Frugal Christmas tips on spending, gifting and eating

Have yourself a merry Frugal Christmas!

To make the festive season one to remember, people invite everyone and their dogs for the feast of a lifetime. This seems to be the perfect opportunity for adults to display their financial power to other family members through gifts, expensive food, wine and even a jumping castle for good measure. 

But you don’t have to follow this trend – you can have yourself a merry frugal Christmas without overspending or feeling inadequate. This is my journey to a Frugal Christmas.

The heart behind the spending

…[my] family is all warm and welcoming over Christmas, but throughout the rest of the year they rip each other apart. 

So this friend of mine gave me this quote – she feels that her family is pretentious over the festive season. For me, I have made unconsciously been focusing on the family and community. This is generally not the case with most people, as they want things to be perfect. Though I still spend some money on gifts, food and other things, I don’t buy to impress.

I buy to enjoy.

Frugal spending

My nephew recently turned 6. My brother in law bought him an electric car to drive around in. It even came with a remote! When he saw it, his response was ‘I like it!’ – the same as the R 100 educational gift bought by another family member

When you’re frugal, it means you’re buying things that add value. Oftentimes, big gifts and the expensive wine on the table doesn’t make the experience that much better. If the people won’t know the difference, then why spend more?

Spending and buying things

“You can’t have a Christmas without [insert consumer good here]”

– famous last words before debt

We know that the festive season is about family and friends, rather than money and spending. But we still need to spend money on making it special. I recommend

  • Know your prices and be on the lookout for specials.
  • Be vigilant: just because there’s a sign up with the word promotion on it, doesn’t mean it’s cheap.  
  • Plan your festive activities and buy only what you need. 
  • Be mindful that you will need to make it through the 2 637 360 days of January

Frugal Christmas gifts

I once received a strain of hair as a gift. Though strange it was, it came from a thankful heart and received by a grateful one.

Not all gifts are welcome gifts. And if you need to buy gifts for the whole family, it just gets worse. Some of our Frugal gift ritual tips include:

  • Do a secret Santa approach where you buy a gift for one person only. Names can be picked out of a hat. The other option is only buying gifts for the children in the family.
  • Set a budget for the gifts per person. You can even use an envelope with the money that you can spend!
  • We have a yearly outing with the family where we go to China Mall and other places to buy gifts.
  • Ask the person what they need or want. As everyone knows the budget, you won’t get any surprises!

Useful and enjoyable gift ideas

A Frugal Christmas means you’re buying useful gifts – things that people will actually use or enjoy. I’ve done a really cool article about Frugal Christmas gifts here, but will give you a rundown of a few gift ideas here too:

  • Biltong (man flowers) or flowers are always welcome.
  • Give seeds or seedlings that you’ve planted. 
  • Clothes and socks
  • Sweets and candy are always welcome
  • Bath bombs or bubble bath – it’s always a winner!

The big family event

Though many festive season events are rooted in tradition, there are still ways to make it enjoyable while being frugal. Strategically, you need to decide on what is really important in the event. Is it that the kids are happy, the food is wholesome or that you get to see your 5th cousin twice removed? I recommend the following for the family event:

Christmas dinner with the Frugals

  • Prioritise the relationships and people above money
  • Do small acts of kindness for each other, like assisting in cooking and cleaning
  • Play games and have good entertainment planned out, such as board games, singing or playing with the kids.  

Some people spend all their time in the kitchen and forget to enjoy the festive time. For us, we love cooking and creating good food – and this is the perfect time to get others to assist and help with the meal. 

We personally don’t have a menu that is set in stone. I highly recommend using Pinterest for exploring meal options. Every year we plan weeks before the time what we will be eating, making our lives easier.

When it comes to your meal choice, you can either buy and freeze the ingredients you need weeks or months in advance. This will lessen the stress of buying frenzies. 

When we’re spending Christmas with my family, we normally have breakfast first and then a dinner with dessert. As we have loads of dietary issues, we often do separate ingredients that people can pick and choose what they want. 

When we’re spending Christmas with Mrs Frugal’s family, we normally have platters of what they have on the farm that was made the day before. This frees everyone up to spend time with loved ones. 


The festive season is not about money, it’s about people. If we try and buy people’s love and spend lots of money to impress others, we will always be unhappy. 

Focus on the things that are important to you: family, friendships and reconnecting with loved ones.   

The meals, gifts and events should simply enhance our experience – similar to what salt does to food.

Happy investing!

Sources consulted