We know Christmas can be an expensive time, but weíve got some great money-saving tips for staying on budget and making your money go further. Over the next 24 days weíll be posting a daily tip which can help make you better off this Christmas, as well as keeping more money in our local communities.
Tip 1. Know your budget
Get a clear idea of how much your Christmas is likely to cost you by using this really useful Christmas Planner from the Money Advice Service.
Donít forget to include all those hidden extras that can creep up on us in the run up to the big day, including the trip to see Father Christmas or the pantomime.
Take an honest look at the total cost. What can you actually afford to spend this year?
Being clear on your budget before you decide what to buy means you can not only enjoy a happy Christmas, but avoid the stress of starting 2017 with a huge Ďdebt hangoverí.
Tip 2. Make a no-spend / low-spend pact
If you canít afford to splash out this Christmas, say something Ė youíll probably find other people are in the same boat. How about only buying for kids? Or setting a £5 limit per person?
If you have a large family, why not organise a secret Santa, or buy a present that the whole family can enjoy?
You could also get family members to contribute money to big-ticket items on your childís wish list, using a gift list service like Patchwork Present.
Tip 3. Send your Christmas Cards on time
Make sure you send your Christmas cards before the 20th December and take advantage of Second Class mail. See the Royal Mailís website for last recommended postage dates.
In many areas of the country scout groups provide an alternative postal service at Christmas, delivering to their local area, for a fraction of the cost of a first and second class stamp. Itís worth a Google to see if your local Scout group are taking part this year.
Or why not ditch the post altogether and send an e-card. Many charities have got in on the act Ė our favourite is the Pet Christmas Card from the RSPCA Ė upload a picture of your pets' face using one of the festive templates and watch what happens! (donation optional)
Tip 4. See Father Christmas for Free
A trip to see Santa at a fancy grotto can be expensive, but he can often be found at your local Christmas Fair Ė for a fraction of the cost.
Children can also meet him for free at the Mall Galleries on the 10th and 17th Ė 24 December.
If you canít get to see him in person, why not arrange a free personal message from Father Christmas via The Portable North Pole website?
Tip 5. Purse-friendly panto
Christmas means panto season, but you donít have to break the bank to see your favourite show. Seek out a performance at your local church hall or community centre and itíll be kinder to your wallet than a star-studded version- and just as fun!
Tip 6. Refer a Friend!
If you are a member of Bristol Credit Union, we can help you boost your budget in time for Christmas. Introduce a friend or family member to our affordable loans and weíll reward you with £15 each time when you introduce who applies for a loan. Find out more.
Tip 7. Dig out those vouchers!
Dig out vouchers, discount codes and loyalty points to put towards your Christmas shopping, helping to reduce the amount you spend.
Tip 8. Boost your budget
Make room for new toys and create some Christmas funds in the process. Local selling groups on Facebook are brilliant for this Ė try Toytastic, or another selling group in your area.
Tip 9. Spread the cost
If you are tempted to turn to payday or doorstep lenders to cover the cost of Christmas- stop! Bristol Credit Union offers an affordable alternative to high interest providers. Our Everyday Loans let you borrow as little as £100, and pay it back in affordable chunks. Find out more.
Tip 10. Second time around
There are a wealth of vintage and second hand shops in Bristol and Bath. Why not ditch the high street stores and have a rummage around your local charity shop?
Local selling sites like Gumtree and Freegle are also worth a look. With beautiful packaging you can make your thrifty finds look like a million dollars!
Tip 11. Make it
Have a talent for baking, sewing or knitting? Then why not make your loved ones gifts this year? Itís a great way to save money and add the personal touch.
Tip 12. Homemade decorations
It may be tempting to think that you need to update your decorations every year to keep up with the latest trends, but you donít. Part of the magic of Christmas is the excitement of bringing down your old Christmas baubles from the attic.
But you can ring the changes by making a few handmade additions. We love these suggestions on the BBC Good Food website, for making fruity decorations to hang on the tree.
Tip 13. Save on wrapping paper
Donít splash out on expensive wrapping paper when most of it ends up in the bin anyway.
Bristol 2015 have some great ideas on how to create a beautifully wrapped present on a budget and do your bit for the environment at the same time.
Tip 14. Meal plan
It sounds obvious, but only buy what you plan to cook and eat over the 3 main days of Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day).
