Each week the New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB's Cooking The Books podcast tackles a different money problem. Today, it's how to get through the notoriously expensive Christmas season without blowing the budget. Hosted by Frances Cook.

You don't need me to tell you it's an expensive time of year.

I start to feel the dread of Christmas around October, reminding me I need to buy people presents, stock up on food, and prepare for the social calendar to be flooded.

All of the Christmas festivities are fun, don't get me wrong, but they can definitely leave you with a fiscal hangover.


So in the spirit of Christmas, I got the Cooking the Books community together to share their best tips with each other.

I asked those who follow my pages on Facebook and Twitter how they got through Christmas without totally blowing the budget.

We're a bunch of frugally minded people, and the last time we did a community episode I was impressed at the great advice people had to offer.

Listen to the podcast for the full quotes of how people use these tips and tricks in their own life, but for those of you who just want a quick list, here are the main points.

1. Be picky about who actually gets a present

Now this might sound a little scrooge-ish, but I think it's a great tip.

It's easy to feel like you need to be Santa and buy something expensive and thoughtful for everyone from your boss's first cousin, to the mailman's dog. But there are better ways to go about it.

Secret Santas for the adults and a price limit on presents for the kids were a popular solution.


Taking the focus off a mountain of presents lets everyone relax a bit , and spend their time and money on being together instead.

2. Go second hand for presents

From the people who messaged me, this seems to be particularly useful for kids.

The local second hand shops can be a treasure trove of high quality toys, and particularly while they're young, kids won't notice or care.

Others didn't even pop down to the local Sallies for second hand gifts; they regifted things they'd received the year before.

Regifting is all about diplomacy and thought. Don't do it in front of the person who gave you it originally, and make sure the person you're regifting to is likely to actually enjoy it.

3. Get crafty

This is for the skilled people amongst us, but there are some great things you can give that are more meaningful than an expensive present.

Homemade chutneys or preserves were popular gifts for adults, or a voucher book of treats for your significant other.

While yes, the point of this episode is to save money, I think these ideas actually bring us back to what Christmas is about.

By spending time together and doing something thoughtful to help another person out, it forces you to think about things a bit more.

4. Plan ahead

While this isn't much help for this year, you can start thinking about next Christmas right now.

People messaged me with clever tips including paying into a special presents bank account all year, paying extra on their bills from September so they could coast through Christmas for free, and the best Christmas supermarket clubs that give you bang for your buck.

Spreading it over the year like this makes it so much easier to deal with.

5. Spread the load

Christmas is a time when you might feel the pressure to be the perfect host by feeding your entire extended family a five course meal.

Overeating is one of my favourite parts of the holiday season, but there are ways to do it with less stress and cost.

Lots of people messaged me with the idea to bring a plate. This not only cuts down on the time and stress of producing a mountain of food, but also makes sure you get lots of different types of food.

Then you get to relax and eat together, and enjoy your time more.

Saving money is actually the least of the benefits here.

6. Just take the pressure off

There were lots of people who sent me cheeky messages, but joke's on you I actually think your tips are useful.

People made suggestions such as giving thoughtless gifts and not caring about it, hiding until the Christmas season is over, only buying presents for yourself, or going on holiday.

While you're all taking the mickey, I actually think there's a good lesson in here too.

Just chill.

You don't have to buy the perfect present, create the perfect meal, you don't even have to go to those cringey holiday parties if you don't want to or can't afford to.

Frankly, taking off on holiday and opting out of Christmas shenanigans could work out cheaper sometimes.

Do whatever you want to do so that you can actually enjoy the festive season.

If you have a question about this episode, or you want to get your own tips in there the next time we do a community podcast, come and join the conversation on my social media pages. You can find me on Facebook here, and Twitter here.

Don't forget to subscribe to the Cooking the Books podcast on Apple podcasts here, and I Heart Radio here.