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Tammy on 9 News Adelaide
Tammy on 9 News Adelaide
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I will tell you but keep it in secret

The Santa factor: Managing kids’ Christmas expectations

It was coming up to Christmas and my son Seth, then six, was looking through a toy catalogue that came in a pile of junk mail. He was picking out all the things he wanted—Transformers, Lego, walkie-talkies, a Slip-n-Slide… The list went on. Being a budgeting type, I’ve talked to my kids about the value of money since they were little and I pointed out to Seth that his list ran to hundreds of dollars. “It’s ok, Mum,” my little man replied, “I’m going to ask Father Christmas for them!”

Tea wreath via Kojo Designs MyBudget

10 homemade Christmas gifts people will actually use

Photo via

Crocheted doilies, cross-stitched handkerchiefs, little soaps in the shape of a rose—these are the sorts of homemade gifts each of us has received (and/or given) at some time or another. No offence to doilies, but let’s control-alt-delete the standard homemade gift list and replace it with cool items that people will actually love and use. Make sure you get the kids involved, too.

Doing stuff together is better than just giving stuff

Making memories: Christmas gifts that keep giving

As you’re planning your Christmas gift list this year, keep in mind that the most memorable gifts are not things, but experiences. Gifts of stuff get lost among the stuff we already have. On the other hand, we’re far more likely to remember shared experiences. Stuff is easily forgotten; experiences are long-remembered.

What are some ways you can give the gift of experience without breaking the bank?

Plan ahead for a relaxing Christmas

Eek! Only 12 weeks until Christmas!

Today is the 24th of September, which means that in exactly three months’ time you could be running around like a headless chook, jostling other frenzied shoppers for last minute gifts, and generally pulling your hair out in preparation for Christmas Day. Alternatively, you could be utterly prepared and serene. Shopping done, gifts wrapped, kicking back and feeling relaxed. Let’s plan for that scenario!

If you haven’t already got a Christmas budget in place, this is the time to work on it. Some people also need to take income fluctuation into account at Christmas time. You might get more money from extra hours or leave loading; others might see a drop in pay due to a Christmas shutdown or unpaid leave.

If you’ll be travelling for Christmas, you’ll need to think about transportation costs, accommodation, and eating out. Perhaps you’ll also need to budget to get your car serviced or buy new tyres.

Here’s a Christmas budget checklist to get you started:

  • Extra food/drinks/groceries (on top of your usual shopping budget—don’t forget things like serviettes, paper plates etc.)
  • Extra phone costs
  • Extra petrol and possible car costs
  • Gifts
  • Christmas cards
  • Postage
  • Wrapping paper and supplies
  • Decorations (for the tree, house, table etc.)
  • Batteries (especially important if you have kids!)
  • Entertainment, events and social activities
  • Keeping the kids busy (you might go on more outings or rent extra DVDs)
  • Income fluctuation

When it comes to budgeting for gifts, do what Santa does and make yourself a detailed list that includes each person’s name, the budgeted amount for their gift and any gift ideas that come to mind. Start looking for presents now, especially when you see a sale. You can also start collecting non-perishable food and other items now (eg. custard powder, frozen vegetables, drinks, serviettes, and batteries.)

The most important thing is to budget for a Christmas you can afford. That might mean cutting back on gifts or asking family members to bring a dish to share for Christmas dinner. And who says that you have to have a big roast for Christmas? You could have a picnic at the beach or sandwiches at a local park.

Remember, MyBudget is always here to help. If you want to talk about your Christmas budget, please give us a call.

Budgeting for Christmas

Cheap, thoughtful Christmas gift ideas

There’s exactly one week to Christmas and you might still be looking for some cheap and cheery last minute gifts. This list below comes from MyBudget clients who have been generously sharing their ideas on the MB Buzz online forum. All the ideas have been thoughtful, creative and fabulous—thank you! We’re sorry we can’t share everybody’s contribution.

I hope you find something on the list that inspires you.

Homemade goodies:

  • Recipe in a jar: Give someone all of the dry ingredients needed to make a recipe (such as biscuits, brownies or chili) layered in a jar along with instructions.
  • Homemade honeycomb (just like Crunchie bars!) and bags of caramel popcorn in noodle boxes with handmade gift tags.
  • Christmas pudding inside a terracotta pot, wrapped in cellophane.
  • Bag of homemade shortbread, almond bread, mini Christmas balls etc.
  • Rocky Road wrapped in cellophane and ribbon—a great one for kids to make.
  • Jams, sauces and relishes—because store-bought varieties don’t even compare!

Get crafty:

  • Photo jars: Place shells and sand in the bottom of a recycled clean glass jar; print out a photo to fit and place it in the jar before sealing with the lid.
  • Animal artwork: Paint your children’s feet or hands then press them onto a canvass or art paper so that the prints can be detailed into a butterfly, bee, spider, fish or farm animal. Place the canvass or paper into a frame.
  • Homemade bath bombs or soaps with some tea-lights and a book mark.
  • Rainy day box: Fill a box with ideas for what to do on a rainy day (craft accessories and other small gifts), along with a personalised note about what’s in the box and what to do with it. By buying things in bulk you can divide the item between multiple boxes and keep the cost down.
  • Recipe book: Collect your family’s favourite recipes; print the recipes with family photos and collate in a plastic presentation book.

