Christmas. For some, it is the most joyous time of the year and for others, it can be very stress-inducing. What should be an end of year celebration, a chance to take stock, relax and enjoy with family can turn into turmoil over how much to spend on presents and how on earth will the credit card be paid back? The average Aussie credit card debt after Christmas is $1,666 with a whopping 82% of people taking up to 6 months to pay it off and 18% taking even longer!

If you are stressing out leading up to Christmas and aren’t sure how to go about having a fabulous time and not getting credit card hangover, look no further. 6 Aussie bloggers tell how they celebrate Christmas in a frugal and fun way. Whether it is traditional family time, fabulously frugal food, or neat savings ideas to take the stress out of your holiday season –you’ll find some great reading here.

Check out ‘Christmas around Australia’ posts from;

Balanced Christmas Past

Amateur Christmas Baking

Amateur Christmas Baking

Christmas has always been one of my favourite times of the year.  As a child,  it was a time when I got to see all of my family at once including my many cousins.  There was always plenty of food and treats we weren’t allowed at other times of the year as well. In Australia Christmas also happily coincides with Summer. The amazing warm weather and the end of the year break (6 weeks off school – woohoo!) which always put me in a happy mood. We always had a very strong focus on spending time with family at Christmas and while there were presents (often new clothes, swimmers, beach towels and toiletries) our parents made sure we understood that it was a time to be grateful and thankful for what we got/had.

The Traditions Continue…

Even now as an adult Christmas is still something I look forward to each year. While the break is much shorter now (10 days) we still hold some family traditions including our pre-Christmas baking and truffle making day, lots of special Christmas foods and treats and enjoying watching the kids tear into the Christmas wrapping paper with excitement.

Whether Christmas is a big tradition in your family, or you just want a quiet time to reflect on another year coming to a close, I hope you find some helpful tips here and from the other bloggers participating in the ‘Christmas around Australia’ thread.

My Favourite Christmas Traditions (that don’t cost a lot)

Christmas Movies

Friday night in our family was usually movie night. We would go down to the local video store (I’m sooo old) and hire a movie or two. We would set up blankets and pillows on the loungeroom floor and enjoy a nice time as a family. Throughout December this would turn into Christmas movie night of course. Some favourites from my childhood are Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause and The Grinch who stole Christmas. What are your favourite Christmas movies?

Christmas Baking Day

As mentioned above, a long-standing tradition in our family is a day of making Christmas treats to give as gifts and to enjoy for ourselves at Christmas (and usually for many weeks). Sweet truffles in many different flavours are always a huge hit. We have tried many things over the years including gingerbread houses, brownie Christmas trees, melting snowman cookies and classic shortbread. This is another day of quality family time for minimal cost.

Christmas Picnic

While family is the centrepiece of all the Christmas celebrations from 24th December-26th December, friends are also an important part of our lives. Everyone is very busy and often get overwhelmed with the costs associated with this time of year. This is why we created our yearly ‘friends’ picnic at our local free park and swimming spot.

This day is on either the first or second weekend in December, allowing everyone plenty of time to get ready for the busy time with their own families. Each person brings along a $5 dish to share and a $15 KK gift if they wish (though it isn’t compulsory). We wear silly hats, eat lots of delicious foods, enjoy the weather and the company. The gift exchange is always a great laugh as well!

Day After Breakfast

My love of food surely comes from my family – it is the centerpiece of everything we do. This love of food means we always over cater. I have attempted to ask people to bring less in the past but for some reason, the primal sense of abundance always takes over. I must say though that nothing goes to waste. Leftover ham and potatoes are fried up and served at breakfast the next day (or 2) and who says you can’t eat dinner for breakfast? Truffles keep well in the fridge and also make great gifts, Christmas cookies, fudge and other goodies taste great mixed into ice cream and frozen for another day. While some people may turn their noses up at leftovers, our family embraces them and enjoys a couple of days off cooking, especially in the summer heat. If you decide to embrace leftovers too, make sure you store the food properly and follow food safety guidelines. Nobody wants to be sick at Christmas.

My top tips for a stress-free Christmas

Pre-Christmas Prep

In November each year I look through my present spot (actually 2-3 spots around the place now as I don’t have much storage) and see what gifts I have already stocked up on from sales throughout the year, or items have saved to regift (shh don’t tell anyone). I also see if there are any items that I haven’t used throughout the year that I could sell or swap. This often starts up a small holiday season fund. This year I sold off some books I had read and likely wouldn’t read again or could easily borrow from the library, some unworn jewellery and unopened perfume that were previously gifted to me. Unfortunately, I could not find suitable places to regift these items so they were sold in order to start my Christmas fund.

