have any items you can sell?
Perhaps unworn clothes, or even past unwanted gifts?
Clothes is a great one and you might find it quite surprising what people pay for them via a range of easy to use clothes selling apps.
Go through your house cupboards, draws, garage, loft even to see if you have anything you can sell to raise money or even regift.
Use Supermarket Loyalty Points
Do you have any supermarket loyalty points you could use?
We have the following posts for maximising and boosting the value of your points when you spend them
- Nectar Points (can be spent in Argos)
- Tesco Clubcard Points
- Boots Advantage Points (plenty of gift options)
Ultimately we only need to feed ourselves as much as we do any other day of the year. So much food is simply wasted at Christmas.
Just buy what you need. Which is the same amount of food as any other day, unless you have guests.
In the lead up to Christmas keep an extra eye on supermarket reductions. You might spot significantly reduced foods you can prepare and freeze to save for the big day.
Is there a local food bank you can use?
This might not help with presents directly but may help your situation in this extra time of need.
Foodbank awareness is generally raised around Christmas precisely because so many people need a little extra help and many people are willing to give.
Use the available help. See the Trussel Trust website to find a food bank near you.
Christmas Treasure Hunt
A Christmas treasure hunt. My kids love these and even set them up for older members of the family. Hidden little notes giving clues as to the there where the next note is, and a little gift at the end.
The treasure can be a small gift but the fun in finding it is what it’s all about.
Make Christmas Fairy Cakes
Do you enjoy baking?
Instead of gifts make some Christmas fairy cakes for everyone.
If you have children get them involved in the making and decorating of the cakes.
Buy Cheap Wine in the Sales
Wine makes a great gift for many people.
It’s also a gift you can buy a few of pretty cheaply if you save up shop during the 25% off 6 bottles of wine supermarket sales.
Although sale dates vary year to year, most of the main supermarkets have sales in the lead up to Christmas.
Spend Cash Only
Cash is seemingly being used less and less every year which really doesn’t help when it comes to overspending.
With a debit or credit card, you are much more likely to overspend.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and use a card. Whereas with cash, if you can’t buy it right there and then because you don’t have enough, you simply can’t buy it.
Track Card Spending
If you can’t stick to cash make sure you don’t lose track of your spending on either your debit or credit card.
There’s nothing worse than a huge credit card bill in January that you simply can’t pay or will struggle to pay for the next few months.
If at all possible try and avoid debt. It’s a short term solution with medium to long term consequences.
If anything it will make your situation worse as it encourages you to spend money you don’t have.
If you end up paying high interest on the debt you make your future financial life even more difficult for yourself.
Kids Don’t Need A lot to Be Happy
Is it the child that WANTS the gifts? Or is it YOU who WANTS to give the gifts?
Think about that for a second.
Most kids will appreciate whatever they get. Often it’s the parent that wants to buy and give more, but sometimes it simply isn’t feasible.
The parent ends up feeling far more guilty than they ever should.
Have Fun Without Presents
Christmas can be exciting for some kids just because the family are spending time together, playing games (board games, puzzles) watching movies with a hot chocolate and some popcorn.
Baking cakes or Christmas cookies together.
If the kids are young, do some colouring together or basic arts and crafts. Let them loose on the glue and glitter.
Have a Christmas party, sing songs, all you need is music.
What does your child ask you to do, that you often find yourself putting off until another time? Plan to do that.
Lots of Little Things
Half the fun of Christmas is unwrapping, not the actual gift itself. Just buy lots of little cheap things, even if things you buy anyway.
Examples such as sweets, hair ties, a flannel, soap, satsuma, hot chocolate and biscuits all ake great cheap presents.
Stores ideal for little cheap gift ideas:
- Home Bargains
- The Works
Young Kids – It’s All About the Fun
When kids are young it’s all about excitement. What’s in the stocking or under the tree doesn’t really matter as much.
Young children really don’t need a lot at all to have a truly magical Christmas day. If they do want something, it is usually one thing in particular. Kids who get loads of presents often still end up focusing on one of 2.
Their favourite cereal, or one they aren’t always allowed.
Or things they need anyway, like new pyjamas, a new toothbrush.
They get caught up in the wonderment of it all.
They have just as much fun with a big cardboard box. This is the key point, kids use their imagination.
Gifts for Teenagers
It is sometimes more difficult with teenagers as they are more likely to have wants and expectations, perhaps based on past years.
You can however talk to a teenager and help them understand the current situation. Unless you talk to them, they can’t be expected to understand.
Does what they want have to be the latest and greatest? If so, they may have to learn to wait.
Perhaps mention to friends and family that they would like one or two main presents and whether people could put money towards it rather than buy random stuff they don’t want.
Look to see if it’s worth getting refurbed or second-hand, for example in the case of games console, games, bike etc.
My kids have wanted mobile phones in the past and I have brought them refurbished handsets from Giff Gaff. I would only ever buy them refurbed phones.
Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen for the Homeless
This might help put your situation into perspective and be an eye-opener for all members of the family. It can also be heartwarming to help others in need at this special time.
Alternatively pop round to someone in need, a local elderly person, or someone on their own.
