Warmly lit, smiling family exchanging Christmas gifts

5 ways to buy fewer gifts and save money this Christmas

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Christmas seems to get more and more expensive every year.

While some people are combatting this with a cull on “unnecessary gifts” like teacher presents and gifts for extended family, this could ruffle a few feathers. Try our tips for a gentler way to approach spending less on presents without leaving anyone out.

Try Secret Santa with large groups

Secret Santa truly is a Christmas classic. It’s great for large groups like extended family, friends or co-workers. And it works so well because it comes with rules:

  • Each person draws one name, and buys one gift
  • There’s a set budget that everyone must stick to
  • Nobody knows who bought their gift

Even if you wouldn’t usually buy a gift for everyone taking part, you’ll likely spend less on Secret Santa than you would otherwise. And gone are the days of Secret Santa meaning a £5 gag gift that ends up in the bin. Each person can set up an online wishlist to make sure they get something they want and will enjoy. It really is a win-win!

Don’t buy gifts for people you won’t see over Christmas

How often do you buy Christmas presents for friends or family that sit in a carrier bag for weeks because you didn’t meet up over the festive period? Or, do you shop online for gifts and have them delivered directly to the recipients?

If you ever do this, then consider leaving those people off your gift list this year.

If you’re worried they might send gifts to you, or bring them when you next meet up, you have a few options:

  • Have a quick yet honest chat with them now to explain that you're only buying gifts for the people you have plans to see over Christmas this year, and you hope they understand.
  • Suggest an alternative to gifts. For example, going for a meal, visiting an attraction or taking part in an activity together when you next meet up with them.
  • Buy gifts for them once you know when you’ll see them. Just be careful to buy something you could reasonably have had since December (so, not an Easter egg).
  • Chance it. Don’t buy them a gift, and don’t tell them. This could be a bit awkward if they send gifts to you or arrive with a bag of presents next time you see them.

Some of these options may mean you don’t get away with spending less. But, they can help kick the cost down the road to a time you can afford it more easily.

Only buy gifts for the children

Most parents would probably agree that seeing their children enjoying gifts is way more joyful than receiving presents themselves. So, if you suggest only buying gifts for the children to your friends and family, chances are they’ll be happy to get on board.

The only downside to a plan like this is that if you’re child-free, you could be suggesting something that means you give more gifts than your household gets back. We all know that the true joy of gifts is in the giving and that it’s not a “net zero” game. But that doesn’t mean it won’t sting a little bit!

Buy one present for each family

Buying one gift per family or household is a great option at Christmas for many reasons:

  • You can buy a generous gift, while spending less than if you bought individual gifts for each person
  • You’re still likely to receive a gift in return (if that’s something you’re worried about)
  • You don’t have to tell anyone you’re buying fewer gifts or spending less – you can just do it and they’ll be none the wiser

Games (board or video) can be a solid family gift. The right one will appeal to adults and children alike and bring them hours of wholesome family fun.

If that’s not their thing, or you’re not sure what they’d like, a hamper full of foodie treats is another particularly good choice. Or, big tins of fancy biscuits or chocolates are almost guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser!

Opt for a heartfelt card instead

It’s wonderful to want to show your appreciation for someone who’s made a big difference to you this year, like a good boss or a teacher who’s done a lot for your child(ren). But there’s no reason that must be a gift. A card with a heartfelt message will mean just as much, if not more.

However, at some workplaces and schools, giving a gift is “the done thing”. If it’d be awkward to go your own way, you could suggest a group collection. For example, a class collection for the teacher and classroom assistants, or a team whip round for your manager. While you might spend £10 or more on a gift, you can usually get away with chipping in much less to a collection. If everyone contributes, it can add up to enough to buy a lovely, thoughtful gift.

Beware though: suggesting a group collection often also means volunteering to organise it!

Wondering how to tackle conversations about spending less on Christmas? We’ve got you covered.

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

Author Profile Image: Helen Fox

Helen Fox

Personal Finance Editor

Helen is a personal finance editor who’s spent 11 years (and counting!) in the finance industry. She creates content on everything money with the goal of getting people thinking – and talking – about their finances in ways they may not have done before.

Warmly lit, smiling family exchanging Christmas gifts Warmly lit, smiling family exchanging Christmas gifts