Christmas on a Budget: Gifts (2020)

Christmas on a budget is an opportunity to get back to what really matters this season: friends and whānau. Forget the way everybody else does gifts. Instead, focus on connection, memories and love. Here’s how:


Christmas is about spending time with family, and doing Christmas on a budget is a great opportunity to focus on that more. These are some ways to ‘do gifts’ without spending large.

  • Experiences.

Go out for dinner, enjoy a special movie, head to an escape room – presents don’t have to be physical things. Instead, invest in an experience for the whole family to enjoy and bond over.

Sites like GrabOne and TreatMe often have vouchers for fun activities available at a discount, so check them out before paying full price. The latest toy will be forgotten by next year. The laughs with the whānau won’t be.

  • Time.

We’ve said before that it’s better to give time rather than presents before, but it’s good advice, so we’re going to say it again.

Try exchanging homemade vouchers with one another instead of gifts. Help paint the house, fix something, babysit, cook dinner. Anything that could make a real impact to the daily life of the person you’re giving it to.

This is especially handy if you have a skill like woodworking, plumbing or painting, but more on using those later.

  • Swaps.

Instead of buying new, try trading what you already have. This is great for extended family who might not have the same things as you do.

For example, Auntie is an avid reader. You’ve finished a book you reckon she’ll like. You could ask her if she wants to do a swap for one she’s already read. You can do this for games, tools, food and clothes too.

There are endless possibilities and neither person has to spend a dollar extra.


Let’s say people aren’t keen on the ideas so far and definitely want to do a more usual gift exchange. No problem, there’s options for that too.

You can instead go for presents you make, bake or grow yourself.

  • Make.

If you’re particularly good at something, regardless of what it is, use it to make a gift. It might be knitting, woodwork, art, photography or anything else that you could use to create a present. Not only is this far less expensive, the result is guaranteed to be unique and memorable.

  • Grow.

Have you got a green thumb? Then you can gift something truly special and personal. Cuttings from your plants for other gardeners to grow. Fruit/vegetables/herbs to those who like cooking. Even whole trees (small ones) can be a memorable, lasting and touching present.

  • Bake.

Got skills in the kitchen? Put them to use. Bake a batch of something tasty for the holidays. You get double points for a Christmas theme to the food. Don’t limit yourself to baking though – any kind of food or drink could be a good pick as a gift.

Look at how you do wrapping as well. The cost of wrapping paper, especially if you’ve got a lot of gifts to do, can add up. Don’t be afraid to use plain brown paper. A major bonus with the plain paper is that you can get the kids to decorate it themselves as well. It’s fun and thrifty at the same time.


Checked your list and worried that there’s still some people to go? You can buy gifts the usual way and still stay thrifty. You just have to know a few tricks:

  • Shop the deals.

There’s TradeMenotsocks and loads of other options for finding gifts at a discount. Don’t be afraid to use them. You shouldn’t turn away from charity shops either. They can have unique and quirky gifts waiting for you. And don’t forget that younger kids can get as much fun out of stocking stuffers from the $2 shop as from boutique places.

  • Secret Santa.

Consider a Secret Santa for at least some of the family. This is where everybody puts their name in a hat, everybody draws one, and they buy one gift for that person. That way, everybody gets a gift, but it reduces the total number of gifts bought. It saves everybody money and lets you put more thought into the one person you are buying for. You don’t have to do it for everybody either. You can limit it to only the adults or only the extended family. Donating to charity instead of a gift through The Good Registry or similar is also a positive option.

  • Barter isn’t dead.

There are still plenty of active barter exchanges active in local places around NZ. Check local community boards or social media groups for information. This lets you have a clear out of unneeded stuff as well as get the gifts sorted on the cheap at the same time. Check out Freecycle and Neighbourly too; you might be able to score a gift completely for free.

There are plenty of options for cutting down on the Christmas budget in the gifts department. But that’s not all you can save on. We’ve also put together a guide for saving on decorationsactivities and food too. Merry Christmas!

This article is solely for information purposes and is not intended to be financial advice. If you need help, please contact Avanti Finance or your financial adviser. Neither Avanti Finance nor any person involved in this article accepts any liability for any loss or damage whatsoever which may directly or indirectly result from any information, representation or omission, whether negligent or otherwise, contained in this publication. References to third-party websites are provided for your convenience only. Avanti Finance accepts no responsibility for the availability or content of such websites.

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