Have yourself a very thrifty Christmas

1 December 2014

My Christmas shopping starts in January when I pick up all my cards, decorations and other items for a fraction of the original prices. At the beginning of the year, for example, Asda was selling off Christmas crackers for 20p a box. However, even with a month or less to go, there are plenty of ways to keep Christmas spending down.

Some people like to save money on their Christmas food shopping by leaving it until late on Christmas Eve, when the supermarkets begin discounting but that is a high-risk strategy. What if there are no turkeys left?

I prefer the failsafe way to avoid overspending: with careful planning and budgeting.

List the dishes and the ingredients you need to buy in advance, then compare prices online using mysupermarket.co.uk. Spread the cost by picking up store cupboard items on supermarket trips in the run- up to the big day, making use of money-off coupons.

I also recommend stockpiling any supermarket loyalty points for what feels like ‘free' money in the run-up to Christmas. It isn't, of course, but it can take the pressure off. Tesco's Clubcard has long been popular but don't overlook Morrisons' new Match & More card. There are lots of special offers to accompany the launch, so you can accumulate points with relative ease.

There are two ways to save money on Christmas gifts. The first is to make them. If you would like to try this, have a browse on pinterest.com, where users share lots of Christmas craft tutorials – everything from cookie mixes in jam jars to sewing projects.

The other option is to scrimp by finding deals and discounts online and in store. Hit the cashback sites hard, such as Quidco and TopCashback. Keep a careful eye on the big voucher code websites. Finally, hold your nerve: in recent years, many high street retailers have launched their big sales halfway through December. I make a point of drawing upon at least two of these three ways of saving money whenever I make a gift purchase. Turn that budget into an elastic band: make it stretch.

I find that gift wrapping can be a hidden cost of Christmas: although everybody worries about how much they are spending on presents, all the wrapping paper, gift tags and other trimmings soon add up. I avoid cheap wrapping paper because it is too thin. Instead, I use brown parcel paper – at supermarkets, you can get an eight-metre roll for less than £1. I stamp it with festive patterns, using cut potato or the Christmas stamps that come free with the December issues of craft magazines.

I also recommend furoshiki: a Japanese method of gift wrapping, using squares of fabric. If you have a drawer of fabric offcuts, you have a readymade stash. Furoshiki looks great and provides a talking point but takes practice – you can find tutorials on YouTube.

Finally, the price of Christmas trees, both real and artificial, never fails to startle. In previous years, when keeping spending to a minimum, I have made our household Christmas tree for less than £3 – with a ball of chunky green wool. Cut several lengths of the wool, twice as long as your desired ‘tree height'.

Take a small piece of wool and knot the bunch of lengths halfway down, to make a giant tassel. Tack the knot to the wall at your desired height and pin or tape the ends of the wool to the skirting board, fanning them out as you go. Decorate with chocolate coins and lightweight ornaments, attached to the wall with Blu-Tack or masking tape. I admit that it isn't traditional but this tree has benefits in addition to the rock-bottom cost: it takes up minimal space and can be reused in subsequent years.

Miss Thrifty is also known as Karyn Fleeting. She blogs at Miss-Thrifty.co.uk.