MISS MONEYSAVER helps you find festive freebies to cut down on the cost of Christmas

From toys other families are giving away to grottos that won’t cost you a penny…MISS MONEYSAVER helps you find festive freebies to cut down on the cost of Christmas

  • Christmas may be the most magical time of year but it is also the most expensive
  • Its estimated we’re spending £4.4b less on non-essentials in Christmas run-up
  • There are lots of traditions many of us will be trimming to afford the energy bills
  • But we don’t have to give up on all the fun this year… If you know where to look

Christmas may be the most magical time of the year but it is also the most expensive. This year, however, with finances under strain, many families are cutting back on spending over the festive period.

Its estimated that we’re going to fork out £4.4 billion less on non-essentials, (a 22 per cent fall from last year) in the run-up to Christmas, according to Retail Economics and HyperJar research.

And that’s just for starters. There are lots of traditions that many of us will be trimming so that we can afford the energy bills. But we don’t have to give up on all the fun.

If you know where to look, there are quite a lot of things you can get or do for free, which all helps to keep costs down.

Budgeting for presents can be a worry but this year, because we know many of us will be struggling, it’s much easier to be upfront with family and friends and agree not to spend money on each other — perhaps just buying things for the children.

Christmas may be the most magical time of the year but it is also the most expensive. This year, however, with finances under strain, many families are cutting back on spending over the festive period

Christmas may be the most magical time of the year but it is also the most expensive. This year, however, with finances under strain, many families are cutting back on spending over the festive period

Even better, give each other ‘free’ presents of your time and skills. Make a ‘voucher’ that can be redeemed for, say, three evenings of babysitting, or a day’s cleaning, or offer your skill as a manicurist or gardener for one or two sessions.

Personally, I would much prefer a good house-clean than a bottle of bubble bath!

Another idea is to all agree that you only give each other second-hand presents: either items that used to be yours you have upcycled or things you bought at a charity shop or on eBay or similar sites.

Trawl the free stuff websites such as Freecycle.org, Nextdoor.com, Gumtree Free Stuff or Facebook Groups and see what local people are getting shot of that could be turned into a present. You’d be surprised what is being given away.

There’s an app for parents called Young Planet which has thousands of toys, including doll’s houses, trucks, books and Lego, which parents can claim for free.

The app works by allowing parents to gift children’s items they no longer need to parents who want them. In fact, it will be worth looking again after Christmas, too, as many parents will be giving away toys that have been replaced by newer ones.

Or why not make your gifts. There are some fantastic ideas to get you started on website Mookychick (mookychick.co.uk).

For edible gifts, the BBC Good Food site has delicious ideas (bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ homemade-christmas-gift-ideas).

You can recycle old Christmas cards to give to friends (don’t send them in the post as that will cost a fortune) or transform them into gift tags or bookmarks. Or make cards with your old craft supplies, particularly if you have children who will have great fun using fingerpaint, glitter and card.

Teach them how to make snowman pompoms to stick on cards at homemade-gifts-made-easy.com/snowman-craft.html or download some Christmas designs to colour in from the Hewlett Packard website.

Make your own decorations by picking up pinecones when you’re out walking. Spray them with gold or silver paint and fix them to sprigs of holly and ivy. Or have a decorations swap with neighbours, so you all get ‘new’ items that you haven’t seen before.

You can also get a free letter from Santa if you send your kids’ letters, before Friday December 9, to Santa at: Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland XM4 5HQ.

Budgeting for presents can be a worry but this year, because we know many of us will be struggling, it¿s much easier to be upfront with family and friends and agree not to spend money on each other ¿ perhaps just buying things for the children

Budgeting for presents can be a worry but this year, because we know many of us will be struggling, it’s much easier to be upfront with family and friends and agree not to spend money on each other — perhaps just buying things for the children

The Royal Mail organises a free reply (royalmail.com/christmas/ letters-to-santa). Just make sure your child’s name and address are included in the letter and they will receive a reply from the big man himself in the post.

When it comes to Christmas food there is mountains of delicious-looking stuff in the supermarkets but, of course, it costs.

I’m hearing of families hosting the big day who are asking friends and relatives to chip in with some cash to help pay for the Christmas dinner which I think is fair enough (if it’s done in the right way). Or you could set up a pot-luck Christmas where everyone who comes has to bring at least one dish.

If you are getting together with friends and family for more than one meal, you could also suggest that you move to a different house for each meal so that you all share the cost of heating and cooking.

Light shows, pantos and visits to see Santa all tend to be expensive, but there are some free events happening if you know where to look.

Some shopping centres offer a free Santa’s grotto, for example, such as the Christmas Grotto at North Point Shopping Centre in Bransholme, Hull, where Santa will be in residence, giving out free gifts, every day until Christmas Eve.

