Christmas on a Budget

Christmas in 2020 is going to be very different to normal. For some, this year comes with the added stress of tighter finances as a result of COVID-19 and job insecurity. We know that people often get themselves into huge amounts of debt at this time of year, or feel guilty that they cannot provide everything they want to for their families.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be like this. At the heart of the Christmas story is a baby born to a lowly couple from a rural backwater, and laid in a feeding trough as his first cot. It's great to celebrate, but the festivities don't have to be as elaborate or expensive as we often make them!

Below we've collated various different ideas about how we can all spend a bit less this Christmas. They may not all work for you, but they might be worth a try. There's also links to other pages which have a lot more suggestions, so do have a look at those.

You may also want to check out our Advent and Christmas services happening this year, and our page on celebrating a more eco-friendly Christmas.

The first Christmas was pretty simple. Yours can be too.

If you or others you know in the Budleigh area are struggling this Christmas, especially as a result of COVID, please be reassured that there is practical and financial help available. Get in touch for more info.

Paper star tree decoration

General Tips

  • Whilst we all have ideas about what would make for a 'perfect' Christmas, it's also good to think about what's practical and possible. How much of what we spend money on at Christmas do we really need? A simpler Christmas focussed on a few nice things can often be far more satisfying, and not have the hangover of financial stress gong into the new year.
  • Try and plan ahead of time. If you can, set aside a savings pot which you put a little bit into each month.
  • Rather than going out and buying everything you want, set a budget and stick to it. Money Saving Expert has a free budget planner here.
  • Think about making some of your own Christmas decorations. This will make them unique to you, as well as being something to do in the long winter evenings (especially with children in lockdown). There's lots of ideas all over the internet, but here's some to get you started.
  • If you've got children, try and think of creative ways you can sprinkle a bit of Christmas magic for free or very cheaply. There's loads of great ideas here.
  • There's normally lots of free community events and activities going on around Christmas. This year is a bit different, but in Budleigh check out the Follow the Star event and Christmas Pebble Hunt.


  • How many of us have experienced the frustration of buying expensive presents for children only to watch them have more fun playing with the box? Whatever the adverts tell us, kids don't need a huge pile of presents, or the latest and best gadgets and games. They're just as likely to appreciate time taken to engage and play with them, and will definitely prefer it if you're not stressing about costs.
  • If you have a lot of people to buy for, you could suggest a family Secret Santa instead. Others will probably be relieved too! Alternatively, you could agree an upper spending limit, within your family or circle of friends, which removes the feeling of competition.
  • Online sites like Facebook Marketplace, Ebay and Gumtree are full of good quality, secondhand toys and clothes which are just as good as brand new. Secondhand is an especially good idea for items like Christmas jumpers, which will only be worn for five minutes before children grow out of them.
  • If you're thinking about buying gift cards, it might be more sensible to give money instead. The last few years have seen several large retailers go bust, and this will only be exacerbated by COVID. In addition, gift cards have expiry dates which might be tricky if people are in locked down areas.
  • If you've got the time and energy, think about making gifts for people. You don't need to go all out Kirsty Allsopp, but things like jam or chutney are relatively simple to make and cost effective if you make enough for lots of people.
  • Rather than buying people presents for the sake of it, much of which will end up in landfill, why not spend the money on good causes instead? Many charities will provide gift options saying how your money will be used, which can be given to people in place of a present. There's a guide to some of the different options here.
  • Having more stuff doesn't make us happier, and just adds to clutter and eventually waste. Think about buying experiences and making memories rather than focussing on presents.
Christmas Dinner

Food & Drink

  • Whilst it's tempting to go out and do a 'big shop' for everything you might possibly want to eat and drink, think about how much of this you really need. What are the things you buy every year then end up throwing away? A simpler meal is easier to cook, less stressful and a lot cheaper!
  • Turkey might be traditional, but it's often the most expensive part of the meal (and the part you get sick of when you're still eating it a week later). Chicken is cheaper and just as tasty, or why not have a different piece of meat altogether.
  • Pre-packaged food is quicker and easier, but often more expensive. Try and work out whether the food you want is cheaper to buy pre-prepared or make from scratch. BBC Good Food has a page about cooking different parts of Christmas dinner on a budget and other suggestions for cutting costs.
  • Rather than go out and buy one of every type of alcohol 'just in case' someone fancies it on the day, have a think and buy one or two bottles of something that everyone likes (and that won't end up sitting half open in a cupboard until next Christmas).
  • Be aware of all the 'little extras' that don't cost much on their own, but quickly add up to be really expensive!
  • Shop around to find the best deals you can, and try and spread the shopping out over several weeks rather than do it in one go.