Cost-free Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner, we have ventured into the oily rag archives and dug out some favourite ideas and tips to take the cost out of our special day.

The trick of course is to enjoy all of the good things about Christmas and the holiday season, but to do so in a frugal way. Decide on a maximum amount to spend. One way is to set a spending limit on each gift, or limit the total Christmas spend. Some families give small items on Christmas day – home-made items of things costing less than $10, and leave the serious buying until the Boxing Day sales.

One reader gives shopping vouchers – that way those redeeming the vouchers can do so during the sales. Some take this one step further. Christmas costs them next to nothing because they “cash in” their Fly Buy and credit card reward points for vouchers which they give to their family. Or what about giving a gift certificate where you offer your services, such as babysitting, gardening, cleaning, and so on.

How about giving seeds, vegetable plants, herbs, or fruit trees to encourage family and friends to grow their own – it’s easy, rewarding, saves loads of money and is good for you!

What about a stationary pack for an elderly relative – writing paper, envelopes, cards for all occasions, and of course, stamps.

MB from Auckland has a unique Christmas gift idea: “See if you can buy magazines from second hand book stores dated the month and year of the birth date of the person you are buying for. Try to find magazines featuring their specific interest if you can – motoring, cookery and so on. The magazines will only cost a few dollars, but you will find the recipient really enjoys looking at ads for the new fangled gizmos of the year they were born!”

And for young children, Sara from Hastings suggests a tape recording of you reading their favourite book. If you prompt them on when to turn the page, they can learn to read along with you.

Gift baskets are always popular but why not make them a little different? Have a theme basket: sweet treats, or herbs and spices, or beauty products, or coffees and teas, or barbeque accessories and condiments, or home baked goodies like bread and biscuits, or dried fruits and nuts, or summer fruits.

From Wellington, AOS has two great Christmas ideas. “My three year old has been very busy all year making Christmas gifts. We save our large tin cans for him to paint and pop plants into – for the gardeners in the family. We also get him to decorate all our labels – for homebrew and chutney! And because he goes to kindy and makes about 10 pictures a week throughout the year, I use them as wrapping paper for pressies. The family love getting his ‘gifts’ and he is very proud of his hard work and people’s reactions to it.”

“I have recently been trawling galas, garage sales and op shops for Christmas pressies for the kids. I have bought all my nieces and nephews puzzles and games of their favourite cartoon characters for 20c each and they are still in almost new condition. My nieces are also getting jewellery boxes that were less than 50c each and my son is getting a huge box of Lego we found for $5. Cannot believe how little we have spent so far on the fantastic toys and gifts the kids are getting this year. Have also saved some presents for Birthdays too!”

MD from Auckland writes, “We have decided that frugal is the best way to go this Christmas: I have made beach bags for my Grand daughters. They cost nothing as I have material scraps at home. As they are teenagers I have included an inexpensive hair bush, lippy, hair grips and mascara. One granddaughter has made an apron for her mother and painted a picture for her dad – and has hand-made pressies for her friends at school. I do all the Christmas baking which includes the cake, mince pies, truffles and stuffed dates. The girls bake biscuits for the neighbours.” So there you go oily raggers, make a make or bake Christmas!

If you have a favourite Christmas tip to share with others so they too can have a happy and frugal Christmas, please send it in – you can do that online or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.