Did you put your hand up to host the annual Christmas Banquet without realising just how generous an offer you’d made? A turkey big enough to feed your whole crew can cost upward of $80, and booze for the plum pudding alone can put you sorely out of pocket. Once you add presents, decorations, bags of ice (frozen water, guys) and all the trimmings to the bill you’ll find yourself staring into a pit of holiday debt (the worst kind of debt). It’s not impossible to do a Christmas party on the cheap, though. We’ve come up with some cash-saving ideas to prevent the most wonderful time of the year from running you destitute. You can track how your austerity measures add up by using AustralianSuper‘s Budget Planner.
Pot luck, mate. Don’t be too proud to delegate dishes to all your party goers: put Sally on dessert, Tom on salads and cranberry sauce, Harry on roast potatoes, the Campbell twins on snacks, and you can cover the pièce de résistance (ham, turkey or tofurkey if meat’s not your vibe). Also, if you’ve just moved into a new place and are low on basic kitchen essentials, ask everyone to bring an actual plate – because seriously who owns 12 dinner plates anyway?
If you do want the menu to be ALL YOU, however, space the Christmas shop out over a few days and different stores. Set a budget and stick to it. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Steer well clear of the major chains unless you are taking advantage of miraculous in-store specials. Hit your local grocer for fruit and vegetables (or your nearest marketplace if the prices are right). Become mates with your local butcher for sweet deals too. Being mates with the local butcher is recommended at any time of year, actually. You’ll be giving our good independent retailers some cash for their own Christmas dinners while saving some for your Christmas presents! Win-win.
Think smart with your menu too. Whole roast eye fillet and rack of lamb are bloody amazing, but those tremendous cuts of meat will cost you dearly. A giant leg of ham is worth the investment because the payoff is awesome (leftovers can be used for toasties and, when you get right down to the bone, for split pea and ham soup). Surround your hero with salads (using seasonal ingredients), homemade condiments, pickles, cheese and bread. And remember, the really low quality crackers/bon-bons always have the best terrible jokes.
Q. Who delivers presents to cats?
A. Santa Paws!
Sipping fine French champagne on Christmas Day is terrific, but NOT sipping French champagne is totally fine too. There’s nothing wrong with repping your hometown brew (much more affordable on a per-sixer and per-case basis than their imported counterparts) and you’ll feel Australian as heck watching your mates playing backyard cricket while necking an Emu Bitter. When buying wine, it’s generally a lot cheaper to buy several bottles en masse. When buying bottles in a case the per-bottle price can be surprisingly lower than buying individual bottles. Selected liquor stores also knock off a percentage of the price when you buy bottles in a box of six, so make the most of those opportunities.
Think about when and where you’re getting your booze too. The barn-sized retailers tend to offer far more competitive prices on all booze than the bottle-o around the corner. Buy it a week or at least a few days before Christmas so you can properly refrigerate it before the main event. This will also help you save money on ice.
Punch is a great drinks option for cheapskates. You can easily disguise a bottom shelf spirit or rock bottom sparkling with a tasty concoction of ginger ale, juice, fresh fruit, mint and whatever else you want to chuck in. Tropical.
Don’t shill out for shameful snowflake-themed decor most likely crafted by underpaid youths in the Third World. Get crafty instead. Cover your table in butcher’s paper, lay down some red napkins and a few bunches of Christmas bush (it looks rad and is terrifically affordable). If glamour is your jam, paint sticks gold = bling. Chuck a few felt tip pens on the table and encourage creativity. Recall the halcyon days of kindergarten by recycling old newspapers by cutting them into snowflakes, and if you have a pine tree out back work your magic on those pine cones. Remember, your table is there for the food so keep it simple. The less you’ve got on there the better.
As for tree decorations, all you need is a printer, the interwebs and your imagination. Or googly eyes. Everyone with a heart loves googly eyes. Check our topical #YEWltide office tree baubles for some inspo:
Christmas is the time for
family, appreciating how lucky you are, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ gifts. Get crafty once again and make your friends some
homemade cards, soap, Nicolas Cage morph suits, etc, or organise a
Secret Santa so you only need to make one of these things. If you’re not the crafty type, check out our guide to presents with a $30 ceiling. And don’t forget about the almighty IOU. A half hour massage? Great gift. 4 hours of babysitting? You’re some kind of saint. Offer your unique skills for future use as a gift; it costs you nothing.
For the ultimate Australian backyard Christmas on a budget, make sure you’re equipped with the following:
- a cricket set – or a wheelie bin, some sort of fence paling and ball;
- a frisbee – try a plastic dinner plate or five paper plates taped together in lieu of actual frisbee;
- a bocce set – or a bunch of tennis balls filled with water and a golf ball;
- a slip and slide – or tarp and some washing detergent;
- a drunk uncle – can be substituted for a drunk cousin, neighbour or self.
Don’t forget to also con a friend into dressing up like Santa for the entirety of the day.