It's the most wonderful time of the year - not many sleeps until Santa arrives!
But while we can celebrate without lockdown restrictions, many of us are still facing a difficult Christmas after a tough financial year.
However, that doesn't mean Christmas can't be as special this year. Here's how you can still have a magical Christmas without breaking the bank.
1. Don't buy a ham
By Boxing Day, you'll be sick of the sight of ham. And that full leg of ham costs a fortune. Instead, buy ham off the bone by the slice at the deli. Same stuff, sure, more expensive. But you only need, say, 500g. It all gets eaten, works out cheaper, and there's no waste.
2. Avoid gift giving gone mad
The major cause of Christmas stress is having to buy gifts for people you haven't seen since you played doctors and nurses at your mum's house. If you MUST buy gifts, do a gift exchange - put all the names in a hat and purchase just one gift – and limit that gift to $20.
3. Buy gift cards
This may not feel as "personal", but if you are buying for tweens or teens, this is the way to go. Nothing you can buy them will be cool anyway. Let them buy their own. It might not save you money, but it will save you heartache.
4. Ditch the Christmas pud
Christmas in NZ is usually too warm for the traditional hot pudding! Instead, grab two litres of good quality vanilla ice-cream, mix it through with a small fruitcake that has been broken up into small chunks, and pour into a loaf tin mould.
Pull it out just before serving, drizzle with melted chocolate, cut into slices, and you have Frozen Christmas Pudding. It's about a tenth of the price of those big fancy Christmas puddings and the kids are more likely to actually eat it.
5. Cookies in a jar
This is the perfect gift idea for neighbours or school teachers. Grab, say, flour, sugar, oats and cocoa, layer the ingredients carefully in a mason jar, tie with a ribbon, and add the cookie recipe to the card. Looks good – and works out under $2.50 each to make.
6. Use Covid as an excuse to stay home
This is the perfect year to have a legitimate excuse not to visit extended family. Instead, stay home as a family and enjoy Christmas as a unit. Let the kids play with their gifts, listen to Michael Buble, eat and drink, then have a nap and watch Netflix. Not only does this save you time and money, but your sanity!
7. Use essentials for stocking stuffers
Stocking stuffers are a favourite with the kiddos at Christmas. But now not only are we up for the cost of Christmas gifts, we also have to fill a bedazzled sock with stuff too. Don't just get lollies and trinkets that they'll break in a day. Fill it with things they need. Think deodorant, socks, underwear - they'll thank you later.
8. There's nothing wrong with regifting
While it may have a reputation for being a bit tacky, regifting is environmentally friendly, cheap, and a fantastic way to get stuff out of your house. The secret to a good regift is to ensure the person you give it to isn't the person who gave it to you – and put some thought into who receives it. You may not have appreciated the gift, but it doesn't mean the giftee won't.
9. Free activities
Every community has a list of free activities they hold over the Christmas period. There are usually fireworks or a community Christmas party or movie nights etc. See what the local library has on, especially kids' activities. Take advantage of these community nights to have a cheap (or even free) night out.
10. Check out the discount shops
There is a discount store in nearly every shopping centre, and you might be surprised at some of the goodies you will find in there. Great for cheap Christmas wrapping paper, they have kids' gifts and are a really good stockists for arts and craft supplies, decorations and serving platters.