How to be frugal and festive: Money bloggers share their tips

By Emma Lunn

Even if you're thrifty, the festive season can be expensive. Gift-giving, entertaining and travelling to see friends and family all take a toll on your savings.

So how can families enjoy Christmas without breaking the bank? We asked four personal finance bloggers for their festive frugal tips.

Plan food and drink
According to an October 2012 survey from HSBC, food and drink will make up the second biggest spending category (behind gifts) this Christmas, with the average person spending an average of £179. thrifty-christmas

Piper Terrett, former blogger for MSN money and part-time lecturer at London Metropolitan University, writes The Essex Life blog. She says it's important to stick to a budget over Christmas and not be emotionally blackmailed into overspending. Planning what you will eat, and when, is also important.

"Start buying a few non-perishable food items each week in the run-up to Christmas to spread the cost, and take advantage of any booze bargains you spot in the supermarkets," she suggests. "Plan your Christmas meals so that you don't buy things that you won't need or that will go off before you eat them."

Stick to a budget -- no matter what
The emotions that surround Christmas are a big reason many go over budget. The need to please (and impress) loved ones with gifts can make a frugal Christmas a challenge.

"Christmas can be a difficult time of year for frugality, as we often hate to let loved ones down by not getting them a present bigger and better than last year," says Jay Lewis, founder of personal finance blog Sterling Effort.

So how to stay on budget? Fittingly, it's staying focused on the true meaning of Christmas.

"I hate to be so cliché as to say 'it's the thought that counts,' but I feel this is and always has been the best advice to anyone doing Christmas on a budget," Lewis says. "A thoughtful, useful cheaper gift often goes a lot further than an expensive one."

Manage expectations
For those with children, staying on budget amid the excitement about presents can be difficult.

Fiona Service writes the Budget Mummy Blog. She describes herself as a "hippy mum struggling through life on a budget." This Christmas she's aiming to manage the expectations of her 8-year-old son and her 6-year-old daughter.

"Teaching kids the value of presents is a good thing to do. I have asked my children to think of and research presents for me, daddy, their cousins and friends. Hopefully to encourage them to think of others not just themselves," she says.

This has provided her children with some valuable real-life lessons.

"They have both been a bit shocked at the cost of some of their ideas -- as I have set them a budget for each person," Service says. "Hopefully, it will make them think about their long list for Santa."

Meanwhile Service and her sister have decided not to buy each other any presents at all.

"It's such a relief not to try and think of something, but also we don't really need anything, so sometimes presents are just a waste of money," she says. "We help each other out with the cooking and entertaining, and that's much more satisfying."

Consider cash-back sites
If you're going to shop online, Niko Moustoukas, founder of Money Adventures, suggests using cash-back websites to soften the blow to your budget. Cash-back websites allow members to shop a selection of products from certain retailers. The site charges these retailers a commission for sales, and a small percentage of that money is given back to the shopper.

"This Christmas, even more than ever are expected to do their Christmas shopping online, and using a cash-back site is a great and easy way to put a few extra pennies back into your pocket," Moustoukas says. "Whether you use Quidco, TopCashBack or any other cash-back site, be sure to make proper use of them before you click the checkout button. If you're forgetful like me, there are tools like the Quidco toolbar to make things easier."

See related: Thrifty bloggers share easy ways to get frugal, Best low-interest credit cards for Christmas shopping

Published: 7 December 2012