Money. Minimalism. Motherhood.
Savvy tips to help you save money, declutter your home, spend time outdoors and thrive in your season.

10 Ways To Save Money At Christmas

Melanie Wegener

Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of year, right? For many of us, however, this season is far from that. We may feel lonely or isolated, grieving those who are no longer with us, struggling with health issues or dread awkward family gatherings.

For others, the added financial pressure is extremely stressful. We often place high expectations on ourselves to perform and impress others or create an unforgettable time for our family.

There are some things you can do earlier in the year to help set you up for a less stressful Christmas season. Here are ten tips:

1. Set up a Sinking Fund

Sinking funds are emergency funds with a purpose. Christmas can feel like it comes faster every year but it isn’t an emergency. Don’t let it creep up on you and stress you out! Start saving early.

Figure out how much you’ll need for presents, food, decorations and travel, then work backwards about how much per week or pay cycle this equates to. Open up a separate savings fund and nominate a figure to be transferred on a regular basis (for example, $50 every fortnight). Make a plan and stick to it. Little amounts throughout the year add up.

2. Kris Kringle

Kris Kringle is popular in many workplaces and families. Rather than everybody buying a present for everybody, do a simple draw to figure out the one person that each person buys for. Set a limit and create a wish list of ideas for that person to choose from. This is a great idea for buying for children too – they really don’t need that many presents!

We used to do Kris Kringle and had a limit of $30. It was fun for a while but it eventually became a chore to come up with meaningful gift ideas. We tend to buy what we need or want for ourselves throughout the year anyway. Since stopping this, it’s been a weight off my mind and one less item I need to purchase. It’s been a great move.

3. Set limits

This Christmas, don’t be afraid to set limits. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend and what you actually want to. Have a conversation with family earlier on in the year and put your concerns on the table if you feel the spending is too high. It is okay to have boundaries for presents throughout the year too.

In my family, we no longer buy for adults. It was simply getting too expensive, especially with the number of birthdays we have during November and December. We spend a maximum of $20 for kids.

Write down your budget, figure out what you can buy with this money and keep a record of what you buy throughout the year. It’s easy to forget things that you may have bought, and then overspend when you purchase more things closer to Christmas.

4. Write gift ideas

Taking time to write down gift ideas is a good habit both for adults and children. We can model delayed gratification by taking photos of things we see in stores to remind us of what we like. We can add items to our wishlist but logout before we add them to cart. We can demonstrate the power of waiting 24 hours (or ideally longer) before making a purchase.

This is especially important for children. Most relatives want to be generous and buy an exciting gift for their child, and want the wow factor. To help avoid excess in your home, try creating a wish list of ideas. This can be on a website like Amazon or simply a list emailed out with prices and links to the shop. Include a mixture of toys (focusing on open-ended or good quality), clothes, books and experiences (eg cinema, bowling or swimming vouchers). See my post on How to declutter your children’s toys for good for more tips.

5. Buy Secondhand

There are two main reasons that I buy secondhand. Firstly, to save money. Our dollars stretch more in these stores. Secondly, it reduces our impact on the environment. When we choose to buy secondhand, we give items a new life and save them from landfill.

I love op shopping (or thrifting). Most of my children’s clothes, shoes, books and toys are bought this way. I always encourage relatives to buy things on Facebook Marketplace or from op shop if they want. This way they can get bulk sets of Paw Patrol, Fireman Sam or Duplo rather than one new toy in a box. I only buy second-hand for others with their permission, for example, would you prefer five op shop dresses or one brand new?

6. Limit wastage

It is important to do what we can to limit food wastage. Begin talking early with the family about the logistics. Discuss and plan who brings what. Writing a list can help you keep on track at the supermarket.

If you have lots of leftovers, make salads to go with cold meats. Make wraps, yiros, soups or platters. Cook veggies in a creamy cheese sauce.

Put some leftovers on a plate and drop over to your elderly neighbour. Freeze if you have too much. If you’re looking for more inspiration, Jamie Oliver has some fabulous ideas for this in his book, ‘Save with Jamie.’

