Christmas CardsChristmas is fast approaching, and chances are you've started thinking about the very long list of things you need to buy to make this one a success.

Before you start shopping, what if I told you, that it's easy to reduce that list? Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, good news - I'm here to do exactly that! So put your purse away, and let's get started!

Christmas cards are something you definitely don't need to buy

I never buy cards at Christmas. For as long as I can remember, 02 Priority have sent me a voucher for a free box from WHSmiths, and they always have really pretty designs that all my family and friends love.

I also really like making my own cards, so if you're not lucky enough to be on 02, this is definitely something you could try too. Simple designs in pencil or black fine liner can be really effective, or go crazy and add as many of your crafts supplies as you fancy - glitter, paint, sequins, you name it, it is Christmas after all.

Even if you're not the 'artistic' type, don't worry as a few wobbly lines add an authentic, 'hand-made' look. Besides, it's the thought that counts!

Christmas will be even better with a non-traditional advent calendar

We've all become so used to having advent calendars, that we over-estimate the importance of them. It's just chocolate, after all!

Why not try something new this Christmas? You could try lighting a candle a day and teaching your kids the story of Christmas, write festive messages on post-it notes which you peel off day-by-day, or, if you really can't do without that chocolate fix, buy a bag of golden coins and have one a day until Christmas.

If you think your kids will be really disappointed without the 'suspense' aspect that advent brings, an even better idea is to make one of your own. There are so many easy and creative, kid-friendly DIY advent ideas on Serenta Flowers, so you can celebrate advent, without the price tag.

Whatever you do, ditch the shop-bought advent calendars. They're expensive for what they are - there's actually very little chocolate hidden under all that brightly coloured packaging - and you can have much more festive fun trying some of the ideas above.

There's no need to splash out on wrapping paper

Christmas PresentsWrapping paper is not the only option when it comes up to dressing up your gifts to go under the tree. In fact, there are loads of other, much cheaper ways to make your presents look as pretty as a picture for Christmas day.

On the run up to Christmas, don't throw your newspaper out. While it might not look like much now, the wordy, black and white sheets will look great wrapped around your gifts. Add string, some old ribbon, or whatever else you may have lying around to dress them up with, and voilà! They'll look unique, special and sophisticated too.

If you're a big package sender, brown parcel paper is a simple but gorgeous way of wrapping presents to add charm to a rustic Christmas. Add brown string and homemade gift tags to complete the look.

For the kids, this may be a bit on the bland side. However, I have something that definitely won't be. Start saving your cereal boxes now, fill them up with shredded paper and once you've bought all your gifts, nestle them inside and watch on as the hunt for the contents on Christmas day begins. They'll love searching around inside to see what goodies they can find so much, that they'll never be happy with simply wrapping again.

 Cracking money-saving solutions for your Christmas crackers

The drawback with Christmas crackers? They cost a lot and last just a matter of seconds. While they may be a pretty tradition we have grown accustomed to, they actually serve little purpose, and people rarely keep the clutter that falls out from within, or laugh at the shoddy jokes inside.

Buying a new set every year will add an extra cost to your Christmas that you don't really need, and chances are nobody will notice if they're missing from the table.

However, if the pulling-of-crackers really does play a big part in your family Christmas, save money by mixing and matching your designs. It's rare we use all the crackers in a set, so save them up year on year and add colour and fun to your table decoration with an array of different designs.

Get your giggles for free with a mix of new & old games

Before you go spending lots of money on fancy new board games, consider some of these options.

Why not do a bit of a throwback and show your kids how you used to amuse yourselves at Christmas? Reliving the classics like Charades, Categories and Squeak Piggy Squeak will everyone in stitches all day long, no matter their age!

Afterwards, let the kids show you how it's done. Using their high-technology smart phones, you'll be able to play the classic Headbands game in a completely new way. This new take on a game we're all familiar with is sure to put a smile on even the oldest of faces. Best of all? It's completely FREE!

Cover your home in Christmas decorations without spending a penny

Pine ConesTinsel, baubles, wall-hangings...they don't come cheap, and by the time you've decorated the house in expensive new decorations, you'll have added a large chunk to your Christmas costs. It's definitely nice to get your house looking festive at Christmas time, but there are cheaper ways to do it. Head outside, pick up some cones and you'll have the makings of a Christmas masterpiece. You can spray-paint them, fill jars with them, or tie them with string to create garlands to adorn your fireplaces and banisters.

Head outside, pick up some cones and you'll have the makings of a Christmas masterpiece. You can spray-paint them, fill jars with them, or tie them with string to create garlands to adorn your fireplaces and banisters.

Another great option is dried fruit.  You can pick up a selection of citrus fruit off the market for a few quid, and it's surprisingly easy to take it from edible to aesthetic. Rainy Day Mum has a great, step-by-step tutorial that shows you how to dry your own at home. Combining the results with cinnamon sticks and aniseed flowers, you'll have your home looking (and smelling) beautiful in no time.

With all that in mind, take some time to think about what you DON'T need this Christmas, instead of what you do. After all, it's much more about the time spent with family than the materialistic things.

Sophie xx


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