Simple ways to save time, money and your sanity this Christmas. Yes, really

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock  

Let's face it, the festive season leaves most us feeling frazzled, exhausted and out-of-pocket. 

And we don't want to alarm anyone, but there are only eight weeks until Christmas day!

Fear not, we've put together some essential tips and tricks with money-saving blogger and expert Penina Peterson to help you survive without losing your sanity - or breaking the bank.

Tip 1: Shop online to avoid the associated costs of shopping

I'm always harping on about the 'associated costs of shopping.' That's because a round trip to a mall for a mum is expensive. If you haven't 'shopped at home' first, you've already thrown money into the wind. Think of your home as a 'mini supermarket.'

Pull ingredients out of your pantry and then 'Google' the ingredients. The wonders of technology will spit out an exact recipe that suits your search. Do that for a week and you'll save $200 on your next grocery shop.

The associated costs of shopping include:

  • Petrol
  • Parking at the mall
  • Snacks for hungry kids
  • Lunches (if you are there too long)
  • Buying extras due to marketing

Tip 2: Consider having a non-traditional Christmas

I recently did a story with A Current Affair about meat thieves. People are actually stealing meat from supermarkets, with supermarkets putting security tags on meat. This shows how much people feel the pinch even when it's not Christmas.

Consumers do pay a 'premium' for good quality Christmas food. If you are on a budget consider having a less traditional Christmas. The good old-fashioned Australian BBQ is a good way to do this.


Here are some tips:

  • Bulk up a Christmas BBQ with three large salads
  • You can make any dinner look Christmas-y with the right decorations e.g. Use Christmas paper as a table runner and baubles to dress up the table
  • Fill people up on starters e.g Veggie-filled platters of zucchini and carrot sticks and dips to match, so that you can serve less for the main.
  • Skewer meat! You can bulk up skewers with vegetables, they look great and this is a way to stretch out the meat budget.
  • Think Beef Wellington or wrapping shredded meat in pastry parcels

Tip 3: The cheapest gifts are gifts of time

If you aren't into crowds you can save money and give a gift to remember by giving the time gift instead.

Here are some ideas I've done over the years:

  • Cut recipes out of magazines and create a 'cookbook' for the family. You can then re-name the recipes after relatives names 'e.g Simon's Sandwich.'
  • Coupons for promising something to an elderly person e.g managing their grocery shopping for a month.
  • Clean someone's car
  • Invite someone over for a home cooked meal
  • Free babysitting voucher
  • Gifts related to your skills e.g. Typing or gardening
  • One hour massage
  • Tape TV shows
  • A voucher book for your services

    A post shared by Penina Petersen (@peninapetersen) on

Tip 4: You can do a lot with Christmas stuffing

Recently I discovered that Christmas stuffing mix is an excellent filler if you want to stretch out the budget. I've been putting it in so many meals lately. You get the yummy herb flavour and fluffiness of the stuffing throughout the meals.


  • Meatloaf
  • Muffins
  • Beef Patties
  • Bakes with Sausages
  • Bulking up mince etc.

Tip 5: Go for Eco-Smart Decorations & Gift Wrapping

I'm a big believer in giving back to the Earth and Christmas is no exception. I recycle boxes and gift wrap all year. I also use branches fallen on the ground outside for centrepieces on the table. String Christmas baubles up on them.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Recycled cereal boxes
  • Kids birthday wrapping
  • Old newspapers
  • Pretty magazines
  • Food Wrappers
  • Washed Meat Trays
  • Old fabric
  • Flowers and branches from the garden

Tip 6: Free up EXTRA money for Christmas by buying in bulk

Sign up to Amazon's new Subscribe and Save program. You'll save 10 per cent on everyday essential items with FREE delivery. Not only that, but by signing up for the program you can you put all your regular essential items like laundry care, personal care, pet food, kids snacks or baby items on autopilot. 

Here's what I like the most about the program:

  • It is set and forget
  • The prices are competitive if not cheaper, plus you get 10 per cent off
  • Most items arrive with a two-day delivery period
  • It's a game-changer for mums because of the time-savings

Tip 7: Don't ask for money - Go for 'Bring a Plate'

I've heard some pretty shocking Christmas day stories where people have turned up and actually been 'charged' $50 or more at the table! Rather than do that get your Christmas etiquette right and get organised. Ask everyone to bring something and go 'pot luck.'

The nicest and best way to do this is to:

  • Create the Christmas menu you want to deliver at home
  • Ask each guest to bring a part of that menu, e.g. the dips
  • Deliver the message in a lovely envelope and invitation
  • Thank them and tell guests you can't wait to see them

Tip 8: If you have to shop in-store put a time limit on it

If you've left shopping until the last minute (not recommended), this is the best way to save:

  • Sit at home on your couch and cut ideas out from junk mail
  • Write the store name on the top of each page
  • Stick the person's gift under the store name
  • Tally it up and make sure the list meets your budget
  • Now take 2-3 hours on Tuesday day or night or other weeknight (not a weekend day)
  • Execute the list within a few hours
  • Get home and wrap the gifts immediately
  • Make sure you get everything!

Bonus tip: For top-up gifts or extra stocking fillers go shopping around 7pm on Christmas Eve - you'll grab some last-minute bargains!