In tight financial times, Christmas can be a serious drain on your budget. You always want to make it as special as you can for your family, but there may not be much extra money to spend. As a society, we tend to focus on the gift-giving expectations and often expensive rituals of Christmas as much as the simple joys of spending time with our families and sharing the special moments. So perhaps the first step in celebrating Christmas on a tight budget is to adjust your mindset.
Christmas can be wonderfully memorable without being horribly expensive. Here are some quick tips for making your Christmas dollar stretch a bit further this year:
1. Don’t feel you need to be a slave to all the traditions
You don’t really need a Christmas-themed tablecloth, fancy bows on every present or three dozen Christmas crackers to have a great Christmas. And have you noticed that people hardly ever eat fruitcake or mince pies except at Christmas? There’s a hint there – many of us can happily do without it. Retailers love shoppers who are slaves to tradition, but you can create your own Christmas rituals that break away from the norm.
2. Celebrate with an artificial tree
An attractive, easy-to-assemble artificial Christmas tree can be used year after year, saving you loads of money when compared to buying a live tree every Christmas. If you’re short on decorations, add a few homemade ones. Many people use the same artificial tree for decades, and it makes life much simpler. As an alternative, make your own Christmas decorations. Buying decorations for around the home or your Christmas tree can be quite costly so why not add a personal touch to your Christmas and attempt some homemade decorations. Watch our video “Simply Smarter DIY Christmas Ideas” for a step-by-step guide on how to make glitter pinecones, homemade wrapping ideas and how to create your own unique beach themed or pearl ornaments. All these ideas are cost effective and easy to make and will make for some great family time too!
3. Give your family or friends the precious gift of your time
Give your child, spouse, relative or friend an official-looking voucher promising a clearly defined number of hours (on a specific day in the very near future) doing a low-budget activity you both love: fishing off the local pier, hiking a new wilderness trail, building something extremely cool in the back shed, learning a new skill together or anything else that leads to some quality one-on-one time together. It will be cheaper than an expensive gift, and might actually be valued much more by the recipient. You can offer your time for just about anything: a promise to cook a child’s favourite meal, an arrangement to help your parents trim their backyard trees and clean out their gutters – basically anything you can think of that someone else might appreciate.
4. Look at other people’s lights instead of yours
If you’ve ever seen the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, you know how far some people can go when trying to impress the neighbours with their epic Christmas lighting displays. If you’re on a budget, this is a game you shouldn’t play. Instead, bundle the family into the car and drive them around to all the elaborate Christmas Light displays within a 5 kilometre radius of home. Official Christmas Light display addresses are often listed in the newspaper, so they’re easy to find – and a pleasant night out for everyone.
5. E-cards are the answer: same message, no stamps
There was a time when everyone would make a list of their favourite people, buy several dozen Christmas cards, envelopes and stamps, and do a mass mail-out before Christmas. Now electronic gift cards accomplish the same thing, but without the expense (you can even include a group family photo). It’s also easy for your happy recipient to continue the conversation online.
6. Simplify the food offerings
There’s a very good reason we eat too much at Christmas – it’s because there’s always a serious overload of available goodies. A perfectly cooked roast with plenty of healthy vegetables and salad is a great Christmas feast. Christmas in Australia usually means excellent value on stone fruit, fresh prawns and other delights, so take advantage of these healthy options while reducing the amount of junk food you buy. Nobody will really miss the bowl of lollies, the jumbo pack of beer nuts or the cavity-inducing striped candy canes.
7. Take away stress by removing guilt
There is absolutely no reason to feel bad about not being able to provide lots of pricey gifts to the people you love at Christmas. Stop for a moment and think back to your experiences at Christmas, especially as a child. Do you remember how much your parents did or didn’t spend on your gifts? No, you remember the great times you had, the togetherness, the feeling of family comfort, and how bad your parents sounded when they tried to sing Christmas songs. Christmas, like Valentine’s Day, Easter and even Halloween, has become increasingly materialistic and commercialised, but it doesn’t need to be. Christmas is all about creating lasting memories with your loved ones, and that’s not about succumbing to an obligation to spend – it’s about showing you care.