Dreaming of Christmas magic, without a huge bill? Kate Beskow shows you how to enjoy the festive season on a budget
1. Meal plan
Most of us plan for the show-stopping vegan Christmas dinner we will serve, but it’s also worth creating a meal plan for the festive period, to reduce stress, use up leftovers and keep all of your guests satisfied. It’s absolutely fine to ask guests to bring a prepared dish as part of your festivities, as it spreads the effort and cost!
If you’re having a get-together on Christmas Eve, consider a one-pot, help-yourself dish, such as vegan chilli for a cost-effective dish that everyone will love. On Boxing Day, use up leftover roast veg and chestnuts in a family-favourite korma.
Don’t forget to freeze any remaining portions, or whip up vegetable peelings into a wintery soup. If you have leftovers sealed in the original packaging, consider donating it to a food bank.
2. Create a budget, and stick to it
Before you start making plans or shopping for gifts and food, sit down and create a realistic budget. Think about what you can really afford, without receiving that dreaded credit card bill in the new year.
Write a list of who you wish to buy gifts for, food for the festive period, Christmas parties and decorations, then decide the amount you are going to spend. Dreading this moment? Start saving in advance for the following Christmas.
3. Gift vouchers
If you’re over-budget on gifts, or want to spread the cost, consider making your own gift vouchers. This cute idea could be for a ‘service’ you can offer, such as tending to a garden, helping out with DIY, or bringing the recipient breakfast in bed. They’ll love cashing them in!
More traditional experience gifts include booking afternoon tea, dinner at a restaurant or a day out. You can pay for them as they happen, helping spread the cost into the new year.
4. Get crafty
Children and adults unite over a craft project – and you don’t even need to have too much artistic flair! Save money on tree and table decorations by creating your own; gather pine cones and decorate them with non-toxic glitter, or pierce oranges with cloves for a fragrant pomander table centrepiece.
Instead of wasting your budget on Christmas crackers full of plastic novelties, why not make your own, and add a vegan-friendly gift for each guest?
5. Secret Santa
Many workplaces use a ‘Secret Santa’ scheme with a maximum cost limit, meaning that you don’t need to gift each person, but everyone receives a gift. This type of gifting works really well out of the workplace too; if you have a large family, group of friends or sports team.
Let people know in advance that this is how gifting will work, and set a realistic cost limitation. It gives you the time and space to give a thoughtful Christmas present to just one person.
6. Free local events
Christmas events can be expensive to take your family too, so look out for free local festivities, including Christmas light switch-on events, carol services, and Christmas markets, where you can soak up the atmosphere without going over budget.
Avoid pricey pop-up ice rinks, expensive Santa meet and greets, and festivals with high admission prices if you’re watching the pennies.
A fun and cheap way to get into the Christmas spirit is to invite friends over to watch a classic Christmas movie – set the scene by lighting some soy-based candles and serve a cup of warm mulled wine.
7. Vegan hampers
Gifting a box of vegan-friendly food is a lovely present that everyone will enjoy, vegan or not. It’s a great way to introduce non-vegans to vegan food, and your money is spent supporting vegan-positive companies.
Make the hamper as big or as small as you wish, depending on your budget. You could include a vegan cookbook, spices, sauces, and some vegan chocolate! You could even make a vegan toiletries hamper, for friends who deserve some pampering.
8. Book transport in advance
If you’re travelling to see family and friends over the festive period, book train or coach tickets in advance for lower prices. Public transport gets booked up quickly at this time of the year, so set a reminder to book.
Consider booking on behalf of elderly relatives who are visiting you, to ensure they have reservations at the best time, particularly if they struggle to use online booking systems.
If you prefer to travel by car, pool with family or friends to spread the cost and share the driving responsibility so everyone can enjoy some relaxation time.
9. Spread the food shop
Entering a supermarket for your ‘big shop’ close to Christmas can be daunting, not just financially, but because it’s busy, and often chaotic. Spread the effort and cost by buying an extra item each week leading up to Christmas.
This works best when the item is non-perishable, including drinks, crackers, vacuum-packed chestnuts, and any frozen vegetables. Stock up on breakfast cereal if you have overnight guests. Keep a list of items you still need to buy, so when you hit the supermarket or greengrocer for final fresh items, you can buy exactly what you need, then get on with the Christmas fun.