Christmas is coming: Top tips for saving money this festive season

Santa and New Zealand dollar bills
Thrifty Kiwis share top tips on how to make Christmas special without breaking the bank. Photo credit: Getty.

Christmas should be about relaxing and enjoying time with friends and family, not worrying about how much money we're spending, financial experts say.

It's been a difficult year: COVID-19 has caused unemployment to rise, hours to be cut and business costs to increase. With Christmas just over five weeks' away, families may need some extra help to cover what is an expensive time of year.  

Christmas is fun - but not if we're left feeling stretched. Newshub asked a group of accountants and thrifty Kiwis for their top tips on how to enjoy the festive season without breaking the bank.

Accountant Dave Smith said just because it's Christmas, people shouldn't feel pressured to up their spending.

"Christmas should be about friends and family - it's not about who spends the most money - or money at all," Smith said.

He suggests thinking about what's most important and having a plan. Agreeing on gift limits is a good idea - but even more important is keep track of spending on all the little things: decorations, stocking fillers, wrapping paper and extra food and drink.  

"Basic money principles still apply: set a Christmas budget so you know how much you can comfortably're not doing your family or friends any favours if you spend on them now and don't have enough money to spend on them later," he added.

NZ tax and financial services leader John Cuthbertson, said many Kiwis set up businesses or took on side hustles this year. Those looking for gifts could help their community by buying them at markets. 

"Local markets are a great way to find unique handmade gifts and to support local small businesses. For those who are difficult to buy for, pick a local charity to support: you might be able to claim a donations tax credit as well," Cuthbertson said.

Top 10 Christmas saving tips 

Members of the 'Cheaper Ways' Facebook group spoke to Newshub about how they save money at Christmas. We share 10 of their Christmas savings tips below.   

  1. "Stocking fillers: I start [early] and get my three kids one thing each week around $1-$3 value. By Christmas, I've got a collection of stuff already," Sarah said.
  2. "Op shop secret Santa: The oldest person chooses a wrapped gift first and opens it. Then the next person can either 'steal' it from them or open another one. If they 'steal' it, the person gets to open a new one. This works well going down the ages so the youngest basically gets to pick whatever they like the most," said Gabrielle.
  3. "I put $10 on my Pak'nSave Christmas club year-round. I figured this year I can put it all on a pressie card to use wherever Visa is accepted. That's $520 plus bonus to spend, Vanessa said.
  4. "Since our five kids were tiny, we've always taught them that while their birthdays are all about them, Christmas is not. So the pressure is already much less. Anything they do get is a bonus, not a given. We sometimes plan for something for us as a family," said Adrienne. 
  5. "We pay a little more on our monthly bills so at Christmas we don't have any bills to pay," Rowena said.
  6. "Save supermarket loyalty points: I have OneCard points going towards Countdown vouchers and Flybuys points going towards New World dollars. Save them up all year and you can get all the Christmas food shopping done for free, leaving that money to go towards presents," said Kirsty.
  7. "Our family brings Christmas Dinners (prearranged, not potluck), It shares both the cost and the work. I buy presents from the clearance bin at high end stores if they're really cheap, [at] op shops or The Clearance Shed," said Christine.
  8. "Redeem Flybuys and buy one experience per child through Grab One. I also give my kids $10-20 to [spend at] op shops. I'm a cleaner and I think the best present for my family is a spring clean from me," Juanita said.
  9. "For all my boozy friends and relatives, I pack black cherries into fancy small to medium glass jars with lids.  Pour vodka over cherries and seal up, [adding] fancy ribbons and painted lids," said Laurina.
  10. "Every year we give some no longer used toys to charity at Christmas time," Julie said. 

With just over five weeks' until Christmas, there's still time to put a spending plan in place. 

Remembering the festive season is about enjoying family and friends rather than opening our wallets at every turn will help keep spending to a minimum, making it a more enjoyable time for all.