Personal Finance

How I save money at Christmas + gift ideas under $100

Dear friends, happy holiday season!

Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year, and the most expensive. Today I’d like to share with you a few ways I save money during the festive season! (I named the blog so – how I save money – because it can be a very personal thing based on your traditions, love languages, etc. More on this at the end if you want to get to know me *wink wink*)

Why am I writing this? To combat what has become one of my pet peeves: normalising debt.

Can’t buy that PS5 for Christmas? Just put it on finance and suffer later! Can’t afford that luxury home appliance? Buy it today – no payments & no interest for 12 months – then astronomical interest after! All the presents you want to get your friends & family a bit out of your budget? Put it on Afterpay to limit your life choices for the next 4 fortnights!

But 2020 has been hard enough. I don’t want you, dear reader, to start 2021 in debt, stressing about money. So here are some gift swaps and meaningful, inexpensive gift ideas that might make Christmas shopping easier – and lighter on your wallet.

For the gamer

If getting them that $100 PS5 game is within your budget, go for it! But if you can’t quite get them the game and awesome presents for everyone else on your list, I have an idea: give them a badass Pop! Vinyl of their favourite gaming character, and a gift card – e.g. a Playstation Store Gift Card. The average Pop! Vinyl is $25, and the gift card value is up to you – but whether you load $25 or $70 on it, it’ll still cost you less than that $100.

Personally, I think this is a great gift – they’ll appreciate the contribution towards a game of their own choice, plus picking out their favourite character adds a thoughtful personal touch!

For your friend who just bought a house

Hooray! As much as you might want to say ‘Congratulations’ with a flash new designer toaster, NutriBullet, Dyson vacuum, etc – they can get pricey. (My husband did get me a stunning red sandwich press when I bought my house, though, which I still love and use often.)

Here’s an idea: pick out a curated gift box of things they’ll love, with sentimental touches – a framed photo of you two together, a scented candle with the fragrance of their favourite place (the ocean, the forest?) or favourite food (chocolate, apple pie?), a cosy mug, their favourite tea or coffee.

Then lovingly label it: things that will help make your house a home.

This gift idea can be personalised in countless ways: you could put together cute baking tools (I love these), incense & incense holders, a moon lamp for astronomy or astrology lovers. The possibilities are endless!

For your mother-in-law

Kitchen & dining sets are always a safe and meaningful go-to present, but high end knife sets, luxury dinner plate sets, and fancy serveware can get expensive. Instead, why not get them something they can cosy up with yet won’t break the bank? I love the idea of getting them a unique novelty mug – something like these adorable pieces – and baking your very own sweet treats to go with them (dressed up in a pretty ribbon!).

Do they love cats? Llamas? Sloths? Their favourite animal as a mug, plus your homemade chocolate truffles, are sure to put a smile on their face.

Bonus: are they a booklover? Get them this mug warmer – it works wonders, and has made for many long afternoons without needing to refill my hot tea.

For the girly girl

Looking at high end perfumes like Dior, YSL, Viktor & Rolf and Elie Saab? Again, if it’s within your budget or you really want to get them that one perfume they’ve had their eye on forever, go for it (more tips on this option later).

But if EDPs and EDTs aren’t quite in your budget, you could instead look at fragranced products: perfume oils, scented body wash & body lotion, and perfumettes. (My favourite brand is MOR Boutique.)

These are actually better in many ways: layering is an effective way of making your fragrance last longer, so for example, applying rose-scented perfume oil on top of rose-scented body lotion will have them smelling like a fresh floral bouquet all day long. Perfumettes are mini perfume sprays, which make them easy to carry and re-apply during the day and easy to travel with (ideal for the holidays).

For the bookworm

As an avid bookworm, I can tell you that books make amazing presents – as long as they’re a book on your wish list. Even though I love reading modern fiction, thrillers, self-help, and spirituality, books picked out for me can be a hit or miss. If your book-loving friend is a huge fan of a celebrity or politician, for example, you could safely get them their brand new biography or memoir. If their favourite author is Rupi Kaur, they’ll probably love her newest release or her poetry boxed set.