It’s the thought that counts:

“I let our family know we are on a budget and we’ll be making homemade stuff for Christmas presents this year, like jams/relishes etc. To my surprise, everyone was thrilled because they then didn’t have to go to the huge expense of shop-bought pressies either. They are all making homemade presents, too.”

“We are doing stacked handprints of our family made with matching scrapbooking papers, framed with our names and the year on them. We live a long way away from our family so we wanted to give them something they can hang up all year to remember us!”

“What made the best Christmas you ever had? The chats you had with family down at the park Christmas arvo? Cracking up at your grandparents coz they look a treat in a bon-bon paper crown? Taking over a slot car set you got your kids while they sit there for 45 minutes “spectating”? I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas five years ago, but I remember the look on my son’s face when he hid my present and told me I had to find it. That cost nothing. Look hard enough and you’ll find not everything has a price tag.”

Last minute Christmas tips

At MyBudget, we’re approaching some of our busiest months of the year. The New Year will bring with it hundreds of phone calls and emails every week from people asking for our help. Having stretched themselves too far, many of them will be experiencing the financial aftershock of Christmas.

The good news is that we can help most people get back on track quickly, but the best cure for financial stress is to avoid it in the first place. With that in mind, here are some last minute Christmas tips that might save you some grey hairs and a few dollars.

Leave your credit card at home. When you’re shopping for Christmas presents and groceries over the coming weeks, do it with cash. Cash is even better than your debit card because it’s a visual reminder of your budget. Try organising your money into separate envelopes — and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Don’t leave home without a list. Prepare your shopping list before you leave the house and stick to it. This includes shopping for Christmas presents — know how much you can afford, what you’re going to buy, and for who.

Get creative. Avoid overpriced glacé fruit, handkerchiefs and boring neckties. Why not make cheap, cheery and thoughtful gifts for your loved ones? Biscuits, cake, potted plants, photo books and framed photos are a few ideas.

Start storing and freezing. Now is the time to scour supermarket catalogues for discounts and specials. Some vegetable dishes can be made in advance, frozen and reheated for Christmas Day.

Don’t shop for yourself until after Christmas. It’s tempting to get festive by including a few little treats for yourself. Resist! Wait for the post-Christmas sales and to see what Santa brings you.

Tighten your belt. The festive season is hard on pockets for all sorts of reasons — gift-giving, Christmas parties, reduced hours at work, the kids on holidays etc. — which means that right now is the time to take a look at your spending habits and see if there are any areas you can cut back on over the coming weeks. The little things add up — take your lunch to work, stay at home on Saturday night, try a cheaper bottle of wine, cook at home instead of buying take-away or eating out.

Plan your special Christmas. Images of Christmas that include piles of presents, lavish decorations, and enough food to feed an army are largely advertising messages intended to make us to spend. Your Christmas doesn’t have to look like that to be special and wonderful. Why not take sandwiches to a local park? How about a picnic at the beach or a barbecue at home?

Making memories: Christmas experience gifts

As you’re planning your Christmas present list this year, keep in mind that the most memorable gifts are not things, but experiences. Gifts of stuff get lost among the stuff we already possess. On the other hand, people are far more likely to remember shared experiences. Stuff is easily forgotten, whereas experiences are long remembered.

What are some ways you can give the gift of experience without breaking the bank? Fortunately, experiences don’t need to include an adrenalin rush to be memorable. Think back to some of your favourite memories. I’m sure that many of your best experiences are simple and unrushed—good times with good people.

The ‘gift of experience’ ideas below come with that principle in mind. In each instance, I’ve also suggested a small symbolic present to place under the tree. The accompanying card will need to explain the experience that comes with the gift. For example, a set of cupcake foils could be accompanied with an invitation that reads: Cupcake baking at my house on Saturday 5 January at 1pm followed by afternoon tea.

Children love helping and making things. A cake tin or cupcake decorations could symbolize your gift of a shared baking session. A pair of safety glasses could include an invitation to build a wooden toy together. Some craft supplies could come with an afternoon craft session. A paintbrush and colour chart could represent the gift of repainting your child’s bedroom together.

Shared experiences in the great outdoors. Does someone you love need help in the garden? A pair of gardening gloves could symbolize a day or two spent gardening together or building a vegetable box. A map could represent an afternoon spent bike riding, hiking or driving together. A postcard could display a special place where you’ll take your friend for a picnic, morning tea, or a special meal.

An evening of entertainment. A bag of popcorn could represent shouting your friend to an evening at the cinema—movie of their choice. A selection of recipes could come with an invitation to choose a meal that you’ll cook for them. A bottle of massage oil could signify a special date night. A board game or deck of cards could come with an invitation to a games night.

There are lots of cheap and loving ways to give the gift of special experiences to the people you cherish. Keep it simple and focus on the things they enjoy.