Christmas can be a very expensive time of year.
With all the gifts to buy, mouths to feed, parties to attend, and fun activities to try, the expenses can easily add up, leaving you — and your bank account — feeling drained and drained in January.
The good news is that doesn’t have to be the case because 29-year-old personal finance blogger and West Londoner Laura, who runs the blog Thrifty Londoner, has plenty of advice on how to keep costs down and still enjoy the holidays can have any fun you could wish for.
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Laura’s first piece of advice is simple – set a Christmas budget.
“Just think, ‘This is the maximum amount of money I’m willing to spend’, [and] spend what you can afford,” she said.
(Image: Thrifty Londoner)
“Then don’t scrape together some cash in January and it’s a great way to stay on top of things and make sure you’re not spending more than you want to.
“Take fifteen minutes, grab a cup of tea and decide how you want to allocate your money between gifts, travel and all of that stuff and keep an eye on it.”
For most people, buying gifts is the biggest expense of Christmas – especially if you have a large family or a lot of friends to shop for.
While some money advice articles suggest forgoing gifts altogether, agreeing not to buy gifts and instead investing the money elsewhere, Laura loves gift buying and says there is definitely a way to do so in a financially savvy manner.
(Image: Viktoria Rodriguez / EyeEm / Getty Images)
“I love treating people to gifts, I really like buying the perfect thing for someone and seeing their face when they open it,” Laura said.
“One of my top tips is to buy second-hand gifts. I know this doesn’t go down well with everyone and I only buy second hand [presents] for friends who I know love vintage, or who I know love [to shop] needed anyway.
“But it’s a really nice way to save money this Christmas – there are so many things in the charity shops at the moment I think post lockdown all had a massive eviction. You can pick up unused gifts, things with tags, you can find so much great stuff for a fraction of the price.”
(Image: Betsie Van Der Meer / Getty Images)
Laura also recommends giving experiences rather than physical gifts, as they are not only thoughtful, memorable gifts, but also easy bargains.
She recommends checking Groupon and LivingSocial for discounts on things like spa days, afternoon tea, cocktails and more, as you can often get tickets for a fraction of the price.
“Another thing is, if you’re on a really tight budget or maybe you have a big family, you can make Secret Santa themed gifts,” Laura added.
“You can just pull a name out of a hat and buy it for one person and not for everyone. That can be really nice and a nice way to give a really thoughtful gift rather than spread too thinly among many different members of the family.”
parties and entertainment
Unlike last Christmas, the 2021 holiday season is packed with parties, events, markets and more, and the cost of all that fun can easily add up – especially in London, with its £10 glasses of wine.
But there are plenty of cheap and free ways to feel festive in the capital, and Laura suggests you take advantage of these, especially if you have kids, so you can save your money for other parts of the Christmas experience.
“One thing I love and that makes me really festive is seeing different Christmas lights, and that’s something kids really enjoy, too,” she said.
(Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
“Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Bond Street always have great lights but there are also lesser known areas to visit such as Leadenhall Market. They always have a Christmas tree, and it’s amazing – they filmed Harry Potter there too.
“The Churchill Arms in Notting Hill is perhaps the most decorated Christmas pub, it has about 90 trees lining the outside of the pub with thousands of lights. It’s always fun.”
Laura also recommends a trip to the free Wembley Park Winterfest Light Display for a festive evening that won’t cost you a penny, as well as a stroll through one of London’s many Christmas markets, most of which are free to enter.
When it comes to Christmas parties, one of the easiest ways to save money is by outfitting yourself with something you already have.
“We buy something glittery for a Christmas party and it’s usually worn once,” Laura said. “Buying your own wardrobe is a must to save money – you can just style things differently.
“It’s a really nice way to help the environment by re-wearing what you already have,” she adds.
(Image: Gpointstudio / Getty Images)
to eat and drink
Hosting a Christmas dinner is bound to be expensive, whether you’re entertaining just a few people or an extended family.
However, Laura says there are many ways to cut down on the cost of the day’s food and drink, but it might take a little forward planning — “I’m a big fan of prep,” she says.
She suggests asking everyone present to bring a dish: one person could bring a soup as a starter, another a dessert, another bring nibbles and snacks, and another bring the liquor.
“It means that the entire cost of this Christmas dinner is not borne by one person or family,” she said.
Another thing you should do is buy as early as possible to spread the cost. You could buy veggies from the discount section of the supermarket for a soup that you can make on the go and freeze for the big day.
(Image: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images)
When you head out of town to visit family at Christmas, you’ll probably be thinking about the travel expenses.
Laura recommends getting a train ticket if you plan to travel by train – you can buy train tickets for ages 16-25 and 26-30, as well as other types of train tickets like “two together” which is valid when two adult cardholders travel together travel .
Railcards save you 1/3 on rail travel and they can also be added to your Oyster card to give you 1/3 off off-peak Tube, Overground, DLR and TfL Rail services.
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“I’m personally traveling to Liverpool with my other half for Christmas this year and a rail ticket saves us a third of the cost of the trip,” said Laura.
“It [often] pays off in one trip, and then you have it for a year, so it’s a great way to save on train travel all year round.”
Car sharing with friends and family who are going in the same direction is another easy way to save when you travel, she adds, because you can split fuel costs — and sing along to lovely Christmas carols along the way.
Read more of Laura’s advice on her blog, Thrifty Londoner, or follow her on Instagram @thriftylondoner.
What are your top holiday savings tips? Tell us here in the comments or email [email protected]