What to do if you have no money for Christmas

Christmas is one of the most expensive times of year, and it can be daunting if you have little spare money to spend on the festivities.  Additionally, expectations on what you ‘need’ to do to have a special holiday season seem to rise each and every year, putting extra pressure on families to participate in new spendy trends. (Elf on the shelf and Christmas eve boxes… I’m looking at you!)

However, there are ways to create a magical time for you and your family, even if you have no spare money to spend on Christmas.

These six tips will help you to prepare for a joy filled Christmas period, whilst keeping spending to a minimum.

No Money for Christmas
Image credit: Canva

What to do if you have no money for Christmas

1. Open up to friends and family

If you have trusted family and friends, sit down and have an honest conversation with them. Explain your current situation, and discuss whether to cut down on gifts, or skip them entirely.

You might find that your loved ones are in a similar position themselves, and are relieved at the thought of a more simple Christmas celebration.

If you have older children, explain to them that this Christmas might be smaller than the previous, but it’ll be no less special. Smaller children are likely to be oblivious, and will just enjoy spending quality time together as a family.

It can be really tricky to have these conversations and open up, but you will probably feel a weight has been lifted. Make sure to initiate the conversations with family early regarding cutting down on gifts, before any Christmas shopping has begun.

2. Check Freecycle groups

Join your local freecycle groups, Facebook groups and Gumtree for freebies.

A wide range of items can be sourced via these online groups either for free, or for a fraction of the original price paid. Whether that’s Christmas decorations, or items that could be re-gifted, be sure to check regularly and set up notifications, as it’s often first come, first served.

Don’t wait until December; sign up to your local groups as soon as you can. People are often giving away items all year, as they move house, downsize or declutter their homes. 

3. Arrange a family day out

Instead of gifting, how about arranging a family day to spend time together instead?

If you haven’t already, be sure to register as a seat filler to get free and reduced theatre, comedy and gig tickets. 

Also, it’s a great idea to sign up for mystery shopping sites, such as Pro Insight, to get the chance to experience a free day out. There are often opportunities to complete paid activities, such as bowling or mini golf, which companies will reimburse the cost in exchange for an honest review of your experience and the facilities.

4. Create your own traditions

Traditions don’t need to be costly. They can even be free! Ignore the trends, which are often aimed at encouraging us to spend money unnecessarily, and create your own instead.

Examples of new family traditions could include:

  • Taking a walk to admire the Christmas lights in the weeks up to the big day
  • Making paper decorations, such as paper chains, garlands or lanterns
  • Creating personalised wrapping paper or table coverings by doodling or potato stamping
  • Baking flapjacks or cupcakes, and hand decorating
  • Watching a festive family film on Christmas Eve with hot chocolates
  • Going for a treasure hunt walk and ticking off any seasonal finds spotted on the way
  • Hosting a trivia or games night by searching Youtube for Christmas music quizzes, or by playing games such as charades and scattergories

Memories are often made through quality time spent together, rather than the amount of money spent, and sometimes the simplest activities can be the most meaningful.

5. Get involved in free activities in the run up to the big day

There are often a range of community based organisations hosting free activities throughout December. For example, you could attend:

  • Your church’s carol service
  • Your local council’s Christmas light switch on ceremony
  • The library for Christmas events such as film screenings, talks and reading challenges

Be sure to look out for any events that may be suitable for your family by checking your local council’s website throughout the winter months. There are lots of free activities to enjoy in London during Christmas if you live nearby, including free horse and carriage rides, fake snowfall displays, and more.

6. Prepare your seasonal food early

Food is one of the areas of your budget you can cut down on dramatically if you are struggling financially.

Regularly check the yellow sticker section at your local supermarket to pick up reduced food items, which can be frozen and defrosted during the festive season. 

Festive food is often heavily reduced in the final few days before Christmas eve, so if you are able to visit, this is one of the best times to pick up bargains. Bagged vegetables including carrots, potatoes and parsnips are often reduced to pennies in the week leading up to Christmas.

Food waste apps such as Olio are great for distributing surplus free food throughout the year, and particularly during December. You can sign up to be a Olio Food Waste Hero and help to share out the food items, whilst also keeping 10% of the surplus items. 

There are lots of frugal food tips that can help with reducing your food bill considerably, which can take a degree of meal planning and preparation but are great ways to save money.

7. Declutter and sell your items in the lead up to Christmas

The lead up to Christmas is one of the best times of year to sell your unwanted items, so put a weekend aside for a big decluttering session. You can sell your preloved items via apps such as Ebay, Vinted or Depop, as well as at car boot sales.

Whilst decluttering you might also find some forgotten items you can re-gift, such as unopened toiletry sets, clothes with tags on, or books that have sat gathering dust and remain unread.

As well as selling your unwanted items for cash, there are lots of free money offers and apps available to help you make money.

One great example are task apps, which pay you to complete short tasks, often in supermarkets or garden centres. Download these apps and complete a few missions to earn some additional money to put towards your Christmas.

Examples of useful task apps include:

Additional Support if you have no money for Christmas

For low income families, there are various groups which can provide additional support over the Christmas period.

If you are struggling this Christmas, do reach out for help or support for the following:

Final thoughts: What to do if you have no money for Christmas

Getting through the Christmas period without spending money can be really tricky, but there are lots of ways you can create special memories with your family on a budget.

I hope these tips help you to have a fun-filled season without a focus on gifts and spending; remember that the magic of Christmas is time spent together with loved ones.