‘Tis the season for giving and, as most of us know, the season for going broke. Christmas can test even the strictest of budgeters, but follow these mantras to help you through to the New Year without going beyond your means.

1. Portion like a Pro

Christmas dinner is a classic staple of the big day, and everyone wants to be a generous when hosting Christmas get-togethers.pudding

But it’s easy to over do the big shops in December, and end up stretching your wallet as well as your waistline. Visit lovefoodhatewaste.com to help you work out exactly how much you should buy to keep your guests and family happy without leaving you with a lot of expensive waste.

2. Start freeing up freezer space

Start eating up the food in your fridge and freezer before you begin the Christmas stockpile. Not only will it make space, it will save you money on your general food shops.

3. Be strict with your gift list

Work out how much you can afford to spend on gifts, and use this as a start point to work out who you are going to give to this year, and how much you are going to spend on each. Perhaps set a “children only” rule, or organise “Secret Santa” with your colleagues or extended family (this is where everyone in the group selects one person out of a hat to buy for, usually to a budget of around £5-£10. The buyer is only revealed at the present exchange.)

In some cases, honesty is the best policy. If you can’t afford to exchange presents with your partner, best friend or parents this year, then tell them.

4. Expensive doesn’t always mean better

Earlier this year, Aldi came out victorious at The Grocer magazine’s food awards, winning 16 gold medals for its products (2nd came Tesco with 12 gold and 3rd was Asda with 11).

Upmarket supermarkets did not fare as well, with Marks and Spencer scoring 8 gold medals, Waitrose just 3 and Harrods failing to win any gold medals.

So, don’t think you have to spend more to treat yourself this Christmas. Downgrade a brand and see if anyone notices – chances are, they won’t suspect a thing and will love Christmas dinner just as much!

5. Get crafty with decorations

Putting cloves into oranges and piling them into a bowl with some cinnamon sticks will look and smell Christmassy, and making paper chains will keep kids entertained for ages. Similarly, you can attach your Christmas cards to ribbon to turn them into a nice festive display without crowding the mantelpiece.

6. Swap party outfits with a friend

If you like to splash out on a new outfit for occasions, try swapping clothes with a friend. That way you’ll have the “new clothes” feeling, without any price tag.

7. Remember your loyalty points & vouchers

Most supermarkets and stores have offers on in the run up to Christmas that allow you to double or triple the value of your points. It’s also worth checking the vouchers you get with your receipts, as these can also save you money on your shop.

There are also several websites also provide voucher codes

Remember though, vouchers only make a bargain if you needed to buy them anyway – don’t buy extras just because they’re on offer.

8. Consider buying “nearly new”

Ebay, Mumsnet Forums and local “nearly new” sales are great ways to get a quality gift for less. Often items in these sales are unopened or still have the tags still on, so you can benefit from shop fresh items at second hand prices.

9. Get creative with wrapping paper

Get creative with your wrapping,
Get creative with your wrapping,

Metres of plain brown paper can be bought for next to nothing, and can still be impressive with a little effort. If you have young children, let them draw on the paper in coloured crayons before wrapping presents for your family to give them a personal touch. Alternatively, nip to your local park and cut sprigs of holly to stick in the corner of your wrapped gifts, or buy a ream of coloured ribbon to tie in a bow round your presents for a traditional look.

10. Google your gifts

Get online and research your presents to make sure you are getting the best deal before you hit the shops or buy online. You can save a massive percentage off your total costs.

If you do choose to buy online, make sure you check that the delivery date is specified as before Christmas, or you don’t have any right to complain or ask for a refund on the grounds that it didn’t arrive on time.