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Christmas for Less- How to cut corners at Christmas and still have a great time

Updated on January 4, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree!


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

I don't know about the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas definitely is the most expensive time of the year. When you think of gifts, food and activities the cost is pretty astronomical so any changes or different ideas could really help you think about Christmas in a new way!

Start Early!

The best thing you can do to help yourself have a frugal Christmas is to start early so that you can pick up the bargains. The best bargains start 12 months in advance, in the previous Christmas sales. It is very common to get bargains such as 75% (or more) discount on cards, wrap, tags, decorations, crackers, Christmas trees and Christmas themed presents. You can thus take two approaches - either buy something much nicer for the price you'd pay for a standard item, or if you are being frugal, buy the things you'd normally buy but massively discounted.

Most of all make sure you have actually got someone to give each gift to or you won't be saving anything (my wife is particularly bad at this!)! It's no good being left with twenty presents at the end of Christmas that you have spend $100 on and just cannot find a home for.

Some Cheap & Amazing Gifts to Make

Christmas Gifts

Gifts are surely the biggest cost of Christmas, and you can do lots of things to save money in this area.

  1. Make your list and check it twice - do you really need to buy all of those people something? Can you knock anyone off your list or agree with them not to buy anything, do a secret santa between a group of friends or even just reduce how much you spend from say $20 to $10.
  2. Reduce how much you spend on those you buy for by 10-20% per person - by being clever with your Christmas shopping they won't even notice the difference.
  3. Buy in the sales, but don't buy anything with a date on it that is going to go out of date before you'll need it. Whatever you buy, you should consider it as being full price. In other words don't say, "This was $5, reduced from $20. I normally spend $20 so I will buy 4 for them". Be pleased with the bargain and the money you've saved yourself, and the recipient will be just as pleased as if you'd paid full price (they won't know the difference!).
  4. Re-wrap gifts with cheaper packaging into nice bags or boxes, with ribbons, tissue paper and anything else that looks good. It will look 10 times the gift it was! I did this recently with a reduced $5 paella kit. I wrapped it in patterned tissue paper reduced from Valentine's Day, added an extra from a dollar shop and then put it in a gift bag. It looked $25 easily.
  5. If you like making things, make some nice presents yourself. Things like jewellery, sewn or knitted goods, wood carving, candles - anything at all. If you don't have a skill at making anything you can still make nice gifts very easily - make some super easy chocolate truffles or chocolate shapes, or maybe have a go at jam or chutney. In my experience these are the gifts people really enjoy and remember the most. They don't feel like it is a cheap present or a cop out and don't count it as the $5 cost of raw materials when they cost $25 in the shops. They see the time that went into it as being worth more than the money you didn't spend.

Christmas Food

Food shopping for Christmas can be very expensive, especially if you have a lot of people to buy for, and they will all expect even nicer food than usual because it is Christmas.

Ignore food packaged as 'Christmas food' unless it is reduced. Nearly everything seasonal has a non-seasonal allternative which is just as good. Shop around, buy something each month before Christmas for non-perishable items to spread the cost. The other alternative is buying everything a couple of hours before closing on Christmas Eve. Shops stock up in such quantities that it is likely you'd still get everything you need for a fraction of the price it should be, but whether it is worth the stress you'll have to decide for yourself.

Often pre-prepared food at Christmas is very expensive. Can you trim those brussels sprouts yourself, make your own stuffing, take the legs off a turkey yourself to make an over inflated turkey crown? Often it is only a small amount of time and effort that makes all the difference. Go for a later meal and you'll have the time.

Also budget type supermarkets tend to have the same great Christmas products you can find in other places for a fraction of the price, so you might want to try these.

Don't feel bad

You're going to have the experience of someone spending more on you than expected. They might have gone beyond what you agreed to spend, they might have bought more things or something from somewhere nicer than you normally shop. This person will usually go beyond what you typically do which in combination with you doing ever so slightly less seems out of proportion. So if you normally spend around $30, you dropped to around $25 and they went up to $45, it makes sense that there will be a big difference.

You need to remember that they created the majority of the problem. Also you need to remind yourself that people can spend whatever they want to on you and you can spend less on them, it's a free world. Believe too that people aren't spending as much as you think, normally. Don't feel bad. Ever. And don't rush out and buy them something extra; it looks worse!


These are just a few ideas to hopefully make it a cheaper and happier Christmas for you. Please share all of your ideas for a frugal Christmas too!

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