Christmas is for giving: 7 things that we are doing this Christmas to save money and help others

Growing up, Christmas was a time for family, food and frivolity. It was also the time of year that my brother and I would receive a big bag of presents from the elusive Big Father C.

It started with a sock filled with clementines and trinkets. Then (cunning as we were) we thought that if we left out pillowcases, Father Christmas might furnish us with more presents – which indeed he did – apparently the duvet cover was a step too far.

Ours was a working single parent household where time together was sparse but our parents tried to give us everything we needed and wanted. Christmas was a charmed time, we were spoilt rotten, but looking back, I’m not really sure I truly understood the concept of giving.

Last year, I found myself repeating the pattern and doing something similar for my kids and my nephews who were with us on Christmas Day. Our youngest nephew was recovering from cancer and I wanted to make it the best day possible for them. So I made them Christmas Eve boxes, bought lots and lots of toys for their stockings and crammed presents under the tree, but I realise now that my priorities were screwed. They didn’t need all of the presents, they just needed quality time together as a family.

We gave (a lot) which made us feel good and made the kids happy (in the short term). BUT we were accumulating lots of crap that the kids would play with for a week or two and then be bored of. AND (most importantly) we weren’t teaching the importance of giving.

This Christmas that is our priority.

You’ve probably seen this video by money saving expert, Martin Lewis. And it probably resonates with you, just as it does with us.


We’ve taken inspiration from Martin, and this year we are doing the following to keep Christmas real:

1. Limit unnecessary gifts – all the present we have bought this year are things people actually need: Mostly gifts of clothes, learning aids, money and edibles. We are only giving presents to the children and the elders in our family, plus a handful of good friends and their kids

2. Cap presents for the kids – as I said, last year we had our family here and our nephew was recovering from cancer. I wanted to make it really special so I bought lots of presents for everyone, including Christmas Eve boxes for the children. In retrospect, it was totally OTT, so this year we are keeping it as simple as possible and we are using the 4-gift rule:

  1. Something you want
  2. Something you need
  3. Something to wear and
  4. Something to read.

(A very handy rule to help keep Christmas from developing into a materialistic frenzy, and helps to keep costs down).

3. Making presents for friends and family – Jam, flavoured gin, picture frames, family calendars… there are lots of things that we can make as gifts, it does mean being A LOT more organised though! The kids are writing cards that they’ve designed and making presents for the family – I’m quite excited to see their efforts. More ideas here.

4. Shopping locally for unique gifts for our parents using the Exeter Independent Gift card – I have been gifted a card and Charlene and I will be going on a shopping spree this week in the independent shops for presents for our families. Gift cards are a great way to support the local economy and give people the opportunity to choose something that they would really like.


With the money we are saving on presents we are:

5. Shoe boxing for a child – We put together two shoe boxes for a scheme our school was running. the kids shopped for them and wrapped them up, it was great for them to actively participate.

6. Donation to our local homeless shelter – There is a new winter shelter for the homeless and my friend Andrew has been helping them with donations at Nationwide, for more info contact him through his Facebook page here.

Andrew and the Nationwide team (pic from Andrew's Facebook)

7. We will also be making a donation to Exeter food bank.

How are you giving this Christmas?

More money-saving tips.

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