Christmas for Free. Is this Really Possible?
At MoneyMagpie we all love the true spirit of Christmas and want to wish you all the happiest of festive seasons. I am Vicky Parry: consumer expert and financial specialist over at MoneyMagpie.com. Each month I will be joining you all on Readers Digest to share some of the incredible ways you can navigate your financial life and help empower you to make extra money, save money and even start investing.
This month I am here to talk to you about how to get free things this Christmas. So if you are feeling the pinch and you think it sounds an unlikely Christmas miracle: free Christmas presents, free Christmas food, free Christmas music and free Christmas entertainment really are all up for grabs. You just have to know where to look!
We suggest a fun and easy freezer mining Christmas, whilst a tad misleading as these would depend on you having stuff in to begin, it can make for a fun and creative menu: You may not have a spare turkey lurking in your freezer, but there are plenty of seasonal recipes you can make with the ingredients cluttering up your kitchen cupboard.
Here are a few ideas:
- For mulled wine, simply heat red wine with spices and an orange or a lemon.
- Use that dusty old gin from the back of the cupboard to make sloe gin, a treat on a cold evening. For a true taste of the homemade, see if there’s an area near where you can forage your own berries.
- Tinned beans and stock cubes go a long way towards a delicious winter soup.
- Jars and tins of fruit are easily transformed into quick and tasty puddings like spiced peaches or a pineapple yoghurt dessert.
Search the BBC recipe finder for more ideas. Simply enter one or more ingredients in the search box and you get list of recipes from BBC chefs.
Also, check out the fantastic recipes that our food blogger, Sarah Lockett, comes up with. She has two kids and has some really creative ways with leftovers! And take a look at our article on how to feed 5 people for £1 or less per portion (these aren’t Christmas recipes but can help with the before and after!).
We also remind you that Christmas is a time of sharing and joining together so, If you’re stuck with three jars of cranberry sauce but no mincemeat, swap ingredients with friends or have a cooking day where you can share recipes and ingredients.
Have a party where you ask your guests to bring contributions of food and alcohol. Tell them it’s a ‘credit crunch Christmas’ and everyone has to pull together, but remember to coordinate contributions and ask for specific items so that you get everything you need.
You could even ask all your guests to provide one whole dish each to save yourself a lot of effort and expense.
Free Christmas e-cards
You can also save money and paper by sending e-cards from sites like 123Greetings and eCards without signing up or paying a penny, but you might want to use a different email address to your normal one in case your inbox fills up with junk.
For 99p you can send an eCard from Moonpig now too (which can be a life saver if you’ve left it a bit too late or are worried about the postal strikes!). They also have an offer on now (at the time of writing) – get 50% off 5 cards, which could save you money if you want to add personalisations and your own photos for family and close friends.
The tech-for-good app YoungPlanet has helped parents fill their children’s Christmas stockings for free in previous years. With ever rising household costs, YoungPlanet calls on parents to embrace the circular economy to ease the financial strain for those who may struggle to buy gifts for their children.
This winter is likely to be difficult for parents, with energy prices putting a huge dent into Christmas budgets. The app currently has thousands of toys, including doll’s houses, toy trucks, books, lego, and plush toys, which parents are able to claim for free. The app works by allowing parents to gift children’s items they no longer need to parents who want them. Tis the season of giving, so there is no better time to create an economy of giving and receiving. Plus, less items get wasted.
Reuse and Recycle
Get into ‘re-gifting’: give your unwanted presents as Christmas gifts instead of letting them clutter up your house. Just remember who gave them to you so you can avoid fobbing auntie off with the same bath products she gave you last year!
As well as giving away stuff you already have, try swapping your stuff for presents on sites like NextDoor or local Facebook groups. You could also try to sell them to make the cash to buy the present you want to give, too.
A further option is to search for presents on freebie websites. Lots of people would rather give you their stuff for free than go to the hassle of selling it or throwing it away.
You can find all sorts of present-worthy items, from TVs, CDs and DVDs to more unusual freebies like old stamp collections and free bingo membership. All you have to do is arrange to pick it up.
Be on the ball if you want to get a bargain though, as good items are snapped up quickly.
Look for freebies on classified websites like Gumtree and Craigslist, or go to dedicated freebie sites like Freecycle.
Make your own free Christmas presents
When it comes to edible presents, brainstorm what you can make with the ingredients you already have and recycle jars and bottles to serve them in. A few good ideas are:
- Flavoured oils and vinegars
- Jams and preserves
- Brownies in a jar
You could put a few of these goodies together in a hamper. For more info see our article on making your own making your own Christmas hamper.
A gift of your time
Make your own gift vouchers promising to give someone your time or do something special for them. This could be anything from making them breakfast in bed, spending a few hours helping with the gardening or housework or promising to volunteer for their favourite charity.
Make the voucher personal – think about what your friend or relative really cares about and tailor your gift to that.
Older relatives often much prefer the gift of your time to the usual bottle of smellies, so even if you have enough money to buy something, consider giving your time as well.
Free Christmas decorations
Bring some festive cheer to your home without spending lots on Christmas decorations! Here’s how.
Re-use and recycle
See what salvageable decorations you have left from previous years. Also look out for decorations on the swapping and freebie sites mentioned above. Or try organising a decoration swap with friends – that way everybody gets something new without having to pay for it.
Make your own
Use garden leaves as stencils. Spray pinecones and ivy gold or silver and fix to the walls. Pick sprigs of holly to put behind picture frames. Or combine all these ideas and make your own wreath for the front door.
Here are some other ideas:
- Make your own Christmas tree.
- Stick Christmas-themed pictures from magazines onto card and cut out for Christmas tree decorations.
- Paint a seasonal design on an old pillow case with fabric paints and use it as a Christmas stocking.
- · Make paper chains. Use coloured paper, leftover wrapping paper or print out Christmas designs from the internet
- Build your own Christmas crackers with wrapping paper, toilet roll inserts, and some fun jokes you’ve written on bright paper.
If you’re savvy with a crochet hook or knitting needles, you can also quickly make up lots of Christmas bunting, baubles, even wreaths! Check out LoveCrafts for some inspired decoration ideas. It’s a great way to teach children how to knit or crochet, too – the projects are small and often use very simple stitches, so they’re perfect for beginners. You don’t need to spend lots on wool, either – if you don’t have any in the house, ask friends and family if they’ve got any spare. Or, the local pound shop or charity shop usually has plenty for pennies!
A free letter to Santa
Send your kids’ letters to Santa to: Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ and Royal Mail will organise a free reply. Just make sure you send the letter (in a stamped, addressed envelope) before Friday 9th December with the child’s name and address clearly marked in the letter.
However, if you would like to donate to the NSPCC at the same time, do use their letter to Santa service. They suggest a donation of £5 and for that you get a personalised reply in a ruby-red envelope.
Get out of the house
Most Christmas markets are running again this year and your local village or town is likely to put on as many events as they can. Check your local council’s website to see if they’re running things like a Santa’s grotto, or if there are any carol singing events to attend.
Your local churches and libraries are also great places to turn to for free activities in the run-up to Christmas.
Find out whether local museums and markets have any free events, carol concerts and festivals. Just make sure you book tickets beforehand so you don’t miss out.
Let us know in the comments if you enjoy any of these fun ideas or sign up to MoneyMagpie’s newsletter here, to have all of our weekly and inspiring tips delivered straight to your inbox.
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