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A beautiful budget friendly Christmas

The holiday season is about spending time with the people you love – not spending money

After the year we’ve had, Christmas 2020 will be an especially precious opportunity to gather with friends and family. But many Kiwis will feel pressured to spend time, money and energy they may not have on creating a “perfect” day.

Busy mother-of-two Pamela McIntosh, founder and editor of the lifestyle website All Is Calm, understands the struggle.

“Some of the stress of Christmas can be living up to other people’s expectations,” she says. “Remind people ahead of time: we are looking forward to spending time with you and not getting caught up in the hype and expense. A simple Christmas can be magical, it doesn't need to be elaborate.”

hanging baubles on the tree

Embrace the good old-fashioned potluck for the main Christmas meal - to save money, prep time and clean-up. “People really don't mind chipping in and helping. It's a great occasion to ask people to bring a plate. If you are concerned about what people might turn up with, set the menu yourself and tell people what you’d like them to bring.”

Rather than serving four different mains at Christmas (turkey, ham, chicken and lamb), choose one or two and bulk up the meal with lots of bright, beautiful side salads using seasonal ingredients. This is less expensive and is a healthy choice too.

Guests can also bring their own tipple, or you can make an inexpensive bottle of bubbly go further by making a seasonal punch. It will look festive in the punch bowl if you add cranberry juice, some thin slices of orange and a small handful of mint leaves.

Gifts can be another expensive area that can shift the focus away from the family togetherness that is the true joy of Christmas. Pamela is a fan of the Secret Santa approach, when everyone in the family group agrees to buy one gift for one other person. “If everyone has the same expectation, that can really help bring costs down.”

“This year COVID has shown us we can all survive on a lot less, and connection and experiences are what matters,” says Pamela.

mother and daughter with christmas tree

Think outside the box when choosing gifts. A beautiful pot plant you have nurtured yourself throughout the months is meaningful; a magazine subscription is a gift that keeps on giving. ‘Support local’ by seeking out small independent shops in your neighbourhood. They will often gift-wrap for free too. Just ask.

When it comes to decorating the house for the season, keep it simple. A basket of pine cones under the Christmas tree or in the dining space is beautiful and costs nothing.

“Throwing some beautiful fairy lights on a tree can really add to the aesthetic in the daytime, and at night they will literally sparkle,” says Pamela.

A wreath laid flat on the dining table with some candles in the centre is elegant and effective. Pop some candles on the table for ambience and a sense of warmth.

A wreath laid flat on the dining table with some candles in the centre is elegant and effective. Pop some candles on the table for ambience and a sense of warmth.