Budget Christmas ideas

How to get through the festive season in a fun but frugal way.

By Donna Fleming
Christmas on a budget

When you are on a tight budget, Christmas is not a time to be jolly; it’s a time to stress about every cent you spend. But with a bit of careful thought and planning, you can have a cheap but cheerful Christmas that doesn’t blow the budget and send your stress levels sky-high. Here are some ideas.

  • Head to charity shops to buy gifts. Not only do they have great items at bargain prices, but the money you spend there will be going to a good cause.
  • Check out Trade Me for presents. It’s good if your kids are desperate for popular brands but you can’t afford to buy the item when it’s new. You can also use the website to sell things you no longer need so you will have some extra cash at Christmas time.
  • Don’t forget about $2 shops for stocking fillers, or gifts for your kids to give people.
  • Make your own decorations, or get the kids to make them. Not only can it save money but it will keep them occupied.
  • Get the kids to decorate plain brown or white paper, to save on the cost of wrapping paper. They can personalise it for each gift recipient.
  • Make your own Christmas cards by cutting out pictures from last year’s cards and gluing them to cardboard. Or send e-cards online, which will save you the expense of buying cards and posting them. Make gift tags from recycled cards and wrapping paper.
  • Make gifts yourself. If you’ve got a talent like knitting, sewing, cross stitch, or carpentry put it to good use.
  • If you’re green-fingered give plants from your garden as gifts. Buy cheap plastic pots and cover them with ribbon or tinsel.
  • Instead of gifts, give those close to you vouchers for your time. For example, you could give an elderly aunt a voucher promising you’ll go over and cook her a special dinner, offer to babysit for a busy friend or treat a niece to a day out with just the two of you.
  • If you come from a big family, suggest a secret Santa system where you draw a name out of a hat and just buy for that one person instead of everyone. Set a limit for how much everyone should spend on gifts.
  • Buy joint presents for couples or even families rather than individual gifts.
  • Have a swap party. Get together with friends and each bring along items you’ve never or barely used, presents you didn’t want, good quality clothing your kids have grown out of and toys they no longer play with. Then exchange items with your pals so you’ve got things to give as gifts to people on your Christmas list.
  • If you have little children, keep their best artwork and get it laminated. These can make great table mats, especially for grandparents.
  • Join a community website like Freecycle, where people give away things they don’t want. See
  • Check out websites such as GrabOne, which have limited offers on some great bargains.
  • Home-baked treats make a great gift for neighbours, colleagues and friends. Put biscuits or slices in baking paper decorated with a seasonal theme and tie it up with ribbon so it looks like a Christmas sack.
  • Make Christmas more about traditions, such as singing carols, than giving lots of gifts. See it as a chance to spend time with your loved ones. Give in ways other than buying material things – volunteer your time at a charity or do favours for people who you know need help, such as elderly neighbours.
  • Forego Christmas crackers. They can add up to a big expense for something you usually throw straight in the bin after it’s been pulled. Does anyone ever keep the “gifts” you get in them? If you can’t bear the thought of not including crackers, you could make your own.

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