Christmas on a budget – tips and tricks for a memorable one!

Christmas. Its that time of year where we like to give our kids everything we didn’t have as kids! This year is going to be tough for some so I’m going to share my top 10 ideas for doing Christmas on a budget – yes we use most of these ourselves!

  1. Make gifts
  2. Keep an eye out for clearance specials
  3. Purchase gift cards
  4. there’s nothing wrong with second hand
  5. choose a family gift
  6. use up reward points
  7. start family traditions
  8. split the food
  9. purchase over the year
  10. lower expectations

โ€œJust remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.โ€ 

โ€” The Polar Express

1. Make Gifts

Making gifts is EASY. Theres so many ideas and recipes on Pinterest. Some simple ideas include baking, fudge, hot chocolate or bath salts. Use upcycled glass jars or purchase biscuit tins, ribbons and fabric to make them special. Don’t forget to include a card with a list all ingredients in case of allergies. Handmade gifts, made by the kids, make cute gifts.

This year I’m getting my daughters involved in covering some notebooks in fabric. They’ll get one each in their stockings which they’ll fill with drawings, writings and scribbles! Maybe I’ll help them turn it into a gratitude journal we write in every night. They’ll also make spares for grandma, their teachers and the aunties.

Covering notebooks in fabric is easy! Just need fabric, glue and a notebook.

2. Clearance Specials

During the year, I keep an eye out for businesses that are closing down or having clearance specials. If its something I think we can use, I’ll snap it up and put it aside! I’ve got earrings from a charity auction (love a good cause), cute clearance handmade toiletry bags, bunting for the kids bedrooms and this years Christmas ornaments.

3. Purchase Gift Cards

Purchase gift cards with spare cash during the year and put them aside. Petrol, groceries and other big store vouchers can be used for your own shopping or gifted easily in a pretty card. A gift card could be the perfect gift for a fussy teenager or the aunt who has everything.
Christmas Clubs with our local supermarket is something we started this year. Adding $5 (or even $10) to the groceries on weeks we can afford it has added up!

Miss 4 with her “new” bike.

4. Second hand

If your kids are younger, there is nothing wrong with second hand items! I’ve often found books, toys and puzzles that are like new either in Op Shops or on local buy sell groups. Young kids don’t know (or care) where their present came from and if they’re really young, the box can more interesting than the toy!

I’ve got a stack of Disney books (amazing pretty much new condition) and a Secret Seven book set (loved condition) tucked away for Christmas. The joy of books is the time spent reading them together.
Miss 4 was SUPER excited to get a “new” bike recently – I found it on a buy sell swap page for $15 and well it was just too hard to hide it for 3 months!

5. Choose a family gift

If your kids are older, try for an experience together rather than individual presents. Choose something fun and interactive. Or a surprise. Book in a date to do it! Turn your cell phone off and ENJOY the moment.

Our kids still talk about the trip to Paradise Springs in Rotorua that we did one year as a gift from the overseas grandparents. Another idea to keep the memory alive would be to turn the photos into a photo book and get them printed (something I’ve not got around to yet!)

Photo from that much talked about family to Paradise Valley!

6. Use reward points

For the past 3+ years, I’ve been signed up to Colmar Brunton to do surveys in return for Fly Buys points. Survey opportunities have slowed down with Covid. Swap the points for items that could be given as presents (theres so many gadgets, magazine subscriptions and even Lego options). If you can’t find anything suitsable then go for New World or Z vouchers.

7. Start some traditions

What makes Christmas special? Its the traditions that you do every year! Whether its the same Santa Sack or stocking, viewing Christmas lights; watching (or joining) the Santa parade, reading a story together or having an advent calendar…. ALL these things create magic and memories.
Every year our kids get an ornament with their name and the year on it. This is a tradition that I got from Justin’s family – we have a box full his childhood ornaments that his mum sent over! The goal is to support another family with our purchase so I look for something different every year.

8. Split the food

Often Christmas is spent with family and food is a massive cost. We meal plan even for Christmas day! Lunch might be bbq meat and salads with fruit salad and pavlova or cheesecake for dessert. Dinner is generally leftovers from lunch with an extra salad and bread buns added.


If you’re hosting, make it a planned potluck! When we host, we provide the meat and dessert with other family members turning up with breads, salads and drinks. A plan reduces double ups and food waste.

9. Spread your purchases!

Purchase over the year! Again planning comes in! I often sit down and make a list of present ideas and stocking stuffers for each child and then decide what we’re actually going to get thats reasonable.
We try not to spend too much on adult gifts. For Justin, I’ll often do a food based present – something that I know he’ll appreciate or a tool that he’s been wanting. He usually treats me with a pamper voucher for a facial/massage. This year, I’ve asked for some handmade oven mitts in gorgeous fabrics that I’ve had my eyes on for a while.
Yes its October and I’ve got a stash already BUT the next few months get crazy for us so being organised is key! Make a plan and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to overspend or envious of others stacks of gifts! (Preaching to myself here!)

Why not have a picnic somewhere scenic instead of staying home on Christmas day?

10. Lower expectations

And lastly lower expectations! Let family know that you’re doing a simple Christmas this year. Let the kids know that this year is about giving and helping others.

What about doing an adult Secret Santa or present steal? Set a low budget to see just what everyone comes up with and make it a challenge! Or if you’ve got a large family gathering, consider doing the presents at home and make the time together be about connecting. Or put all family names in the hat and each family purchases for one family.

Remember Christmas is about people and being together. Don’t start the new year in huge debt from trying to keep up appearances – the stress is just not worth it!

Presents are soon forgotten so choose to make it memorable by doing something different!

I think this quote might sum up everything nicely!

“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.” 

โ€”Edna Ferber

Ask your kids what their favourite memory about Christmas is. You might be surprised! We’d love to hear what it is below!

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