- Check your cupboards and freezer for what you have already have
- Stock up on groceries that have a longer shelf life, or things you can squirrel away in the freezer. This will help you spread the cost.
- Keep your eyes peeled in the reduced section chiller aisle in the supermarket Ė a good way of saving on things like pigs in blankets or party food.
Tip 15. Plan for leftovers
Even if youíve made a meal plan, there will still be leftovers. Make sure you have a few delicious recipes up your sleeve to avoid waste and save you money.
Be a bit more creative than turkey sandwiches,with these fantastic ways to use leftoversfrom Moneyaware.
Tip 16. Make ahead
Avoid the stress and try and make-ahead some of your Christmas lunch or party staples. It will also help you avoid panic-buying more expensive shop-bought alternatives. Avoid the stress and try and make-ahead some of your Christmas lunch or party staples. It will also help you avoid panic-buying more expensive shop-bought alternatives. Bread sauce, stuffing and cranberry sauce can all be made in advance and popped in the freezer, Try Jamie Oliverís make ahead gravy, which uses chicken wings as a thrifty base.
Tip 17. Boxing Day sales
Why not hold off buying presents for people you wonít see on Christmas day until the Boxing day sales? So much cheaper if you can cope with the chaos! But make sure you stick to a list so you are not tempted to overspend.
Tip 18. Save money on your Christmas party
Gathering together friends and relatives neednít be expensive. Why not ask everyone to bring a dish or a bottle of something to drink, this will help you spread the cost and make it more manageable.
Or why not plan a party between Christmas and New Year- it's a great way to make use of your (and your guests) leftovers!
Tip 19. Free things to do in Bristol with the kids
Avoid spending more money on keeping the children entertained in the run-up to Christmas by seeking out free things to do in Bristol and Bath.
St John on the Wall have a free medieval Christmas event on the 21 December, where you can discover the sights, sounds and smells of a Medieval Christmas. Or go on a walk around your neighbourhood admiring other peopleís Christmas lights - the Brailsford Lights are always worth a trip.
Tip 20. Get crafty with crackers
Why not make your own crackers? Itís a great activity to do with kids, and you can be a bit more personal with the surprises inside, helping to cut down on waste! You can even make use of leftover gift-wrap or Christmas chocolates. Check out this tutorial on the Jamie Oliver website.
Tip 21. Plan that Christmas walk
Resist the temptation to hit the sales (unless you are acting on tip 17!), and plan a Christmas walk with family and friends instead.
Fresh air is free, will stop you spending in the sales, and will help you walk off those Christmas excesses. OutdoorsWest have a great series of walks around Bristol that have been developed by the Bristol Ramblers Association.
Tip 22. IOU that big-ticket item
If you are buying an expensive item for someone for Christmas then itís best to wait until the sales.
The MoneySavingExpert has a great IOU certificate generator especially for this purpose. Make it look like you have put some thought into it with these creative ways to present vouchers and giftcards.
23. Start preparing for next Christmas!
After Christmas is over, take stock and see what steps you can take to plan ahead and cut costs. Here are our 3 tips to help you do that:
1. Tot up how much you spent on Christmas, including presents, food and activities. then divide it by 10 Ė this will give you the amount you need to save each month, so by October you will have the money you need and you can take advantage of shopping earlier. Why not open a Christmas Saver with us to help you reach your goal.
2. Check your decorations - donít just put them in the loft again, see what needs replacing now. Youíll be able to take advantage of lower prices by snapping up next yearís artificial tree or lights. Also, make sure you store your decorations properly to save breakages. We like these cheap and easy storage tips to keep your baubles in tip-top condition.
3. Buy next yearís wrapping paper and decorations Ė shops are keen to get rid of wrapping paper, Christmas cards and decorations Ė so take advantage of the knock down prices. But only buy what you need!
24. Free Christmas Eve activities
Itís Christmas Eve and if you have children in the house, excitement levels have probably peaked! Here are some free and easy ways you can keep kids entertained during the build up to bedtime, while creating some lovely traditions in the process.
Why not try making this Christmas cloud dough recipe from the Colourful Minds blog . Or whip up some mince pies or biscuits to leave out for Santa? Kids can keep track of his journey on the Norad Santa website and leave out some Reindeer Dust to help guide them to your home -itís bird and wildlife friendly!
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