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celebrating a frugal Christmas

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christmas lights

Aside from the frenzy of gift buying, and the over consumption of food, many things about the Christmas season can actually be done pretty frugally.

Christmas carols

Many, many churches will be holding Christmas carol services throughout December, some aimed at children, others more at adults. It’s a great way to put yourself into the festive mood and it needn’t cost you a penny (donations are probably welcome though). If you prefer to listen rather than join in, many excellent amateur choirs and orchestras will be putting on performances that are just as good as the professionals, but less pricey.

re-run Christmas movies

Every year at Christmas there will be an excessive number of old films shown on television. Watching the classics is just as entertaining (if not more so) as watching the first run blockbusters. And the popcorn you make at home is more frugal too.

visiting Santa

Try to see if there is a local Christmas fete or bazaar run by a local church or school. There tends to be plenty of things to occupy children, including very reasonably priced Father Christmas (Santa Claus), and it’ll be less stressful than trying to take them to the nearest department store.


If you go to the big smoke and see a major Australian soap star in your panto on a Saturday night, then it can cost you a lot of money. Since it’s mostly for the children (and the old folks) save money by taking in a matinee performance in a smaller town, and check the theatre website for the seating plan so that you can bag the good cheap seats. Consider the same tactics if you feel the need to see “The Nutcracker” ballet again this year.

[Check out this explanation of pantomimes if you are not familiar with them]

Christmas lights

Many towns and cities put on a display of Christmas lights in their main shopping area which cost nothing to see. In fact, I spent 4 hours standing round in the cold *enjoying* the pre-switch on festivities in my city. However, if you want to avoid the madding crowds, consider taking a drive or a stroll through a residential area where people have really gone to town with their outside decorations.

In my experience, in the UK there will only be a small handful of ridiculously extravagant displays in any given area, but I have a strong suspicion that there are lots more to choose from in North America. In any case, if you take the car, you can wrap up warm, put Christmas music on and enjoy insulated mugs of hot chocolate.


There are two main frugal decorating styles. The first is the crafty, home-made look - things like paper chains, popcorn and cranberry strings, delightful objects that children bring home from school, snowflakes made out of white paper on the windows. You get the drift. It’s true that this isn’t a particularly sophisticated look, but I’ve seen it labelled as “Scandinavian style” in Christmas magazines.

The other frugal decorating style is the one that I use myself. I think it’s best described as minimalist. Basically, all of the decorations are in one or two colours (I like white and silver). I bought a small starter set of ornaments cheaply a few years ago and add a couple each year. As I use the same colours, it has a relatively elegant designer feel for the price. In either case, candles make a room look wonderfully inviting, and plain white tealights can be bought in very large bags for very reasonable prices.

Image by matt_shephard

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16 comments for “celebrating a frugal Christmas”

  1. Great post! I feel like I get so caught up in shopping that I forget to take advantage of the free events!

    Posted by SavingDiva | December 12, 2007, 2:19 pm
  2. It’s easy to get caught up in shopping madness. For the last couple of years, I’ve deliberately finished my Christmas shopping early, so that I can do other festive things that are much more enjoyable.

    Posted by plonkee | December 12, 2007, 3:42 pm
  3. I have some qualms about trying to make it a frugal Christmas. If there’s anytime in the year that the rules should be relaxed somewhat, it’s during the Christmas season.. Perhaps spending a bit more than usual won’t hurt - after all it only comes around once a year.

    Posted by Money Blue Book | December 12, 2007, 4:43 pm
  4. I think that depends on what you’ve got in your budget for Christmas, and which aspects are most important to you.

    I’m certainly happy to spend less at Christmas if it doesn’t affect my enjoyment.

    Posted by plonkee | December 12, 2007, 4:49 pm
  5. behiiiiiind yoooooou! *lol*

    I love that the panto tradition has Aussie soap stars yet we don’t traditionally have them here.

    I’ve been raised on a healthy dose of English TV though, so I definitely get the concept. :-)

    Posted by debtdieter | December 12, 2007, 8:35 pm
  6. These are some great ideas. My family always enjoys all the Christmas specials on TV. It’s fun to watch the same movies year after year.

    Posted by Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net | December 12, 2007, 9:04 pm
  7. @debtdieter:
    Legend has it that some Australian soaps are actually bigger over here than down under. I’m not sure what that says about our respective countries though…

    It’s amazing how the same films and tv shows can entertain us for year after year. But I’m not knocking it.

    Posted by plonkee | December 12, 2007, 9:08 pm
  8. That picture really makes me want to go to the local for a nice pint… Oh sometimes I do miss England. :)

    Posted by Patrick | December 13, 2007, 2:48 am
  9. Tell you what Patrick, I’ll drink one on your behalf ;) .

    Posted by plonkee | December 13, 2007, 9:52 am
  10. Thanks for the reminder that there are Christmas activities that DON’T require food or shopping.

    Posted by Anita | December 18, 2007, 2:03 am
  11. Excellent article! Thanks for sharing it. I plan to include it in my weekly carnival review this Friday.

    Best Wishes,

    Posted by Dividends4Life | December 18, 2007, 6:39 pm
  12. Thanks, nice to see that people like it.

    Posted by plonkee | December 18, 2007, 7:24 pm

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