Arts & crafts

Christmas on a shoestring: Sandra’s festive budget hacks

01 Dec 2023 | Written by By Sandra Falconer

The Joy Club member Sandra Falconer shares her top tips on how to do Christmas on a budget…

It’s a great shame that what should be one of the highlights of the year is often marred by worrying about how we are going to pay for it. This is especially true in the current cost-of-living crisis that has become the experience of so many people.   

Is there a solution? As a starting point, let’s break down what makes Christmas special. My list begins with the crisp air, the magic of twinkling lights and celebrating with family and friends. But linked to them are the colander areas, where money simply drains away. 


  • I like to make my own cards. I know it’s possible to buy inexpensive packs from the budget shops, but they are uninspiring. You don’t have to be an amazing artist – a photo or a collage of a Christmassy scene works well. I copy the original onto blank card and buy a cheap pack of envelopes. The end product is a quality card that costs much less than a commercial equivalent. The project doesn’t save much so it’s best to limit it to those special people.  
  • There are less expensive ways to convey festive greetings which are also kinder on  the planet. It’s no longer considered bad taste to use social media for that purpose and we can market it as a virtue. It saves on postage too. One year I was so far behind that I made my cards, then posted photos of them on Facebook and Twitter (now X).  
  • A collective card is another option. Before I retired, we pinned a large sheet of paper to the staffroom noticeboard which everyone signed. My church also does this with the suggestion that we donate what we have saved to a stated charity. 


Many of us have families which have expanded exponentially. I have children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren along with assorted partners. I have to start early, and I have to be inventive. 

  • Keep an eye out for bargains throughout the year. Charity shops are a great place to find unused boxed toiletries. In January, their shelves are full of unwanted gifts. 
  • I appreciate home-made presents. The gift of time is so precious. Last year I decided to make fingerless gloves for the adults. This proved to be ambitious, starting as I did in November. By mid-December, the list of recipients was drastically reduced which gave them a ‘limited edition’ feel.

Ideas for crafted presents include: 

  • Framed photographs or artwork  
  • Biscuits or confectionery 
  • Seasonably decorated pots of jam or pickles 
  • Plants from seed, bulb or cuttings 

The scope is endless.    


Most of us have probably amassed more Christmas decorations than we will ever need. Some, like me, will want to add something fresh every year.  I love the displays in garden centres, but quail at the prices. Why not craft a few festive ornaments. 

Here are two projects.  

The internet, particularly Pinterest and YouTube, are full of ideas to get the creative juices flowing. 

Christmas events and entertainment 

There are so many low-cost events at this time of year. 

  • The Christmas lights switch-on marks the beginning of the festivities. If you’re lucky, there may be a reindeer parade in your town. 
  • The church Christmas Fair is another fun event. There are dozens to choose from. The best have carols and lunches as well as the usual stalls, where you will be able to pick up items for presents.  
  • TV and radio really come into their own over Christmas. I’m looking forward to the new Doctor Who special. 
  • Carol concerts  
  • The grandchildren’s nativity plays 
  • Midnight Mass, though I’m afraid I’d probably fall asleep these days. There was always something special about being with friends the minute Christmas broke and we sang that Christmas day verse in ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’. 
  • Host your own coffee morning. It could have a theme such as a mince pie competition or a craft session. 
  • The Panto can be expensive. Instead of the big venues, try out a local production. They may not be as polished as the larger pantomimes, but they have a fantastic atmosphere. 


Do you really need to add to your wardrobe? A scarf, shawl or cardigan can jazz up an old outfit. If the answer to that question is, “of course”, try the charity shops, some of which sell new clothes donated by retail outlets at greatly reduced prices.   

Festive food 

Christmas food doesn’t have to be expensive. There is only one day when I feel cheated if I’m not feasting. For that day, we can save loyalty points, buy early and freeze, bake and make from scratch. Even the big day is less of a financial drain if the meal is shared. The leftovers make tasty meals for days and let’s face it, by December 28th, eating is no longer a pleasure. Nor do we want the uncomfortable feeling of throwing away food because we bought more than we could ever eat.  

A happy Christmas needs a little thought and forward planning.  That way you never get that out of control feeling that so spoils the season. More than anything, it is about giving and receiving care and having fun with your tribe. If you achieve that, all whilst remaining solvent, your Christmas will be a success. 

If you would like to make some of your own Christmas cards this year, join us for our upcoming festive watercolour class

Do you have any festive budget hacks? Share them with Sandra and your fellow members below…

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