Families are feeling especially tight this Christmas, as it is a time when finances can be stretched. Some will be wondering how they are going to afford the holiday season, with energy costs rising and inflation at an all-time high.

Citizens Advice says that one-tenth of Christmas shoppers plan to take advantage of buy now, and pay later (BNPL), schemes to help them get through the holidays.

Analyzing income data in relation to household spending, charity discovered that around 3.2 Million households struggle to pay for essentials.

Festive revamp: Octavia Lonergan (pictured) is upcyling second-hand doll's houses for her twin girls

Christmas revamp: Octavia Longan (pictured), is refurbishing second-hand doll houses for her twin daughters

A poll conducted by investment firm AJ Bell revealed that nearly three-quarters of people plan to spend less on Christmas. On average individuals are spending between £100 and £250 on gifts this year.

But it’s not all doom and gloom — second-hand marketplaces are booming.

Vinted, an online retailer found that over half of all shoppers plan to purchase pre-loved gift items this year. You can reduce costs by renting trees, using food waste apps and recycling wrapping paper.

Money Mail talks to five frugal parents about their top tips for an eco-friendly and thrifty Christmas.

“I am upcycling this year for my daughters”

Octavia Lonergan is a mum to twin girls aged 2 and 3 years. She knows how pricey toys for kids can get.  

That’s why the 41-year-old has decided to stick to second-hand shops and auction sites this year and is committed to ‘upcycling’ — a booming trend where people repair and transform old, unwanted items.

The pink houses of her daughter’s doll-houses are now hers, and she plans to renovate them in time for Christmas.

Octavia is a Croydon poet and author for children.

“But, when I began looking for one for Christmas I discovered they all seemed really pricey.

‘I like to shop sustainably, and the idea that I don’t have to buy a lot of plastic is appealing. It was then that I decided to start looking for used doll houses.

‘The first one cost me £37, including postage, then I managed to find an identical one from another seller for £15. They are now mine and I plan to paint them.

Food waste apps, recycled wrapping paper and tree renting can also help you bring Christmas costs down while boosting sustainability

You can reduce Christmas expenses by renting trees, using food waste apps and recycling wrapping paper.

Octavia said that she has become more concerned about the rising cost of energy and is now closely monitoring her smart meter.

The supermarket’s rising costs are also a concern.

Octavia said: “We have been moving to a larger home in the summer. It has meant that our energy bills are higher. Everything we purchase is twice the price because of twins. We have to buy two sets of gifts for them, as they turn 3 just before Christmas.

“Our gift wrap dates back to the 1980s”

Jason Ash and Emma Ash committed to sustainably living ever since setting up their first-hand toy exchange app in 2018.

The couple, from Berkshire, buy exclusively pre-loved gifts for their three sons, aged between eight and 14 — and this Christmas will be no different.

Emma, 46, who used to work in PR for brands including Moët & Chandon and Givenchy, is also a fan of recycling old wrapping paper and cutting up old cards to be reused as gift tags. 

This trick was passed to her by her mother. The family has wrap paper dating back to 1980s.

“I am very thrifty, proud and resourceful,” she says. We want to demonstrate that it is possible to be both sustainable and give memorable gifts. It is amazing how much of the stuff in this world is already unused. It is important to assess what you have, and what you might be able to use.

Emma insists her boys — Freddie, 14, Thomas, 11, and Hector, eight — don’t notice a difference. Everything has been given to them, from bikes and toys that were secondhand to tech like laptops and consoles.

According to her, “The gift’s actual price is not important.” The key is the value that the child perceives in the gift.

“Re-gifting an item that has been used in a significant way reduces its environmental impact and cost. This is a great thing.

Jason and Emma run YoungPlanet which allows parents to free-of-charge swap toys and clothing.

“I Forage for Presents”

Roxanne Braun made sloe gin and rosehip syrup from foraged items, as well as crab apple jelly. 

Doug, a wife and mother of two daughters, is determined to not overspend on Christmas. They rely heavily on home-made and second-hand presents to cut down their expenses.

They have a £75 budget for their children Lockie, five, and Scarlett, three. On top of that they run a Secret Santa for their extended family with a spending limit of just £30.

Goodwill hunting: Roxanne Braun (pictured with son Lockie) and her husband are determined not to overspend at Christmas and rely on second-hand and home-made presents

Goodwill hunting: Roxanne Braun (pictured with son Lockie) and her husband are determined not to overspend at Christmas and rely on second-hand and home-made presents

Everyone else gets gifts from Roxanne, who foraged on her trips. Roxanne from Sussex (37), says that Christmas can be expensive especially for families with children.

I don’t want debt to pay for holidays. This is why we try to cut costs wherever possible.

“I frequently go to foraging with the kids because it is good for my development.

“And I use the things we find to give gifts to my friends. They’ll receive crab-apple jelly this year, and it will come nicely packed in glass jars.

“We have a no plastic toys rule for our kids. They only spend money on toys they’ll actually use. Their knowledge is limited.

“We use food waste applications”

Laura Roso Vidrequin will be preparing leftovers for her Christmas meal with her family this year.

The 31-year-old mum is a big fan of Oddbox — a service that provides customers with fruit and veg which would be otherwise rejected by supermarkets due to their unusual shape or size.

At £12.99 a week, Laura considers the boxes a bargain that helps bring down food waste. She also uses the app Too Good To Go — a service where users pick up food that would otherwise go to waste from cafes and restaurants.

Laura lives in West London with Harold, her husband, and Albert, their three-year old son.

The Too Good To Go app provides a service where users pick up food that would otherwise go to waste from cafes and restaurants

The Too Good To Go app provides a service where users pick up food that would otherwise go to waste from cafes and restaurants

“A few years back, I made a commitment to living a more sustainable lifestyle and I now try to make Christmas eco-friendly. We have even managed to rent our tree this year for around £80.’

Renting a tree means that it can be kept in a small container for the next year, or planted somewhere else. Millions of trees go to landfill.

Laura worked as an international buyer for top fashion brands like Ralph Lauren and Net-a-Porter.

But she decided not to pursue the world of luxury and instead turned her focus on her second-hand company for toys and children’s clothes.

The site — Kids O’clock — boasts items from big labels including Gucci and Harvey Nichols as well as High Street brands for low prices.

According to her, “For so many years, second-hand goods have been sold with the assumption that there is something wrong.”

“I believe that no matter how expensive a gift is, it does not really matter what you spend on it. It is important that the gift is thoughtfully and beautifully presented.

“Our Christmas plan is for all years”

Although most people spend January readjusting from Christmas, Imogen Tinkler has already begun planning for next year.

Duncan, her husband of 39 years, and she spend the entire year creating gifts and food for their family.

They sell elderflower chutneys, cocktail mixers, and marmalades made from seasonal ingredients. These products are then kept for Christmas.

After their last year of hard times, the couple came up with this idea after having to shut down their pop-up supperclub business. The couple was determined not to allow their financial woes get in the way of Christmas preparations.

Imogen from Whitstable (Kent) says, ‘We began making the hampers as we were short on money last year.

“The first lockdown for me was very difficult. This year, we are doing it for our family and friends.

“It helped us realize that Christmas doesn’t need to be expensive and that it is far more important to gift people meaningful gifts.”

They have now turned their online business, Kitchen Table Revolution, into a community.

Members can learn from them how to forage and make goods.

Their daughter Xanthe is four years old and Athene is four months.

Imogen states, “I want to assure anyone who’s having financial difficulties this Christmas that it’s not a problem.”

“There are many ways you can give unique gifts that don’t cost a lot.


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