Make your money go further: Christmas

Budgets never get tighter than during the festive season. Extra food, gifts, "socialising", and travel can all put pressure on those with limited financial resources.

As with many things, planning ahead can make the difference. So, though October may feel too early for many, in terms of Christmas planning it's actually the perfect time to get a few things sorted, and your library is a treasure trove of resources that can help inspire you to be creative AND thrifty (and possibly more sustainable too).


Homemade is generally cheaper than shop bought and when it comes to Christmas gifts I'm personally very fond of things that are edible. Whether it's jar of homemade hot chocolate mix or some candied nuts there are lots of foodie options that make affordable gifts, not to mention sewn, grown, knitted or crocheted offerings. The library has heaps of titles offering inspiration for handcrafted gifts, here are just a few options:

Preserves, Liqueurs and Infusions

Gifts in Jars

Handmade Gifts From the Kitchen

100 Little Christmas Gifts to Make

Knitted Gifts for All Seasons

Gifts From the Garden

Make & Give


Buying roll after roll of Christmas wrapping paper (or worse FOIL wrap) which will only be thrown out on Christmas Day doesn't seem like the best use of your money but fortunately there are other options. 

At libraries

  • You could try one of our sustainable gift wrapping sessions at libraries in the lead up to Christmas.
  • Or book in for one of our sewing workshops on Saturday 25 November at Tūranga in which you'll learn to make your own re-usable cloth gift bags. All materials are provided for $10 (+ booking fee) per person. Book in for a morning or an afternoon session.

Or check out the resources below:

How to Turn Old Clothes Into Wine or Gift Bags

Want more ideas around sewing re-usable gift bags? We have a whole list of resources for that.

Furoshiki Tin Wrapping

Festive, colourful, and able to be reused over and over again. What's not to love?

Stamped and Embossed Christmas Gift Tags

Why buy Christmas gift labels when you can make your own?

Zero Waste Gift Wrap

Find more gift wrapping titles


Sure, you could deck your house out in stuff you bought at the shops, but homemade decorations can really add a level of fun memory-making to a family Christmas. I personally have very fond memories of decorating our tree with "baubles" we'd made from a cut up chocolate box. And last year my son and I collaborated on a fun little Christmas scene made from his Lego (which added a nice festive feel to the living area AND killed some time during the school holidays).

  • If you've got knitting skills then consider our Christmas balls knitting workshop at South Library, Monday 4 December 10.30am to 12noon. Free, no bookings required.

Make Paper Clay Christmas Ornaments

DIY Christmas Tree String Art

A string Christmas tree might not have the great smell of a real tree but it's easier, cheaper, and drops fewer needles.

Christmas Ornaments

A Very Merry Paper Christmas

Find more Christmas decoration titles

Christmas activities

Christmas can be a busy and expensive time but there are plenty of free activities for families, including some at libraries:

At Libraries

Other activities and events

Is Christmas day just about opening present after present? Or can you incorporate some fun activities so that the sole focus isn't what you get, but how you spend time together? Here are some ideas to help make a fun Christmas day that isn't all about the gifts:

  • Christmas parades, lights, and carols Details of this year's festive activities in ChristchurchCatalogue record for The holly jolly Christmas activity book
  • Pick a Christmas movie to watch together, either on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day - the library has many movies to choose from.
  • That game where every time someone rolls a six they have to wear a bunch of ridiculous items and eat a block of chocolate with a knife and fork while wearing oven gloves. Does it have a name? Regardless, it's a Kiwi Classic, or try something from The Holly Jolly Christmas Activity Book
  • Helping out in the kitchen because that's just a nice thing to do for whomever is in charge of the main Christmas meal.
  • Reading Christmas stories together as a whānau - maybe acting them out for added fun.

Decide how you want to "do Christmas"

Another way of cutting costs at Christmas comes from deciding how you're going to approach gift-giving and spending. Some families work on a "secret Santa" system where the adults receive a gift from only one person, drawn in a secret ballot. Others have fixed upper limits on how much can be spent. Yet others circulate lists of desired gifts so that money isn't wasted on giving someone something they don't actually want or need.

Whatever you want to do in your whānau the key is communicating that early before anyone starts Christmas shopping (or crafting) in earnest. Time to fire up the Christmas groupchat!

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