You can also meet Santa at his Woodland Lodge at the Westfield Shopping Centre in White City, West London (uk.westfield.com/london/event-detail/Meet-Santa), from December 10 to December 24 between 12.30pm and 6.30pm. The experience is free and includes the chance to get a photograph with the man himself.

Even Selfridges (in London, Birmingham, Manchester Trafford and Manchester Exchange Square) is hosting free Meet Santa experiences this year. Santa will be roaming through the store rather than sitting in one place and the dates and times are available on the Selfridges website (selfridges.com).

There are other free, seasonal events going on around the country, too.

In London, the V&A museum is running free decoration-making workshops for ages 5+ and their families this weekend (vam.ac.uk).

Tomorrow, at the British Library, you can find out how to create a short story out of your winter memories (bl.uk/events/family-workshops-winter-tales), and Westminster Abbey has a free Christmas Family Day with carols on December 10, together with art and craft activities and a festive tour of the Abbey (westminster-abbey.org). In other parts of the country, free events include festive storytelling at Bristol’s Blaise Museum (bristol museums.org.uk/blaise-castle-house-museum), and make your own Christmas decorations at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre on December 17.

The National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, meanwhile, has a Big Museum Winter Trail running until December 23. Entry to the attraction isn’t free, but it only costs £1.50, for which you get a pack of crayons, the trail to follow and a present at the end when the route has been completed.

To find out about free events in your area, put your town or county into your internet search bar plus ‘free Christmas events’ to see what comes up.

Do the same with Eventbrite (eventbrite.co.uk/d/united-kingdom/free-events/) and you will be surprised at how many free activities are on offer this month!

ARE YOU owed payments from StatePension?

Thousands of pensioners have been underpaid their state pension, so could some of this lost money be yours?

In an interim report from The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) out this week, it estimates that it has underpaid 237,000 pensioners a total of £1.46 billion. However, the process to correct these underpayments is taking far longer than expected.

In fact, they are taking so long that former pensions minister Steve Webb says he expects it to take another four years just to get through the backlog.

There are three main groups where the DWP have made the mistakes: married women, who should have received an upgrade to a 60 per cent basic state pension when their husband retired; widows (and widowers) who should have inherited an enhanced state pension when their spouse died; and the over-80s, already in receipt of a state pension when they turned that age, who should have been automatically upgraded to a 60 per cent basic state pension.

To find out if you are owed money, Pensions Consultants LCP has a useful online tool.(lcp.uk.com/is-your-state- pension-being-underpaid).

Steve Webb, now a partner at LCP, says: ‘If our tool makes it clear you are being underpaid, you should get straight on the phone to ask the DWP to reassess your pension. If it’s clear you are being underpaid, you shouldn’t have to wait years for it to get round to fixing it!’

MAKE some cash from colonel mustard 

The Christmas market at Chelsea Physic Garden last weekend was full of stalls selling handmade items.

One of the best was Pippa Kate Design (pippakate design.com), run by Pippa Ryan who makes striking pictures out of colourful bits and pieces people throw out.

She mentioned how tricky it was to find board game tokens to add to her creations. Plastic counters can fetch a comparatively high price online.

So later I took a look at eBay and saw one person is offering spare counters for the game Frustration at £2.49 each. Someone else lists the Cluedo characters (Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett etc) for £3.25 each.

The Christmas market at Chelsea Physic Garden last weekend was full of stalls selling handmade items

The Christmas market at Chelsea Physic Garden last weekend was full of stalls selling handmade items

Another seller had three small bags of Scrabble letters and score counters for £10.

‘It’s often collectors or antiques dealers that need these bits to complete a set,’ says Pippa. ‘If you’re missing a yellow pie in a Trivial Pursuit game, then you’ll pay a few quid for that bit of plastic.’

So when you’re emptying the loft, or going through the kitchen drawer, if you find any of those bright, plastic counters, don’t ditch them.

Check out the price they are going for on eBay and offer yours for a similar amount. You could make cash out of what you thought was trash!

Santa needs little helpers!

Here’s an early present for your child or grandchild. The personalised baby brand, My 1st Years, is looking for ‘professional toy-testers’ to help Santa pick the best toys.

They will choose ‘workers’ from three age-groups, birth- to-12 months, one-to-two years and three-to-six years to test the products. The chosen testers will be given £150 of toys to test and report back on.

Parents should apply on behalf of little ones at my1styears.com/blog/santas-little-helpers/. The closing date is Sunday, December 11.

Get 20 per cent off Lu Bella Jewellery when you use my code JASMINE20 at the checkout. Its Sentiments range make great gifts and the brand’s prices are not too steep (about £17.99 for a bracelet, for example, before 20 per cent off). Head to lubella.co.uk. The offer lasts until December 30.

Give yourself the chance of a few freebies and discounts in the run-up to Christmas by checking out my new Advent Calendar. At MoneyMagpie.com there are giveaways every day up to December 25, through the special online Advent Calendar (moneymagpie.com/advent). It’s free to enter.

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