10 terrific tips for a low-stress and meaningful Christmas on a budget

29 November 2023

10 terrific tips for a low-stress and meaningful Christmas on a budget

Goodness, it’s almost Christmas! Again! As we approach the season, it’s important to find ways to enjoy Christmas without breaking the bank. With rising interest rates and increased living costs, many of us are looking for practical ways to have a meaningful and low-stress Christmas in 2023. In this guide, we’ll explore 10 tips to help navigate the Christmas season while not busting the budget!

Tip 1: Give thoughtfully

Christmas is all about giving, but it doesn’t have to be about extravagant spending. You can give purposefully, create meaningful connections, and have fun without overspending. Here are some thoughtful ways to give:

  • Create personalised, beautifully decorated cards with heartfelt messages for your loved ones
  • Craft homemade gifts like bookmarks
  • Bake delicious shortbread or slices, using ingredients you may already have at home
  • Create a voucher to do some odd jobs around the house or offer dog walking services
  • Make a planter box for herbs, a bird nesting box, or other gift, using reclaimed timber

Tip 2: Gift giving with a plan

Gift-giving is a cherished Christmas tradition, but it can be costly. However, with careful planning, you can make it special without overspending.

Start your Christmas shopping early to find the best deals and compare prices to avoid last-minute, panic-induced overspending. You can also consider including back-to-school necessities like pencils, drink bottles, or backpacks as part of children’s Christmas gifts.

And if times are tough, do reach out for help – but reach out early. Many organisations like the Salvos can help with gifts and food if you are really struggling at Christmas time.

Contact your local Salvos for food and gift support

Tip 3: Limit spending

It is all too easy to feel pressured by family expectations to buy big and extravagantly at Christmas time, and then struggle for the year ahead. It is essential to set a Christmas budget and stick to it.

Set a dollar limit for gifts (if you decide not to give all homemade gifts) to ensure you stay within your budget. For groups, consider a ‘Kris Kringle’ approach, where each person buys one thoughtful gift within a set budget, instead of buying multiple gifts, or put your small amount of money together with others to buy one significant gift (this works well for teachers).

Tip 4: Make Christmas memories through experiences

Experiences often make the most memorable gifts, and they don’t have to break the bank:

  • Go to church to celebrate the birth of Jesus with others in your community
  • Plan a family walk around the neighbourhood to see the local Christmas lights, followed by homemade milkshakes
  • Invite your family and friends to a community carol event, creating beautiful memories without extravagant spending
  • Give the family an annual pool pass as part of their Christmas gift/s (if you haven’t bought one earlier in the season) as this can also help reduce the costs of fun activities throughout the year

Find local Salvo events near you

Tip 5: Give your time

Spending quality time with your loved ones can be the most meaningful gift of all.

Bond with your family by preparing your house with homemade decorations or baking Christmas treats together. You can also consider volunteering individually or as a family or friendship group to help those who are struggling during the Christmas and holiday season. It feels great and helps others.

Volunteer with the Salvos

Read about other’s Christmas volunteering experiences

Tip 6: Remember to give yourself a break

The Christmas season can be stressful, so some self-care is crucial, and it doesn’t have to cost a cent.

Schedule some self-care time to read a book, pray or take a long walk. A stress-free you is by far the best gift you can give to your loved ones.

Tip 7: Budget-friendly feasts

Food is a significant part of the Christmas budget. However, there are ways to enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank.

Look for free or low-cost community Christmas events and Christmas meals. You can also plan filling budget-friendly meals like pasta bakes or salads, rice dishes, or a potato salad for your Christmas spread. And who doesn’t love an inexpensive, colourful giant bowl of jelly, or two? Check out some of our low-cost festive recipes.

And do say ‘yes’ when other family members or friends offer to bring food to your celebration. Planning the meal in advance and knowing what everyone is bringing shares the burden of cooking and costs and allows everyone to play their part in the celebrations.

Tip 8: New year and school holiday planning

Remember, Christmas isn’t the end of your end-of-year expenses; there are costs that follow. Here are some tips to navigate the post-Christmas season.

Consider alternative ways to connect with friends and family during the year-end celebrations, such as a walk, a coffee date, or a potluck dinner. Also, identify affordable school holiday activities at the local library or through local churches for your family to enjoy together. Look out for second-hand school uniforms and books at the end of the year, too!

Tip 9: Plan for next Christmas

Before you know it, you will be saying, “Goodness, it’s almost Christmas! Again!” It is worth starting to think ahead and plan early.

Lay-buy rather than use a credit card or buy now pay later loan. Paying off gifts in advance means a well-planned Christmas, without the risk of interest payments that may haunt you well into the future. If possible (and maybe it will mean cancelling a streaming subscription or doing without a little through the year), put a few dollars away a week in a separate account or even a jar. It may be super hard now, but it will make Christmas 2024 so much easier!

Tip 10: Be intentional with your money all year ’round!

To ensure a low-stress Christmas and financial wellbeing all year round, it’s important to get into a lifelong habit of being intentional with money.

Set clear financial goals and allocate funds for different occasions like Christmas, birthdays, and back-to-school expenses. Use envelopes or dedicated online accounts to separate these funds. For tips and activities to help you formulate a money plan and plan for Christmas and other celebrations, The Salvation Army Moneycare free eBook, You’re the Boss: Money Wisdom for Life, is packed with advice.

In these times of financial challenges, it’s heartening to know that help is available. If you find yourself struggling financially, reach out to The Salvation Army’s Moneycare services, where you can receive guidance and support tailored to your unique circumstances on 1800 722 363. 

Have a blessed, enjoyable and low stress Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Salvos. For us, Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus and the hope, joy and purpose this perfect gift from God brings to our world. We hope you enjoy celebrating this good news while sharing quality time and meaningful experiences with your loved ones!

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