But if you don’t know exactly what book they want, a wonderful – and inexpensive – option is to get them reading accessories, like this incredible leather Lord of The Rings inscription bookmark made by Weta Workshop, this Doctor Who booklight, or these handy Book Seats.

If you do get them a book they’ve been wanting to read, why not write a note on the first page? I personally think this is a really sweet gesture. Especially if you’ve read and enjoyed it yourself!

If you want to splurge on something really special…

Why not do joint presents? Ask a mutual friend to pitch in, and voila – you can share both the gift(s) and the card, and halve the cost.

I do this whenever I have a gift idea in mind that is on the pricey side – and a mutual friend that hasn’t bought a gift yet. Not only that, it’s made for a great excuse to catch up for brunch while grabbing the gift!

If you want to save on potentially expensive last minute gifts…

Buy one particular gift in bulk!

Let me elaborate on this one: say you completely forgot that you were going to a Christmas party tonight, and only have an hour to shop for a gift. You’re at the mall and on a time limit. You can’t find anything that screams perfect for your giftee, so you buy the closest thing you can find – which happens to be $100.

To avoid scenarios like this, and to always be prepared – even just in case you receive an unexpected present from someone you didn’t shop for (hey, it happens) – I always like to keep a stash of gifts that everyone loves.

What are mine? Chocolates and movie gift cards.

At Christmas, I stock up on loads of Lindt and Ferrero Rocher, and gift cards from Event and Hoyts – going to these cinemas and buying 5-10 at each. A ‘spare’ one? $20. With someone in mind who I really like? $50-$100. (For each giftee, I always look up the cinema locations to make sure there’s one close to where they live, and give the gift card for that cinema.)

As a bonus, you sometimes end up with spare chocolate or movie gift cards at the end of the festive season – win-win!

Hosting a Christmas party?

Instead of buying a present for all your friends who will be there, make it a Secret Santa Christmas party. Everyone brings one gift, and everyone picks one to receive. This not only simplifies your gift shopping, it gives you and your friends more room to increase the value limit (say $50 – more than your average work Secret Santa).

Personalised gifts to show that you care…

I love Frank Stationery – a New Zealand stationery brand that donates a school book to a child with every purchase. They personalise some of their notebooks, plus their 2021 diaries. I got my 2021 diary from them, with my name in gold foil. It’s a brilliant gift both for sentimentality & functionality, especially for creatives and writers.

I also recently discovered Lu-Saint, where you can get reusable glass coffee cups – and add personalisation! (My personalised Muddy Pink cup is on its way, and I can’t wait.) Another gift to give them warm fuzzies.

And of course…

Your gal makes candles!

Gorgeous scented soy candles, in a variety of rich, light, fruity, floral, warm, or fresh fragrances. They’re long-lasting, eco-friendly, come with inspirational quotes plus a gold lid & stand, and you get a very lovely, durable glass jar after.

Because you can get different sizes, from mini to large, they’re between $20-40. So if you want to brighten up someone’s Christmas by gifting them handmade scented soy candles, holla at me!

On traditions & love languages

Growing up, giving gifts was never a big part of my family’s traditions. My parents never gave me birthday presents, nor did my mum and I ever go shopping together – something I discovered I envied when I started my career in retail. (Mums and daughters shop together and bond over choosing things? What??)

Even though they rarely ever gave us ‘real’ presents, every year, they would buy me a nice birthday cake in my favourite flavour, which was my present, and we’d eat it together for dessert. I think this is why food has become my strongest love language, for sure. To this day I love gifting people food, and celebrating special moments over food.

My husband’s family is different, though – gift giving is part of their family’s traditions. Which is why this is a personal guide, coming from the mindset where giving expensive or fancy gifts isn’t the most important thing. To me, it’s truly the thought that counts.

I hope this blog has helped give you some gift ideas, and made your Christmas shopping even just a little bit easier!

Lots of love,



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