Free Christmas gift cheques
Pledge to do something nice, rather than spend
Presents don't have to mean spending big bucks. Whether it's a promise to give your special someone a back rub, doing hated chores or babysitting for friends with little 'uns, your time could be the best present you ever give.
Christmas gift cheque suggestions
Here's a list of suggested Christmas cheques – please add your own ideas to the Free Xmas Gift Cheques MSE Forum discussion.
Ideas for your special someone
Think about your other half and what makes them smile. You could make breakfast in bed, run a luxurious bath with candles or rustle up a romantic picnic.
Or how about a lie-in (one for the parents), a wish granted or even donating blood in their name.
Ideas for kids
For younger kids, one of the best gifts is time with their parents. Promises could include a favourite activity or outing.
If you need ideas for older kids, consider something like control of the TV remote for a weekend.
Ideas for parents (from their children)
Younger children could go for something such as making their parents breakfast in bed or being their butler for an afternoon. They could also take on some hated chores, such as cleaning the car, washing up for a week or walking the dog next time it rains.
Adult 'kids' could be their parents' taxi driver for the day or could treat them to a home-cooked dinner.
Ideas for friends
Think about what specialist skills you have to offer. You could dig their flowerbeds, babysit or bring them a home-cooked lasagne.
It might not be that exciting, but promising financially-challenged mates a Money Makeover is a present that'll last long after the festive season.
More thrifty Christmas tips
Retailers hope you’ll ignore the price tags and race for the tills as the Christmas shopping stampede hits. Yet there are sackfuls of ways to smash the cost of Christmas. Here are a few tricks – see Christmas MoneySaving for a full guide.
Time to ban Christmas presents?
Consider giving presents a miss this Christmas. This isn’t about gifts from parents or to grandchildren, but the ever-widening glut of friends, extended family and colleagues. Christmas isn’t a retail festival. We need to end obliged giving and think more about what we're giving to whom and why.
If you’re yelling over your wrapping paper “what about the joy of giving?”, remember gift-giving creates an obligation on recipients to give back. For some, the gift of “not obliging you to buy for me” is actually better. Read Martin's blog for more: Ban Xmas gifts.
Plus why not make a No Unnecessary Present Pact with friends? Or at least agree to a Secret Santa or £5 to £10 cap on gifts.
It’s not all about the perfect Christmas
Too many people ask: "What will make Christmas totally perfect?" then they attack the shops for a festive gift-grab, only questioning their finances later on.
Instead, start with the question: "What can I afford to spend on Christmas?", then work out the best day you can have on that budget.
Consider a Christmas IOU
Christmas is the year's costliest shopping time, but January sales are often the cheapest. If you're buying a big-ticket item (such as a TV, or a PlayStation) break this stranglehold by giving a Christmas IOU.
Think of it as a gift certificate telling family you're waiting for the sales to get the gift cheaper. You could also buy a small extra gift from potential savings to show the boon of waiting.
This way, kids get a triple whammy: the gift, the boon and a lesson in money sense.
Downshift your turkey, champagne & more
Don’t feel you need to buy posh brands for Christmas. For one ITV programme, Martin held a blind taste-test party for nurses at a hospital with champers, turkeys and more.
Half the goods were higher-level brands, the others a brand-level lower. The guests were blind to which was which, and preferred the lower-brand goods or couldn't tell the difference most (62%) of the time.
So don’t give in to retail snobbery – see Supermarket Shopping for more on the downshift challenge.
Clever ways to calculate your finances