Depending on their age, ask the kids if they’d like to do a drawing or colouring to cheer the person up.
Friends and Family
The burden isn’t all on you to get your kids everything.
Let family members know what your kids want.
Consider telling the family to miss you out and just get the kids instead.
Perhaps set up an Amazon wishlist with anything you know your kids will like or need and share with close family.
Be Inspired by Kids
Most kids have no money, but still like to give gifts, whether for Christmas, birthdays or Mothers/Fathers Day.
What do they give?
I’ve had artwork, things they have made, a bag of porridge, a BIC pen. I even once had a tub of live mealworms (to hand feed a garden bird). Or they have made me my favourite chocolate toothpaste dessert.
A thoughtful gift is way better than just any gift given for the sake of it no matter how expensive.
Give Free Vouchers
Not all gifts have to be physical products.
You could give fun vouchers that give your kids a day off the washing up or walking the dog, or to have a family movie night. Or whatever you think they will appreciate using.
- Free babysitting evening
- Stay up later than normal
- Clean Car
- Clean house
- Cooking lesson
- Washing up for a week
- Rake the garden leaves
- Cook Dinner
Buy from Discount Sites
For really cheap Christmas presents and food try discount sites like the following:
- Approved Foods for discounted food near or past its best before date
- Toys for a Pound Has all kinds of toys, including Disney, My Little Pony, Lego and much more( Excellent4.9 rating on Trustpilot)
- Poundtoy (4.6 on Trustpilot)
- Schuh Imperfects for clearance footwear for all ages
Give Free Thoughtful Gifts
We were once given a large second-hand jar with a colourful Memory Jar 2020 sellotaped to the side.
It was one of our most memorable and used gifts.
Throughout the year all members of the family would write memories from days out or funny events.
At the end of the year, all post-its were emptied onto the table and we took turns in reading them out. (There were a few arguments and grievances put in as well, but in hindsight, these were funny too).
Examples of Free Gift Ideas
- Memory Jar
- Plant a bulb
- Plant a cutting from the garden
Plan to Shop in the Sales
Have the best Christmas day you can but plan to do some of your Christmas shopping in the sales.
Some people plan the bulk of their shopping around key sale dates, why not do the same at Christmas.
We list the sales dates for the likes of:
- Argos Toy Sale Dates (Plus loads of extra ways to save)
You can find bargains before Christmas or get involved in the sales from Boxing Day onwards (although some even start on Christmas Day nowadays, if that’s what makes the day for you go for it).
Take Advantage of Christmas Savings Clubs
There are various Christmas savings clubs, many are run by your local supermarket and pay decent bonuses.
With most of these supermarket Christmas savings clubs, you only need your savings in for a short period of time before and on the bonus, date to get a nice.
One popular example is the ASDA Christmas Saving Card tips I have covered.
It’s a way to save little and often. The bonus incentive will help motivate you to save it for Christmas only.
Squirrel Away Savings
One good way to save is saving without realising.
Check out the best savings apps, some of which take money from your current accounts when it analyses you can afford to.
Others round up your transactions and save the change.
You will barely notice the savings but by the end of the year the little and often approach will have built up and you have a good few £’s.
Start Saving For Next Christmas
Can you open a regular saver pre-Christmas, November to early December, or perhaps if you use a 0% credit card, set for January to pay off the total bill.
Other Ways to Save Up In Advance (without saving money)
Use cashback sites throughout the year. You can even boost the cashback 5-15% when you withdraw by taking as vouchers at a wide range of stores, a maybe a treat meal out at a restaurant.
I use an app call Airtime Rewards (review and promo code) which I simply link by debit and credit card too and automatically earn cash back at a range of stores including Boots, Argos, Primark and many others. Sometimes up to 5%.
You can use the rewards to pay off your own mobile phone bill, or you can gift them to others once you have £10 – £20.
Use sites that pay amazon gift cards and save them up for Christmas.
Bonus savings hacks as offered by the ASDA Christmas savings club.
Can You Make Extra Money for Christmas?
While not possible for everyone, certainly many people can spare a little extra time in the lead up to Christmas to earn some extra money.
The problem is, they might not know where to start.
I know for a fact many people do all kinds of little tasks, mini-surveys and for amazon gift cards and PayPal earnings which they save up through the year purely to spend on Christmas.
Best options for earning money fast:
- Matched Betting Guide for Beginners (not gambling) Profit Accumulator free trial – If you have £60 to use to complete the first 2 offers and can spare a couple of hours or more a week it’s my No.1 way to make extra money from home in the UK. Tax-free to.
- 7 Ways to make £100 a week every week
- 20 Cogs (Make £100-£200 completing 20 offers)
- Free Money Offers – quick and easy ways to make £100’s.
If you have a few months to make little and often, or planning for next year:
I hope at least one of these ideas can help towards improving your upcoming Christmas.
All you have to do now is to start taking action and plan the best Christmas ever no matter what! 🙂
In addition to all the above, we also have at least 82 frugal money-saving tips you can use all year round. Combined they can potentially save you £100’s year, especially if you can turn them into new habits.
The best thing about frugal living is that it focuses your spending on what offers the most value.