UK Markets closed

Ways to save money on last-minute Christmas presents

Alternative Christmas presents (Image: Fotolia)

Looking for that last elusive present idea? How much do you expect to spend? Wouldn’t it be good to celebrate Christmas without the massive expense?

Sadly, the research found that one in five people go overdrawn or use a credit card to fund that massive spending.

But could there be a way to find presents for difficult-to-buy-for friends and relatives while cutting the cost?

[Best ways to pay off Christmas debt]

Cheapy Christmas

I have a vast family, especially since I married into an equally enormous clan. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to keep the cost down.

When budgets are tight, you risk buying cheap generic presents that no one really wants anyway – the kind that get packed away and ‘regifted’ the following year.

So I’ve been asking people for their tips on cutting the cost of Christmas presents and have heard some really lovely ideas. Here are my favourites:

Second-hand Christmas

I love this one because it turns Christmas shopping into a scavenger hunt game. The idea is that your nearest and dearest agree to buy second-hand gifts for each other this year.

Then you hit the auction houses, classified websites, charity shops, car boot events and jumble sales to hunt down presents.

By shopping second hand, you keep the cost right down and it’s a fun challenge to find gifts people really want. Thanks to online classifieds websites, you can even shop online if you prefer.

Homemade Christmas

Are you arty? Handy around a craft box? Good with knitting needles? One of the more challenging alternatives to Christmas presents I’ve heard of is to agree on entirely homemade gifts.

Presents can be homemade candles, hand-knitted scarves, cakes and biscuits, that sort of thing. 

My husband and I did this the year we bought our first home and were flat broke. We gave our relatives large decorated jars of homemade Christmas biscuits, and have genuinely never received so many ‘thank you’ cards.

Of course, it might be a bit late in the year for Christmas 2012, especially if you’re planning to knit or crochet suitable presents. But with enough warning, this can be a really lovely way to keep the cost down for Christmas Future.

[The cost of Christmases past]

Buy-nothing Christmas

Of course, the very cheapest way to do Christmas is to agree on no presents at all, or at least, no presents for the adults. It might be a bit hard to explain to the children why Santa’s not visiting this year.

This saves everyone potentially hundreds of pounds, so they can treat themselves to something they really want or just enjoy not spending the money.

With high inflation and the downturn, this seems to be particularly popular with couples this year. Several have told me that they’ve agreed not to buy anything for each other at Christmas.

Instead, you could do something nice for each other, such as iron their shirts for a week or wash their car. Or just do nothing at all and enjoy good food, good company and Christmas TV without the fuss of presents.

[‘It’s time to ban Christmas presents,’ says Martin Lewis]

Pre-owned Christmas

This one is even more personal than second-hand Christmas. I know a family who find presents for each other from among their own belongings each year.

Rather than go out shopping, they go through their existing books, computer games and other possessions and carefully choose gifts for each other.

This has led to some really charming traditions, including a terrifying stuffed squirrel being ‘regifted’ each year. They tell me that it’s drawn the focus of Christmas away from presents and made it far more about family.

Charitable Christmas

This is actually what my family has decided to do this year and I’m really excited about it. We’re still going to buy the children gifts, but instead of buying adults presents, we’re making a group charitable donation.

By making a group donation, you know your money is being spent on something actually useful and you can keep the budget right down.

For example, we’re clubbing together to buy a Crisis at Christmas table so that 10 homeless people get hot food, medical check ups and professional support.

That’s got to be better than swapping socks and soap sets. There are enough of us that we’ll still save hundreds of pounds on presents while doing something good.

How much do you expect to spend this Christmas? How do you keep the cost down? Share your tips with other readers using the comments below.