7. Choose your favourites

As mothers, we often feel pressure to create a magical Christmas experience. It adds to the mental load and can take away the spirit of the season.

Sit down and write down all the things that you would like to do. Ideas like:

  • Christmas Pageant
  • Carols by Candlelight
  • Looking at Christmas lights
  • Visiting Christmas markets
  • Photo with Santa
  • Snuggling up watching Christmas movies
  • Doing Christmas crafts
  • Baking honey biscuits
  • Decorating gingerbread houses

Figure out what is most important to you. Ask your kids what they love the most.

Pick your favourites, schedule them and create times of rest and togetherness at home. Podcasts like Minimalist Moms talk about the need to make intentional choices, especially during the festive season. Saying no can be a powerful step. We can’t do it all.

8. Everyone contribute

When it comes to Christmas, everyone should contribute. It shouldn’t be organised and paid for by one household. Discuss with the family what you can all bring to ease pressure on the host. Divide up meat, veggies, salads, dessert, drinks and nibbles. Do the same for bonbons, serviettes and decorations. Ask a few people to come early to help set up.

For those who have young children or have a lot going on, it might be easier to contribute cash instead. This way, you don’t end up with excess food and overspending on the occasion. Work to your strengths. Some might love cooking meat and veggies, others enjoy baking pavlova and pumpkin pie, and others like to cut up fresh fruit to share. Others (like me) prefer to bring along some drinks and nibbles and contribute money towards the bulk of the food. Mind you, now that we have our Thermomix, I do enjoy cooking far more than I used to. It’s been useful for food allergies, reducing the ingredients we need to buy, helping engage our boys in the kitchen and is honestly worth the hefty price tag.

9. Limit alcohol

Alcohol is one area that can add up really fast. If you enjoy drinking, especially at this time of year, look out for specials in the month or two leading up to Christmas.

Look at the deals on the bottom of supermarket receipts. Keep your eye out for sales and cash-back offers on alcohol on sites like Shop Back and Cash Rewards. Put some aside (and try not to drink them) to reduce costs closer to the festive season.

Mix up drinking alcohol with water, soft drink, mineral water, juice, flavoured milk or hot drinks if you can. If you enjoy bubbly water, consider getting a Soda Stream. You can add cordial to this too for a fun drink. Ask your local Buy Nothing group if anyone has lemons for juicing.

10. Return or regift excess

People love to give women hand creams or bath lotions. It’s a lovely gesture but how much can you actually use? I regift these items unless I really love the scent. If I take the time to create a wish list with my child (or on behalf of young children), and the relative chooses to buy a noisy plastic toy that will not last (or clothing that is the wrong size), I don’t feel bad about exchanging this or re-gifting. This is unless your children really loves it or are old enough to make their own decisions.

This may be seen as ungrateful, but isn’t it worse to open the package, let the kids play with it a week before it breaks or put the clothing in a drawer never to use? It might seem harsh at the time but if you do it quietly, and buy something else with the money for your child, surely that is a better solution.

Ultimately I choose what comes into our house and stays there, as I am the one to pick up and organise all the things. One year, our boys got so many toys for birthday and Christmas. I took some to my local department store and asked if they sold it and whether they would let me return it. One shop took most and gave me $120 in credit notes. I used this to buy clothing they needed and some toys they’d wanted for ages. I feel that we either choose to be intentional before the Christmas season or spend time decluttering afterwards.

Despite the expensive season that Christmas can be, you can have a say in how prepared you are and how much you choose to spend. Take some time to plan ahead, set your budget and gently communicate with those around you about these plans. Brainstorm together about some changes you can make that will honour the family traditions whilst respecting your financial situation. It’s okay and healthy to have boundaries. We don’t have to do what we have always done.

I hope that Christmas for you this year will be special and with those that you love.

Thanks so much for swinging by. I hope you’ll stick around and connect with our wonderful community. You can find me on InstagramFacebook and WeMoney.