Christmas day on a shoestring budget?

Have you noticed that the holidays always come when money is tight? I can hear your heart beating wildly already because you've just realised how close Christmas really is and once again you haven’t put any money away to help you through the spending season. 

And although you don't want overspend the little bit you have, you also also don't want to enjoy your favourite culinary treats and give thoughtful gifts while not breaking the bank.

There's enough to panic about over Christmas as it is without adding money worries to the equation. But don't be like me two years back when I allowed my spending run out of control and I ended up in a financial flap.  DebtSafe’s debt management expert, Wikus Olivier shares ways we can enjoy the 25th of December on a shoestring budget: 


People tend to forget what Christmas is really about. The free gift of spending time with relatives and friends definitely reaps rewards beyond what any material gift can ever offer. Rather spend some irreplaceable quality time with loved ones. No gift will ever replace time spent and memories created with those dear to them.


Setup a ‘user-friendly’ budget plan for Christmas day that works for you. And stick to it! Your budget should be simple. Start as early as possible to get your finances in check so that you are financially prepared for Christmas day. Here are some practical steps that you can take into account when preparing your Christmas budget: 

• Determine how much money you have available for Christmas day.
• Indicate what your expenses for Christmas day will include, for example food, gifts or petrol/diesel (if you need to travel).
•Be on the lookout for bargains on the items that you need to purchase.

A basic Christmas budget can look like this:

Expenses                           Budget                 Cost / Price                        Difference
Gift                  (Granny)
R 110
R 50
R 60
Petrol                       (from X to Y)
R 300
R 150
R 150 
Lunch: Meat
(6 x people)
R 500
R 420
R 80
Lunch: Drinks                    (2 x each, 6 x people)
R 300
R 280
R 20
Lunch: Noodle salad (enough for 12 people)
R 60
R 80
(R 20)                  
Ice                                  (2 x bags)
R 30
R 30
R 0 
R 1 300
R 1 010
R 290             (below budget ↓)

The above example shows that you save R290 on your Christmas day purchases. You have to ask yourself what you are going to do with that extra money. And the best option would be to save the money or gradually put it away to lower your debt. A final tip in terms of your Christmas budget: keep an eye on your expenditures. Keeping track of what you spend does not mean having less fun. Remember the best things in life are free, or at least not that expensive. 

Get friends and family excited about Christmas lunch or dinner by getting them involved in the process. Ask Granny to bring her famous apple pie; tell each household to bring their favourite salad and you can provide the meat. This will certainly point you and your loved ones in the right direction to save money. Being the host, this year, doesn’t mean that you have to carry on every single expense by yourself. Olivier says it is wise to buy the necessary items (like meat) beforehand at your local farmer’s market, rather than the shopping centre.

Now is the time to buy the canned foods and frozen goods that you will need. Do not wait until the last minute (this is when everything gets expensive). Do your homework regarding Christmas recipes to determine in advance what and how many you will need. There are several nice recipes in the latest magazine issues as well as on various websites such as Pick n PayFood Lovers and Funky Monkey.

Fun activities are great for Christmas day, but fun and cheap activities are even better. Get in touch with Mother Nature and have a garden campout or what about building a blanket fort in the living room? You and your loved ones can also explore your city as tourists and do affordable sight-see activities like a picnic or having a braai in the park. Take a drive through the famous streets that are showing off their Christmas lights and decorations or consider other resources such as Coupons SA or vouchercloud for deals to avoid overspending on your Christmas budget. Be on the lookout for places that are affordable and where there is a low or no entrance fee. 

Christmas decorations and gifts do not have to be costly, why would you buy items when you can use and spruce up the things that you already have available (such as pine cones and pegs)? This is not only a cheaper option but also a fun activity that you can do on the day with the youngsters as well as the elder family members. Take a look at a few South African inspired ideas on Pinterest

Apart from the above, families nowadays have a thrifty fad to buy only gifts for children or to place a limit on Christmas presents, for example R50. Each person brings a gift of about R50 to the Christmas party. This gift is then rotated together with the other gifts and each person gets a gift.

There are numerous ways to make the most of your shoestring budget the 25th of December. Give the above tips a try and you may find that this wonderful time of year can be worth much more without spending a considerable amount of cash. Not to mention avoiding the unnecessary stress that goes along with it. 

So there you have it. This Christmas, think smaller. Less is sometimes more, and remember too that every December 25 is an opportunity to teach our children important lessons about life, kindness and gratitude. 

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