Don’t let your rendition of “We wish you a Merry Christmas” hit a bad note with a debt-riddled new year. These gift-giving hacks will help keep your spirits AND your bank balance cheery!

Every Christmas, Australians run up billions of dollars in credit card debt, leading to a nasty new year hangover. And with uncertainties lingering around COVID-19 and travel restrictions, the temptation this year may be to splash out even more on gifts for loved ones you haven’t seen for ages.

However, there are ways to enjoy a great Christmas without overspending – here are 7 of the easiest and the best:

  1. Make a list, check it twice

Making a list of who to buy for isn’t about judging who was naughty or nice. Rather, it helps you stick to a spending plan and avoid impulse buying.

List who you really need to buy for and work out how much you want to spend overall. Then average that out per person or distribute it as required – but keep to your limit.

Make another list of everyone else and post them cards with hand-written greetings. They’re cheaper but offer just as much joy in the giving and receiving! (Don’t forget to use Christmas stamps, which are cheaper than regular ones.)

  1. Gift of time

The most valuable gift you can give won’t cost you a cent: time!

Design your own gift voucher that promises your undivided attention, such as to work on a project of their choosing or do an activity they enjoy together.

Whether it’s for your immediate family or an elderly relative or friend you haven’t been able to see during COVID, spending time with you free of distractions will be nothing short of priceless.

  1. DIY gifts

Have you learned something new to pass the time while self-isolating? Then show it off!

Whether it’s making edible treats, printing your own photos onto canvas, or growing your own bulbs or cuttings, homemade gifts are generally more appreciated than store-bought ones. And you can tailor gifts for each person – a hamper of their favourite treats, a picture of their favourite flower/animal/location etc.

Plus, you get to practice your new skills and save money in the process.

  1. Space it out

Don’t wait ‘til Christmas Eve to do your shopping; buy your gifts (and decorations, non-perishable foods etc) throughout the year and store them until December.

There are many benefits to spacing out your Christmas shopping:

  • buying things when they are on sale
  • spacing out the costs
  • posting earlier to avoid Christmas and COVID delivery delays
  • no crowds or last-minute panic buying!
  1. Share the love

Instead of everyone buying for each other, considering sharing the cost.

For example, my brothers and I pool our money to buy mum one really special gift, instead of separate smaller gifts.

Alternatively, play Secret Santa: everyone gets one gift to open and another gift of keeping some cash in the bank. It’s a win-win situation!

You can apply the same approach to your work colleagues, circle of friends, neighbours and so on.

If you can’t gather together because of COVID restrictions, post the gifts well in advance and enjoy a virtual celebration to see who gets what.

  1. Give value, not just ‘stuff’

We’ve been cleaning out our homes and garages during lockdowns over the past two years. So, the last thing people want is more “stuff” accumulating!

Find gifts that offer more value than just their purchase price – and won’t sit around gathering dust. For example, vouchers for experiences allow them to create memories. Classes or books help them learn new skills. Subscriptions space out goods or services over time. Ingredients, special jams, items that can be consumed.

Presents like these keep on giving long after Christmas has been and gone.

  1. Help others

Embrace the spirit of Christmas and help those less fortunate by purchasing gifts from retailers that donate part or all of the proceeds to charity.

Alternatively, make a donation your gift. Put it in your loved one’s name and choose a cause close to their heart for maximum impact.

For example, it could be organisations supporting the unemployed, mental health or domestic violence services, or Meals on Wheels for the elderly – all of which have been swamped during COVID.

Not only are you doing good, donations over $2 are generally tax deductible too, giving you even more bang for your buck!


Helen Baker is a licensed Australian financial adviser and author of the new book, On Your Own Two Feet: The Essential Guide to Financial Independence for all Women (Ventura Press, $32.99). Helen is among the 1% of financial planners who hold a master’s degree in the field. Proceeds from book sales are donated to charities supporting disadvantaged women and children. Find out more at