Make a list (or 3)

I am a HUGE fan of lists (and I hear Santa is too). What better way to feel prepared and have no last-minute stresses pop up because you forgot the Christmas Ham! I have 3 (or more) lists going at any one time and they include;

Food

My number one priority for any occasion. What will the Christmas feast look like? In our family, everyone brings a dish or two and we share in a big feast. On the second weekend in December our family gets together for a pre-Christmas planning (and baking – yum!) day and we allocate who is bringing what on the day so we are prepared.

Presents

While it isn’t all about presents, they are a very fun part of the festivities. Whatever you choose to do in your family, I believe it always pays to be prepared.

Once you hit 18 in our family you are added to the Kris Kringle list. Each person is given one family members name and a $50 price limit. This helps everyone to budget and not overspend. We have always been about spending quality time with family and 1 present is usually more than enough as most adults buy what they need themselves throughout the year anyway.

Under 18s of course still get presents (and usually get spoilt by the aunt, uncles and grandparents). Between Mr. B and I, we have 2 nieces and 2 nephews so we will write down a list (on an excel spreadsheet of course) of who needs presents and our budget for each child (usually $25). Once a gift is purchased it is added to the list so I don’t accidentally forget and buy something else (this has been known to happen in the past – whoops!).

The plan of action

Having a big family I usually have 3 days of solid festivities. Driving from one place to the next (I’m lucky most of my family live fairly close). To pull this off a plan is needed. The car needs to be filled with petrol, logistics need to be sorted to ensure we are maximising time and travel costs – meaning a loose timeframe around how long will be spent at each location and in which order. Mr. B comes from a small family and finds this crazy but I’ve grown up with it and absolutely love seeing everyone, sharing stories, presents and food and reminiscing about another year past.

Shop around (from the comfort of your couch)

If you are anything like me you try to avoid the shops from the first week of December except for a few grocery runs closer to the big day. As soon as I know who my Kris Kringle is (usually end of October each year) I start to look around at gift ideas and see where I can get the best prices. Online shopping is fantastic for comparing prices, finding discount codes and keeping track of specials leading up to Christmas. ‘Click and Collect’ is also a fabulous new feature where you don’t have to search through shelves for items and wait in line to pay, instead you order online and walk into the store to pick up the items from the service desk. Most retail stores offer this service for free, but watch out for a few sneaky ones who will try to charge you and weigh up if it is still worth it for you.

This year all presents were purchased and wrapped before the start of December so I can relax knowing one list has been fully ticked off.

Give back

While you may not think this will make your Christmas and less stressful, I believe giving back is a wonderful way to spread Christmas Cheer and you will feel warm and fuzzy knowing you’ve done a great thing. There are many charities that gladly accept extra help at this time of year either through food, presents or volunteering your time. For the past two years and hopefully into the future I have donated presents for children and food and household goods for families in need directly to a local not for profit. While it won’t solve all of the societal issues, I’m happy knowing I’ve helped ease the burden that can often come with this time of year.

christmas gifts for local kids in need

Christmas gifts for local kids who may not receive anything else at Christmas

Start planning for next year

The best time to plan for next Christmas is right after this one ends. This is when all the decorations, gifts wrapping, bon bons and other festive things go on sale. If you have the space to store it, you could save a lot for next year.

Another great way to save for Christmas is to ‘bank’ your rewards points throughout the year. If you shop somewhere with a rewards program, don’t be tempted to take $10 off here and there. And definitely, don’t swap them for overpriced knick-knacks. Instead, save up these points and at the end of the year swap them for gift cards. You can then use these to either purchase groceries or presents for other people. So far this year I have over $130 saved and I don’t spend a lot. I can imagine a larger family may easily save a lot more throughout the year. As with anything though, don’t fall into the trap of spending more than you need to just to receive a reward. We all know that never works out.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, a quick summary of Christmas in the Balanced family and some of my top tips for making sure this time of year goes smoothly. We will have a wonderful Christmas and all for approximately $220 including all the trimmings (according to my handy Christmas spreadsheet #nerdout).

Don’t forget to check the other awesome bloggers who are sharing how they celebrate Christmas around Australia;

How do you celebrate Christmas? What is your best tip for a stress-free holiday season?