How to host a Frugal Christmas

2023 has been a hard year for so many as inflation rates rise, many families have lost incomes and the cost of food and living keeps escalating.

It’s not uncommon to hear in conversion that several homes this Christmas period find themselves stretching their budgets and pinching pennies to still try deliver a bit of Christmas magic on much smaller budgets, for their families.

For us personally, this year has hit hard financially and we’ve had to tighten our belts and stretch our new much smaller budgets with a hope and a prayer.

Aside from realistically looking at our budget, re-adjusting it and using some great budget calculator tools to help me get on top of my finances to assist me to plan the best way to shop and save, I’ve also been dreaming up a large family Christmas.

So how will I do that?

Here’s some tips on how I’ll be bringing a lot of Christmas magic to our home with a large of dose of frugality, great budget planning and creativity.

How to host a Frugal Christmas


When you decorate this year re-purpose last year’s Christmas decor.

We needed to buy new decorations and I shopped at Pep home, who have a wide assortment of decor at supper affordable prices.

You can also use your local charity shops to thrift unwanted decor. You can truly find great bargains at thrift stores. I once bought a nativity set valued at over R400, for only R25.


When it comes to food, I’ve chosen to cook my roasts on Christmas eve, leaving me enough left overs to do a cold meat lunch on Christmas day. Having a meal plan helps you to shop economically and not have to do last minute shopping.

Don’t go overboard. The first Christmas was simple, and yours can be too. If only one out of 4 family members eat mince pies or christmas pudding, replace them for something everyone eats. If you normally do 3 roasts and 5 deserts, cut it down to just enough for everyone to have a hearty meal.

Buying your meats before the Christmas weekend will allow you to get better cuts, as well as less inflated prices. Both Checkers and Pick n Pay sell meat packs of 3 different roasts. Buying these the way saves you money, as individually they cost a bit more.

Make use of your loyalty points at the supermarkets to get the discounts and save towards future purchases.

For your vegetables and fruit, buy fresh. Food lovers market have a R10 Tuesday, allowing you to add a little extra to your trolley and stretch that budget just a little further or add in a few treats for the kids.

Shop the factory shops. They often have their products at much lower prices and you can then shop all your favourites. One of the shops we have near us is a Foodiez, they sell best before products at ridiculously low prices. These need to be eaten, usually in two to three months, but I’ve cut our food bill by half using them.

Buy in bulk if you can. Buying in bulk will assist you to save on food in January when we all need to buy school items. Also, buying in bulk from the beginning of the years, means not having to buy that much in December,  giving you a bigger budget for gifts. Makro is my go-to for bulk buying.

When buying in bulk you could also gather a few family and friends and divide costs. If you only need 6 potatoes and a is cheaper, ask a friend or family member to buy half and you both save.

Everyone can contribute to a communal Christmas by bringing something to eat, this way the entire meal cost doesn’t fall on one family member.

Snacks are a big part of my grocery bill in December with school holidays and play dates.You could add more fresh fruit , bake more of your own biacuit snacks and buy sweets, dried fruit and nuts in bulk to repackage into smaller packets and ration out over the holidays.


When it comes to gifts we all really want to spoil those we love but gifting can be costly, especially in big families.

Over the years we have a rule to only buy for the kids and then to use a secret Santa so that everyone gets a gift when we gather together. This allows everyone to save on gifting but still allows the kids to be spoilt.

When buying gifts take advantage of the sales and look online for discount codes. I often shop around for vouchers and discount toys on the marketing emails that I receive and many shops like Superbalist offer a 10% discount on your first online order.

I also look for free shopping where I can. Every R60 is another gift. Having said this, it is not often wise to shop just to get the free delivery. If your order is R200 and a minimum spend for free delivery is R500, spending another R300 does not make sense if you don’t need to, as the postage would be much less than that.

Make it a rule of thumb to shop around before you buy and use your loyalty cards.

You can also hand-make gifts, thrift items that your family want that are not in your budget or look on Facebook market place for people selling big ticket items like bikes, Playstation, etc.

Trade your services and products with friends. If you give haircuts and your friend makes great Christmas cakes, trade gifts. This is a wonderful way to boost your own brand awareness, support a friend, and save on gifting.

Alternatively, give a gift of service or an experience. Buy a membership to an aquarium, a ticket to the movies, buy a years worth of extra mural lessons like surfing or offer to teach them to knit, sew, pot plants, paint, craft, cook, etc

For the kids a good rule when gifting is to gift something they want, something they need , something to wear, and something to read.


This is one of our biggest costs over Christmas as we try to entertain Hamish, and I’m sure many moms feel the same way looking for holiday clubs,  activities and fun things to do. 

The libraries have free holiday events as do most shopping malls. Keep your eyes out for these. You can also visit Exclusive books for book readings and Toys R Us or the other toy shops for in-store toy activations.

Hamleys kids club is free to join and will get your child a free ride on the Hamleys train with slushie and popcorn.

Parks, beaches and friends’ homes are the best free play spaces. My favourite Cape Town parks are Ratanga Park, Magick Forest and the play areas at the V & A Waterfront.

Walk around the malls. There is so much to see over Christmas and you can usually find a Santa and a  place to write letters. You can also take your Christmas photos in the malls using their decor as backdrops…you’ll have the best photos at almost no cost.

Take advantage of kids eat free deals when eating out and make use of savings clubs like Daddys deals and Hyperbali.

It’s always best to avoid the tourist attractions over the holidays as they are normally far too busy and always pricey.

If you are spending the holidays at home, draw up a schedule to include fun times like regular outdoor play ( swimming, walking, enjoying a sport) ; bake together; Craft; read together; start a family project.

You could also gather a group of friends and take turns to host a holiday fun day, sleep over, movie afternoon or outing. This will give the kids the added benefit of fun activities as well as special memories made with their friends.

However you choose to spend Christmas, remember it’s not what’s under the tree that counts but those around it. 

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