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7 Christmas Saving Tips

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by Ling Tan (subscribe)
Pharmacist, dog lover, occasional gardener, cook and food enthusiast! Share my culinary and dining adventures and kitchen successes with me at my blog -
Published November 25th 2014
7 Christmas Saving Tips

Christmas is one of the most expensive times of the year but it doesn't have to be. Tis the silly season of laughter, joy, food, drink, presents and expenses so with Christmas just around the corner, here are some tips on how you can survive Christmas without burning a hole in your pocket!

Start Early

The age old advice of getting organized and starting early does in fact pay off. It gives you more time to keep an eye out for gifts and things your family and friends might like to receive at Christmas time. Sales happen from time to time all year round in store and online so that book your mum's been wanting could well be 30% off last week. She'll still love it at Christmas time and you've just saved 30%. It also gives you time to shop online and get your gift delivered in time. Keep the momentum and your savings will stack up with every gift.

Take this a step further and start early for next year's Christmas with decorations, gift wraps, Christmas cards, dinnerware and novelty items going on sale after Boxing Day. Imagine the pretty items you can pick up for half the price. No one has to know.

christmas decoration, Christmas, sale, cookie house
I paid $5 for this revolving light up cookie house

Make a list, check it twice. Stick to it

Making a list helps you stay on track with your Christmas budget. Write down a list of everyone you plan to buy a gift for and allocate a maximum amount you want to spend on each person. If you get a 6 pack for your bin man and tip your postman, put it on the list too. When you go gift shopping, stick to the budget and mark them off as you go. Some people are easier to shop for than others and I have been guilty of picking up more things than needed for one person just because I saw something he or she would like one too many times. Suddenly I've spent extra on a few and not enough on the others which can put you in an awkward situation if you left it that way. So of course you then go and buy more stuff to balance it out. If you stick to the list, once a person's crossed off, it's done. This avoids overbuying and overspending because trust me, it all adds up. Impulse buying is bad. Stick to the list.

Secret Santa

Some of you might have large families or plenty of gatherings with friends over the Christmas season. A gift for everyone can get pretty expensive so you could have a chat with family and friends about the subject of gift giving. It's hard to broach but you may be pleasantly surprised. Agreeing to set a price limit on presents is one way of keeping costs down or maybe some friends would be happy with a no gift exchange this year. Another suggestion is to get gifts for the children only.

One of the popular arrangements that is often done at work places is Secret Santa. You could organise this with your friends and family too especially if there is a lot of you. With Secret Santa, each person only has to buy one gift. Draw a name out of a hat and get shopping! Trying to guess who your present is from also adds to the fun.

Make homemade Christmas Gifts

Store bought Christmas gifts can sometimes be quite expensive so why not make some homemade Christmas gifts from the heart. They will be unique, sincere and thoughtful. It's time to explore a talent or skill that you may not realize you have. Everybody loves food so head down to Cheap as Chips and pick up some mason jars and ribbon then get cooking and baking. It's all in the presentation too so put a lovely Christmas label on the jar with your best handwriting and tie a pretty bow around it, maybe even string a candy cane through to make it extra Christmassy. Truffles, cookies, jams, chutneys, brownies and shortbread are popular treats!

Home made truffles. Image Source:

If you don't think food is your forte, how about something personalized? Perhaps you're good at sewing or embroidery. A personalized tea towel, tree skirt, Christmas stocking, wreath or even quilt can be quite special. An easy DIY gift is to get a porcelain mug or plate for $1-$2 and decorate it with Sharpie pens. Draw anything you want and bake it in the oven to set the ink. Voila you have a money can't buy personal gift.

personalized gift, porcelain mug, personalized mug, christmas gift
Drawing on my own mug

Some other ideas include homemade body scrubs (make sure you check for allergies and sensitivity first), ready to bake cake mix in a jar, personalized care packages and DIY hampers. Just remember to jazz it up for the best Christmas themed presentation!


We all know Christmas season is a time of excess but it doesn't have to mean food waste or overspending. Have a plan of what you're doing over Christmas period and make a list of food you're going to make, drinks and items that you need. Start shopping early for dry, preserved or canned items that keep. Take notice of supermarket flyers and buy them when they're on special. Always compare prices because different supermarkets will have different deals on so it pays to do your homework. Also, try and avoid over buying because the shops are really only closed for two days so instead of buying so much milk, chocolates and cheese that the fridge is bursting and it'll likely go off before you finish it, just buy enough.

