GUEST BLOG:'s Jasmine Birtles on how small businesses can save money this Christmas

You don't have to break the bank to have a good Christmas. Here are some ideas to help you stick to your budget this December.

Try your hand at neutral spending

"Neutral spending" is a term where you sell the things you don't want, to get cash to buy the things you do. So, head straight to the back of your wardrobe, garage, cupboard or anywhere else you keep things you don't need or use any more. Sell this stuff on eBay then use that money, and that money only, to buy Christmas stuff... Probably also on eBay!

Gift boxes

Alternatively, why not create your own gift boxes? Pound shops and places like Wilkinson sell small wicker baskets, and the pound shops often sell nice-looking toiletries you can put in them.  Some tissue paper, ribbon and cellophane finish the gift pack off. On the other hand, if you are clever enough in the kitchen, bake some Christmas goodies and put them in the basket instead. Hand-made gifts are all the rage these days, and friends, family - even clients - will appreciate something carefully crafted by you.

Join forces

If you're stuck with three jars of cranberry sauce but no mincemeat, swap ingredients with friends or have a cooking day where you can share recipes and ingredients.

Have a party where you ask your guests to bring contributions of food and alcohol. Tell them it's a 'credit crunch Christmas' and everyone has to pull together, but remember to coordinate contributions and ask for specific items so that you get everything you need. You could even ask all your guests to provide one whole dish each to save yourself a lot of effort and expense.

Cheap Christmas cards

Make your own cards by printing out Christmas designs from the internet.  A good website for finding online templates is HP's website which has a range of designs you can print including festive photo ornaments, calendars and gift boxes.

Free Christmas eCards

You can also save money and paper by sending ecards from sites like 123Greetings and Funny Ecards without signing up or paying a penny, but you might want to use a different email address to your normal one in case your inbox fills up with junk.

If you have a few pennies to spare and want to save your inbox, then sign up to Jacquie Lawson. Here you can send as many ecards as you like for as little as £7.25 a year with no advertising.

Reuse and recycle

Get into 're-gifting': give your unwanted presents as Christmas gifts instead of letting them clutter up your house. Just remember who gave them to you so you can avoid fobbing aunty off with the same bath products she gave you last year! For small businesses, how about crafting new and imaginative gifts from your products range? This is a great way to use up left-over stock.

A gift of your time

Make your own gift vouchers promising to give someone your time or do something special for them. This could be anything from making them breakfast in bed to promising to volunteer for their favourite charity.

Small businesses can offer a free hour consultation, free trial or even a tester-sized version of a new or festive product. Just use your imagination.

Make the voucher personal - think about what your friend or relative really cares about and tailor your gift to that. Older relatives often much prefer the gift of your time to the usual bottle of smellies, so even if you have enough money to buy something, consider giving your time as well.

Get out of the house

Sing along and get into the Christmas mood by going to free carol services at a nearby church or watching the Christmas lights being turned on in your local town centre.

Find out whether local museums and markets have any free events, carol concerts and festivals. Just make sure you book tickets beforehand so you don't miss out.

Sign up to stay in the black

One of the first things you can do this Christmas is sign up to the free Moneymagpie newsletter, which brings you the latest discounts and money making tips leading up to Christmas - straight to your inbox!

Sign up to the newsletter here

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