It really is a most wonderful time of the year, but there's no denying that the festive season sneaks up and brings with it a few extra costs.
We can't claim to have all the answers, but there are a couple of ways you can save a few bucks while still celebrating with those you love.
If timing isn't a huge factor for your Christmas, flying on actual public holidays like Christmas Day or Boxing Day can save you a bundle. Airlines still operate on these days but have fewer passengers so they'll discount seats just to fill them. Plus, it usually means you'll have fewer people beside you or some extra room in the exit row.
Obviously, you want to buy presents for everyone but by the time you cover your close family, kids, friends, extended family, your partner and their family, it gets expensive. Without resorting to handmade coupon books for everyone, there's a couple of ways you make your money go further.
If you've got very young kids, it's easy to get excited about their first Christmases, but they're often too young to understand and end up having more fun with the boxes and wrapping paper. Save yourself a bundle by giving one gift you can save for them and cherish, and make a game out of the (kid-safe) packaging.
For friends and family that aren't local, consider buying online and posting directly to them. Often the shipping charges are cheaper (or free on many sites) than if you were to post the present yourself. Just warn the recipient in advance that they'll be receiving it so they don't open it before the big day.
If getting gifts on the actual day isn't important to you or your dearest, you can save enormously by buying in the Boxing Day sales - you can pick up the exact same items for a fraction of their normal price. Consider a belated gift giving ceremony a day or two later so that you still get to enjoy each other's reactions. "Oh, you shouldn't have…"
Some families take a different approach. Secret Santa is a great way to share the load amongst the adults or older kids. It means putting more time and thought into a better, meaningful gift for that person, rather than spreading your budget too thin trying to get to everyone.
You might actually be the complete opposite and you don't want to buy presents for anyone! But understandably when family or friends drop in they may bring along some goodies and you need to repay the favour. Consider stocking up in advance on cheap wine (test a bottle first, to make sure it's not completely terrible) and cute gift tags you can just pop on when the moment arises.
One thing that costs more than you'd expect and often adds up is the wrapping. The really nice stuff can be close to $10 a roll. Try your nearest $2 shop, or consider making your own. Brown paper and nice ribbon can be just as effective and feel more traditional - or get artistic (and recruit some mini workers to help) with stamps, painting, drawing or adding some little decorative touches.
Hosting a Christmas meal can add up as well, particularly if you've got a large number of family attending. Consider sharing the load by asking everyone to bring a plate. You may still take care of the big items, like the ham, roast or prawns, but a few dollars for a salad or devilled eggs will be manageable for each person, compared to you having to bear the load yourself. As for ingredients, make a list for your menu ahead of time and shop around in the weeks leading up by scouring grocery catalogues or markets. For canned and packet goods that you can store, this can stretch your budget further rather than cramming it all into a big shop in those last few days. Head to your nearest farmer's market to grab those last fresh ingredients.
With the food taken care of, get creative with decorations - there's no need to spend a fortune to make a big impact. Get the kids involved as well to make paper chains, decorations for the tree or throughout the house. Search "Cheap Christmas decorating ideas" on Pinterest for literally thousands of ideas that will cost you next to nothing but still wow your guests - not to mention keeping the kids amused for hours.
Sometimes the stars just don't align and you have to spend Christmas away from some or all of your family - for instance, if you're overseas, if they're away, if you just can't afford to travel or get time off work. Skype is free when you make video calls, so not only is it good for your wallet, but you'll feel like you're all together.
FYI, this is not our way of saying you can get away with buying bad presents. But Christmas is about the spirit of giving, and every little bit of effort counts. The chance to get creative and make your money stretch even further may give you a more enjoyable Christmas than you'd even imagined!
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