Why there's still time for a cheap, green Christmas

The big day is fast approaching and you’re nowhere near the bottom of the to-do list. You had big hopes to be a bit more considered, a bit more budget savvy, a bit more green this year. Frankly though, panic is setting in. But it doesn’t have to. 

With less than two weeks to go until the 25th, you can still save plenty of money, time and the environment this festive season. Here’s how.

1 Assume nothing

Download the new Indpendent Premium app

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

Christmas is a time of tradition, of the reassuring, comforting repetition that makes us feel safe and sound. But those traditions also have to work for you and your budget. Otherwise, you’ll spend most of 2020 paying for them. 

So watch out for automatic spending this year. Such as buying Christmas cards on autopilot because, well, you’ve always bought them. 

We Brits send around a billion cards each Christmas, at a total cost of £1.6bn and an estimated 33 million trees, FSC-assured or not. That doesn’t even count the cost of stamps, the impact of the plastic wrapping or box that contain most of them or the transport involved. 

Instead, consider Christmas calls rather than writing the same sentence about definitely wanting to catch up next year 27 times. 

If you do want to send cards, why not get any kids in your life to make them. It’ll keep them occupied while you get on, save more than £40 and gain big points with grandparents and ageing aunties.

The same goes for Christmas crackers. Typically coming in at £10 a pack or more, one estimate suggests a huge 99 per cent of their contents, including the plastic toys, end up in the bin before the end of Christmas Day. 

Suggest to your guests that they come to dinner armed with a kitsch joke and a homemade paper hat instead. 

2 Make a pact

Speaking of getting the family engaged, more of us seem to be entering into the “no adult presents” pact this year. Our family is no exception. 

In fact, new research from Gumtree reveals a third of Britons either won’t buy Christmas gifts at all this year or will spend less. The survey of shoppers suggests the saving could be worth £1.5bn or £105.90 per person. One in five of us cites sustainability as a top reason for reining in Christmas spending this year too.

This no shame approach will help keep a lid on the £363 the Nationwide Building Society estimates the average adult in the UK spends on gifts alone at Christmas. You’ll also help cut back on the 108 million rolls of wrapping paper we use each year, much of which can’t be recycled because of its shiny or glittery surface. Around 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper will go in the bin this year. 

If you do want to wrap items, consider cloth, which can be reused. We’re a zero-waste family so plan to cut up an old plain white sheet, which had accidentally been ripped recently, and add some ribbons we received last year. 

Other money-saving pacts to make this Christmas include car-sharing and divvying up the food provision. We’ll buy 10 million turkeys alone this Christmas, but throw away the equivalent of 4 million Christmas meals. 

And yet we each part with more than £156 to cover Christmas food every year.

A bit of forward planning and splitting up the catering responsibilities will save time, money and mean everyone gets to eat at least one dish they like this Christmas. Embrace the veggies and calculate your quantities to feed, but not overfeed, your guests, save money and the planet. 

Eight in 10 Britons will be actively taking steps to be more sustainable this festive season, Gumtree found, so you’ll be in good company if you only put two (or no) pigs-in-blankets on everyone’s plate rather than four or five. 

3 Buy differently

There are some things that few of us are prepared to ditch this Christmas. 

We might be horrified at the sight of the Amazon burning but we’re still prepared to cut down a real Christmas tree to adorn our front rooms for a couple of weeks before it gets hurled onto the pavement in January. 

There are very few sights more depressing in January than the dead trees slung out onto the pavements. And at a cost of £40 and up for a 150-200cm tree, it’s a lot of money to compost. The problem is that it probably won’t. Between 7 and 8 million trees will go to landfill each year, despite some councils taking on the recycling role, to release harmful methane gas. 

Fake trees have been heralded as the solution. However, these plastic trees regularly come in at three times the cost of the real deal, won’t ever rot down and despite being touted as a lifelong solution, around 14 per cent are binned every year. 

Instead, growing numbers of us are turning to potted real trees that they can use every year. They are a comparable price to cut trees, will suck up CO2 for the other 11 months and only need to be bought once. 

Alternatively, if you don’t have a garden to stick it in, real Christmas tree rentals have exploded in popularity this year, not least because they’re cheaper than cut trees and are delivered and picked up, saving time and fuel. You’ll have to be quick though, as many rental businesses are completely sold out for this year. 

Don’t bother buying expensive new decorations either, especially for garlands and wreaths. There’s a reason holly, ivy and mistletoe are traditional decorations – they’re abundant, brightly coloured in the depths of winter and often free. Make ivy spotting a family event, bearing in mind the rules for foraging, which apply in urban areas as well as parks, lanes and open countryside.  Stick your greenery in the compost in January, not the bin.

4 Go timeless

Speaking of renting and reusing, cut back on your social spending this year by hiring clothes you couldn’t afford to buy for that posh festive knees-up. Delivered to your door in a big box that will make you feel like an A-lister, the price includes delivery and pick up after a couple of days. 

You could save hundreds of pounds, especially if your tastes are a bit designer, and with the fashion industry responsible for more than 10 per cent of the globe’s CO2 emissions and billions of tonnes of wastewater, it’s a switch to take into 2020 and beyond.

Secondhand toys, books and refurbished tech will also help keep valuable items out of landfill and slash your costs this Christmas. 

Don’t assume the kids will leave home if they don’t get the very newest gadget or tons of stuff. Generation Z is leading the global climate strike movement and more than four in five of them want to do more to mitigate the climate crisis. Ask for their thoughts and ideas to get them invested in saving the family finances and the planet this season.

The evidence, surveys and savings on offer might just be pointing to the idea that if you haven’t yet bought much for Christmas so far this year, you may not need to. 

Comments are closed.