AS we prepare to start opening advent calendar doors, this should be a time for cosy nights, festive treats and increasingly excited little ones. Instead, this year, for many, it will instead be a time of acute worry about how to pay for Christmas. Here are a few small ways to make things a little cheaper – and much better for the environment – without sacrificing any of what makes the season special.

Hunt for half-price gift

sets Festive gift sets of toiletries are popular for a reason – they’re a safe bet for everyone from teenagers to elderly aunts. But they’re also popular donations to charity shops – whether due to allergies, aversions or simply a lack of storage space in the bathroom cabinet. You don’t need to wait until after Christmas to get one for half price – and some charity shops sell the items individually, allowing you to assemble a bespoke collection of luxury-brand items and pop them in a more sturdy, reusable gift box from a pound shop with some tissue paper.

READ MORE: Alice Eclair: Spoonful Of Spying review: Sugar-spun serving of genius

Bake your own treats

Another common donation to charity is the Christmas biscuit tin – lovely things, but every kitchen has its storage limits so they can be easily sourced for a pound or two. You don’t need to be Nigella Lawson to rustle up something tasty to put in these. While food and fuel prices make baked gifts a less economical option than they used to be, prepare big batches of biscuits or truffles and the result will still be a thrifty treat that shows you care enough to spend time and effort. If you can’t source sufficient tins, cheap cellophane bags are available from eBay and can be tied with a piece of curling ribbon and finished with a tag made from an old Christmas card.

Ditch the gift bags

At some point in the recent past, it became de rigueur – nay, expected – that you would not only wrap presents but also place them in pretty cardboard gift bags with handles. Let’s end this madness.

The big ones are seldom strong enough that you can actually fill them with presents without the risk of ripping, and the ones that do survive the journey to their recipient end up cluttering up lofts and cupboards for another 11 months. We don’t need them! Bags for Life all the way.

Give the gift of your time

If you have more time to spare than money, consider how valuable your assistance might be to a loved one who is time-poor or otherwise limited. Instead of giving them an item they may not really need or appreciate, consider offering to help them instead. This could take all sorts of forms, from helping clear out a loft or garage to small DIY tasks or even something like a knitting or piano lesson. For a friend with children, you could gift them a day out to a museum or host a baking or arts and crafts session.

You can make your own bespoke gift voucher and insert it into a special Christmas card to be opened on the big day.

How to grab a bargain present via Facebook 

It's crazy to think that in the not-so-distant past, the only way to sell your unwanted furniture, household appliances, toys and games was to place a little postcard on a board in a supermarket or a brief listing in a newspaper full of ads.  These days, you can find the dollhouse or Lego set you’re after with a few clicks of a mouse – and then, bizarrely, instantly view the wedding photos of the person selling it.

Facebook Marketplace has revolutionised the business of local reselling, but it is a magnet for timewasters. It’s all too easy to fire off a default message – “Is this still available?” – without a second thought and never follow up.  So here’s my tip: keep searching locally for what you want, and as soon as you find it send the seller a message stating when you are able to collect it – ideally within 48 hours. Then set a phone alarm so you don’t forget to follow through.

Clear out the house in time for Christmas

Spring may be the traditional time to give your home a thorough clean, but there are good cost-cutting arguments for adding in a November deep clear-out to your schedule. If you’re already going to be cleaning and rearranging furniture to accommodate a tree and any visiting guests, now is a great time to take stock.

Don’t be tempted to buy new decorations, crackers or cards until you’ve assessed what you already  have – it’s easy to forget what’s been boxed-up in storage for the last 11 months. This will be your last chance to make seasonal use of any Christmas stamps that lack barcodes, so check you don’t have any leftovers from last year before buying more (with first-class now costing a whopping 95p and second-class 68p, a book of these is worth plenty).

If you’re planning to bake gifts, check to see if you have any Christmas cake cases or boxes, bags and tins in which to present them lurking in the back of a kitchen cupboard, as well as any in-date ingredients you can use.

Are there any unwanted gifts  from previous birthdays and Christmasses in the back of a wardrobe? Now would be a great time to donate them to charity or perhaps re-gift them (although this is best avoided if you can’t remember who gave them to you – it would be a cost-cutting exercise too far if you accidentally gifted something back to the original giver).

Do you have bigger good-quality used items gathering dust, such as toys and games, exercise equipment, kitchenware or electronics? Someone else might be looking to buy them as gifts, so these could also be donated or, if you’d like to generate some cash, you can list them online. If you’re on Facebook, you can create listings on its marketplace (see article below), or try the likes of Gumtree and eBay.

Are there any unused gift cards or credit notes in your purse or sitting in a drawer? These could be used to buy gifts or other Christmas-related items. The same applies to rewards like Tesco Clubcard vouchers – but also be sure to check how to best maximise the value of these (for example, they are worth three times their face value when exchanged with a “reward partner” such as Cineworld, Disney+ or Pizza Express).

Happy hunting, and good luck!