Best ways to save money and enjoy Christmas

A piggy bank covered in glittering Christmas lights


Posted December 05, 2023

Get into the festive spirit without burning a hole in your wallet. These budget-friendly ideas for food, presents, and decorations will help make your Christmas stress-free and fun.

With a little bit of planning and a lot of creativity, you can ensure you have an affordable Christmas.

There’s no denying that Christmas can be expensive. The requisite presents, food, decorations, and travelling costs, can add up.

Here's some tips to help you make money-smart choices that can help minimise the costs of Christmas this year. 

How to save money on Christmas lunch or dinner
How to save money on Christmas presents
How to save money on Christmas decorations
Best gifts under $50

How to save money on Christmas lunch or dinner

Make a list

Santa shouldn’t be the only one making a list. It sounds simple, but making a list of all the food required for your Christmas celebration before you head to the shops can stop you from buying unnecessary products.

Sticking to seasonal produce where possible will also help reduce grocery costs and you might even want to think about switching up your usual turkey or ham for a more affordable, crowd-friendly cut of meat like brisket.

You can also indulge without being excessive. Rather than serving skewers full of prawns, you might opt for canapes with a single prawn and a spoonful of home-made salsa on each cracker, for example.

Or try this easy smoked salmon recipe, courtesty of Celebrity Chef Gabriel Gaté, who hosts a French-themed dinner for RACV Club Members every year. 

Buy early, buy on special

If you know that you’re going to need a lot of non-perishable items for Christmas, such as flour, tinned or frozen foods, dried fruit or even boxed chocolates, it’s a good idea to start stocking up early. Putting an extra item in your basket and setting it aside in a special cupboard for Christmas spreads the grocery costs across several weeks and months, rather than slamming you in December.

Likewise, if you notice specials on non-perishable items that you’ll need for Christmas, including items like tableware, it’s a good idea to buy them before the silly season truly kicks off.

You can save even more money by buying Christmas gifts early, or when they go on sale as well. Impulse buys a couple of days before Christmas are often more expensive and may end up not making suitable gifts.

Share the load

Whoever is hosting Christmas lunch or dinner need not carry the financial burden of that alone. Speak to friends and family attending your celebration to see if you can work out a shared arrangement. For example, you provide the main and everyone else brings either a starter, side or dessert. 

You could even try a potluck-style Christmas meal or opt for something less formal like a barbecue

Eat local

The cost of Christmas isn't just financial. The seasonal feast also has environmental costs but these can be reduced by opting for more plant-based foods on your menu, not gratuitously over catering, and using local and seasonal produce wherever possible. RACV Members save on Woolworths gift cards.

A pile of white-iced gingerbread biscuits

Homemade Christmas presents like gingerbread biscuits are both thoughtful and budget-friendly. Photo: Getty.

How to save money on Christmas presents 

Get creative 

Handy with knitting needles or a hot shot in the kitchen? Maybe you’ve a lot of plants that could be propagated or you have the ability to paint someone their own portrait. Making someone a gift can save you money and is often more thoughtful than simply grabbing them a gift off the shelf. 

You might already have the ingredients in your pantry to make edible gifts. These recipes from the RACV Club kitchen will delight and surprise, including gingerbread biscuits, a gingerbread house, pavlova, vegan chocolate cake and rocky road.

Purchase gifts on a discount 

If you belong to a club or membership program, you might be eligible to purchase gifts at a discount. RACV Members, for example, save on tickets to movies, theatre shows and attractions, as well as on a range of other retail products.  

Regift in a thoughtful way

The rising popularity of second-hand and vintage goods means you can regift an unwanted present in a considerate way. Regifting is a budget-friendly and environmentally friendly option, so long as you follow a few rules. 

Keep note of who originally gave you the gift and do not gift it back to them, nor anyone within their immediate family or friend group. You should also conscientiously regift; make sure the present is going to someone you truly believe will enjoy it, and be sure to rewrap the item so that you’re still putting a personal touch on the present. 

You can also ‘regift’ gift cards in an indirect way – by using them to purchase new gifts for others.  

Organise a Secret Santa 

Secret Santa gifting arrangements aren’t just for office parties – they’re also a good way to reduce gifting costs for families and friends. 

If a Secret Santa is out of the question, you could discuss setting gift or gift price limits with guests to keep costs affordable. 

Save paper 

Do you hastily tear off wrapping paper, or do you carefully unfold it? There’s a good reason to opt for the latter, with gift wrap potentially able to be used several times across several years of gifting if you’re careful with it.  


A mother and child wrapping gifts for Christmas

Carefully unwrapping gifts can allow you to reuse the gift paper for future presents and save on wastage. Photo: Getty.

How to save money on Christmas decorations 

Look to nature 

The plants in your garden are a free and eco-friendly resource to decorate with come Christmas. Flowers are the obvious choice to spruce up your dinner table, but leaves and even gumnuts can be turned into beautiful decorations.  

Try spray painting gumnuts in silver or gold for some Australian festive flair, or scavenge pine cones for a more traditional look. If you start thinking about your décor now, you can even dry and press flowers to use as part of your decorations. 

Think like a kid 

It’s time to bring back some of the Christmas crafts from your preschool years. Lots of household products you might have otherwise thrown out can be repurposed into decorations, and it’s a great activity the whole family can get involved with. 

Cardboard toilet rolls can be segmented horizontally, painted, then turned into festive garlands, while you can use the cardboard from cereal boxes and other packaging to create Christmas bunting (simply cut into triangles and paint the plain side however you wish).  

Buy for next year 

You don’t have to dash to the Boxing Day sales to get a good deal. The weeks following Christmas often see a reduction on seasonal items like decorations, trees and bon bons. You'll also find lots of cheap Christmas decorations in charity shops. Restock your decoration supplies when you see a bargain and save money and time when the next holiday season arrives.  

Save on entertainment this holiday season 
RACV Members save on a range of experiences and attractions →