Christmas ham, Christmas meal
Christmas Ham

Christmas cake, fruit cake
Christmas Fruit Cake

If you are hosting the big family meal, you could organize a pot luck style dinner and ask other family members to each bring a dish. If everyone's up for it, you could even make it a fun raffle. Draw a ticket from the Santa hat and see whether you're stuck with making Christmas pudding or the ham this year.
Costco has just opened up in Adelaide and this presents an opportunity to pool together with friends and family to bulk buy. Just make sure you are all on the same page and buy the items you need only. That jar of 100 Chupa Chupps is not necessary.

Creative Gift Wrapping

This is by far my favourite thing to talk about. I love craft, a lot, but it can get expensive so I need to get creative with a purpose. I love wrapping presents so much I actually collect all the presents and make a day out of gift wrapping. I would even offer to gift wrap for others who hate doing it. I theme my gift wrapping each year and the family always appreciate it. It looks great when you turn up with a bag of gifts that look like they came from under the tree in a magazine shoot. Wrapping papers, bows, ribbons, stickers and tags can mount up to quite a bit of money. While there's always the option of getting the cheaper rolls of wrapping paper that tear with one soft touch, I prefer my gift wrapping to look more unique and artsy plus it beats having the same wrapping paper as half of the family who clearly all shop at the same place.

Christmas gift wrap, gift wrapping ideas
Parcel Themed Christmas Presents

One year I decided on a Santa Package theme and bought a roll of classic brown wrapping paper which costs next to nothing and some twine. A ball of twine is way cheaper than ribbon and goes a very long way. I wrapped all my presents like classic parcels and we drew stamps on each gift with their names written on it and all. It takes a bit of time but it's a lot of fun doing it. It could also be a fun craft project with the kids. Perhaps there are some rubber stamps around the house. A bit of red and green ink could come in handy. It's one of a kind and it'll cost you less than expensive print wrapping paper. Ready made bows can be expensive so why not make your own with curling ribbon. Buy a large roll of curling ribbon and cut a few strips to length, tie them together in the middle and start curling them. Instead of using gift tags you could stencil their names or the first letter of their names on the gift itself.

Another unique idea is to save up newspaper and pretty magazine pages to wrap smaller gifts. Tie it with a string and a candy cane for a cute present. Maybe even stick an old button in the middle for a different look. Keep your clean cardboard boxes when you buy things throughout the year to place odd shaped items in so that it's easier to wrap and looks much neater. This saves you the cost of buying gift boxes. I know a friend who wrapped presents with old T-shirts and linen once! Get your creative juices flowing.

If creativity is really not your thing, carefully open your presents on Christmas day and save the wrapping paper or gift bags and recycle them. This may require excellent memory as to who you got the gift bag from so make sure you don't give it back to the same person. I prefer to wrap presents but I have a gift bag stash that will make a reappearance after 2 to 3 years. Just when people are forgetting I'll sneak one in here and there.

DIY Decorations

Christmas decorations can be expensive so once again, while we're in a creative mood let's make some of our own. An easy one is to go to the local park and pick up some pine cones and twigs. Buy a can of silver or gold spray paint and spray these cones and twigs for a natural Christmas centerpiece. Place the twigs in a vase and string some fairy lights around it.

DIY Christmas decorations
Silver Sprayed pine cones I collected from the park

Another idea is to get some oranges, stick some cloves in it and wrap a ribbon around it. This looks nice and homely with an added plus of a beautiful Christmas scent all throughout the house.

Taking an idea from the Americans, you can also string popcorn with a needle and thread to make garlands. Be different and make your own wreath out of anything you can think of. Have a little healthy competition at home and see who can make the best wreath with things around the house. You can also get some coloured paper and cut triangles out to make your own Christmas coloured buntings. There are plenty of free templates available online for cut outs.

DIY Christmas decorations
DIY Advent Calendar. Image Source: Fishly News

Make your own advent calendar! Collect empty jars and tins, clean them out, dry it and wrap a white piece of paper around it. You could even use takeaway coffee cups. Get a Texta and mark them from numbers 1 to 25. You can fill each one with your own treats and stack them up like a pyramid. Jazz it up with scraps of colour paper, tissue paper and ribbons in your stash and make it a decorative feature. It's also fun for the kids to get something other than chocolate. Have fun and a very merry Christmas!
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