5 ways to save on gifts this Christmas

Man looking at computer and Christmas presents sitting by a tree, considering holiday spending and savings.

Emerging from our Covid lockdown cocoons has been a joyful affair for many. Far flung friends and family have been reunited, we’ve tamed unruly locks at the hairdressers, and even begun booking holidays.

But all these good vibes have likely hit your savings account pretty hard. CommBank’s new monthly household spending report saw a strong spending recovery last month, up 6.6% from September (which was 4.4% higher than the same period last year). 

In the wake of lifted social restrictions, transport, travel and entertainment were the areas Australians dedicated the most funds towards in October. But with the most wonderful (and often expensive) time of the year on the horizon, our spending priorities may now shift towards presents.

If you’re already feeling financially stretched as you get back into your standard spending grove, you might be looking for ways to cut Christmas gift costs. So, in true Santa’s Little Helper style, we’ve come up with five ways to stay in the green without becoming a gift-giving Grinch this holiday season.

1. Create your own low-cost, high-value gifts

We can’t all be artists or makers who conjure great works from pure talent, but there are plenty of DIY gifts you can have a whirl at sans expertise. Start with foodstuffs – find yourself a basic recipe for how to pickle vegetables, preserve fruits or make jam, then fill up all those empty jars you’ve been hoarding. Pantry stuffers make for great stocking stuffers.

Lousy in the kitchen? Have a go at propagating plants instead. It’s a simple enough process to take a cutting and grow a new green life from many succulents and vines. You can often root them in water or soil, and reuse plastic or glass containers as their new happy homes for the ultimate circular economy gift.  

2. Shop secondhand

Op shops doors are once again open, so it’s time to start scavenging for that perfect pre-loved prezzie. Shopping malls are pretty hectic right now, so on top of more affordable and sustainable buys, you’ll have the added luxury of (hopefully) not being swamped by sale-hungry hordes.

3. Get in early on sales

If you are after something specific to give your loved ones and you can’t find it on secondhand shelves, see if it’s available during the sales in the lead up to Christmas. Australia has begun following the trend of a post-Thanksgiving Day sales period in the US known as Black Friday.

While Black Friday is a specific day (falling 26 November this year), sales often run for weeks around this time, and it’s a good opportunity to snap up electronics, beauty products, clothing and sporting goods from major retailers. Read our guide to tackling Black Friday for your Christmas shop for advice on where and how to spend and save this season. 

4. Gift experiences instead of things 

Whether it’s a free adventure or costs a few bucks, giving the gift of your time might be more meaningful after the last year of social isolation. Dream up an activity you and your Kris Kringle could do together – perhaps a hike, a spa day or a trip to the cinema – and offer to cover the cost or be the driver for the day. You might even find a volunteer program the two of you are interested in and sign up, so you can spread more cheer and goodwill while hanging out.

Prefer to gift it and get out? A gift card to visit somewhere like the zoo or an art gallery keeps things interesting – and you can stick to your predetermined dollar limit. Or keep movie and TV streaming services in the family by sharing your logins. Upgrading to multiple screens so you can all watch at various times will cost you a little extra (don’t forget to set up different profiles to save your viewing queue), but it’s generally cheaper than separate subscriptions.

5. Use savings features while you spend

Most high interest savings accounts have conditions you’ll need to meet to earn the best interest rate on offer. In some cases, this involves settling a set number of debit card transactions each month via a linked bank account. If your savings account has such a feature, it could be worth doing some in-store shopping to tick off this bonus-interest-earning condition, as online shopping or ATM withdrawals often aren’t included in the equation.

Other accounts may also include background savings features like round-ups, which can send a certain amount of cash from your transaction account to your savings account each time you make a purchase. So long as you’ve got enough dough in your spending stash, this can be a useful way to save without the added mental load of budgeting. 

As always, you want the money that is sitting in your savings to be working for you and earning interest. Check out some of the savings accounts below to see how your current savings set-up compares.

Compare savings accounts - last updated 23 February 2024

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