Wonderful winter savings!

By Ellyn Peratikou

From rising heating and electricity bills, to expensive Christmas decorations and presents, this time of year can be an expensive one.

Even trying to entertain the kids while they’re on their school holidays can rack up the costs – but fear not. Here are some great winter savings on decorations and food during the festive period.

Home-made decorations
Adorning the Christmas tree with gleaming and glittering decorations is one of the most exciting parts of the season, but if your collection of trimmings is looking a little tired, it might be time for a festive makeover. You shouldn’t have to spend your Christmas cash on over-priced ornaments though, so get the family to help you make some. You’ll save cash, spend some much-needed time together, and create decorations that you’ll want to keep for years!

  • Festive felt friends (45 minutes)

Download a handy set of templates that you can use to create four different designs – a Christmas pudding, a snowman, a Christmas tree and a gingerbread man! Cut out the components in your choice of colours, stick them together with fabric glue, and finish off the edges using a blanket stitch. You can sew loops of ribbon to the top of each decoration to hang them from the tree, or even sew each decoration to a long length of ribbon to create gorgeous festive bunting.

  • Bedazzled branches (1.5 hours)

These decorations aren’t actually for your tree, but they’ll compliment your baubles and tinsel, especially if you make them in matching colours. Wrap up for a nice wintry walk and find a few large tree branches, then take them home and snip off any leaves or unwanted twigs. Next, lay your branches onto a layer of newspaper and spray them liberally with paint in your chosen colour. Allow to dry, then coat the branches with spray glue, and sprinkle with glitter in the same colour as the paint. To make the glitter even more three-dimensional, glue small gems or crystals in a few places along the branches. Once all of the glue is dry, display your bedazzled branches in a large Christmassy vase, and don’t forget to adorn it with a few small baubles.

  • Salt dough decorations (1 hour)

Making decorations from salt dough is an age-old technique. Yet, it’s so cheap and simple that it’s impossible not to love it! Simply combine half a cup of salt and a cup of plain flour in a large bowl, and add enough water to make the dough dry and not sticky. Knead the dough well, and it’s ready to use. Use cookie cutters, or even try more elaborate techniques to make your decorations such as braiding or weaving to create shapes. Just remember to make a hole near the top of the decoration so you can hang it from the tree. To dry out the dough, place it in the oven on a low heat for three hours, or just zap it in the microwave for around three minutes. When the dough is cooled, you can add your finishing touches.

An inexpensive Christmas dinner
Feeding the family at Christmas is never going to be easy, but whether you’re cooking for five or fifteen, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

  • Look for cheaper alternatives

Turkeys may be the traditional centrepiece of Christmas dinner, but they can also be the most expensive part. This year, why not consider alternatives to turkey such as chicken, pork, beef or even a vegetarian option, all of which can be much cheaper and easier to cook.

  • Don’t buy pre-made dishes

It’s great that you can buy a packet of ready-made appetisers or a tray of mashed potato, but all of that convenience comes at a cost. This Christmas, be brave, plan a simple, achievable Christmas menu and make everything from scratch. Your efforts will be appreciated, and you’ll save a fortune on the food.

  • Start making dishes in advance

Time is at a premium on Christmas Day, and we know you’d rather spend it with your family than your oven. Many festive dishes, including stuffing, roast potatoes and Christmas pudding can be made and frozen in advance, so all you’d have to do on the day is take them out of the freezer, defrost and then heat up.

  • Shop locally wherever possible

If you don’t know where your local greengrocer or butcher is located, the festive season is the perfect time to find out. You can save a considerable amount on ingredients by shopping around and buying locally, rather than from the big-name supermarkets. What’s more, the produce is likely to be fresher, and you’ll be supporting your local community.

  • Only buy what you really need

With so many colourful boxes and appetising-sounding treats lining the supermarket shelves at Christmastime, it’s easy to buy much more than you need. To avoid this, you’ll need to plan. Before you hit the supermarket, work out how much of each ingredient you need and only buy that much – you’ll waste less food, as well as less money.

  • Choose your shopping time wisely

It goes without saying that doing your festive grocery shop at 2pm on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas is a terrible idea. The crowds will make you feel anxious, you’ll fill your trolley with things you didn’t want and probably forget the things you did. Instead, take advantage of 24-hour supermarket opening hours. Getting up at 3am to shop in peace is worth the lost hours of sleep!

  • Try shopping online instead

Buying all of your Christmas groceries online can be daunting even for tech-savvy shoppers, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to not hit the supermarkets at all? You can browse the online aisles at your leisure, avoid temptation by expensive luxury products and let someone do all the carrying for you. We’d recommend booking your delivery slot as soon as possible though, as they tend to fill up fast.

We hope that these tips will help you stretch your festive budget, but if you have some seasonal money-saving advice of your own, we’d love to hear it! Leave us a comment below, and have a very happy Christmas.

 About the author

Even the most savvy money savers need a few tips sometimes, and the Making Money Go Further blog by Debt Free Direct is packed with inspiring ideas and useful advice to help you live more comfortably. You’ll find articles on everything from upcycling clothes to managing your budget, and plenty of expert guidance from the debt specialists at Debt Free Direct. The Making Money Go Further blog is a great place to start your frugal lifestyle – or perhaps just a little rainy-day fund for your family! Visit our blog for more information.

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