Ah, December — the parties, the good cheer, the Christmas morning glee as your children tear open their gifts. It’s so magical and heartwarming, but let’s be real here: all this merrymaking can get expensive. Sure, you might be one of those people who just loves, loves, loves to give, but your wallet may not have gotten the memo.

Still, I have family and friends who make the most clever homemade gifts and find just the right thing and throw fun parties, all on limited means. So, I asked several budget-savvy mums and bloggers how they plan to stretch a dollar and save money this festive season. Their answers are brilliant… and you might even have some money left over to treat yourself.

1) Save on food when you’re out: “Always make sure you’re stocked with snacks and water before you leave home to prevent having to buy.Check if you can take your own food to other places (eg popcorn and lolly bags for the Boxing Day movies at the cinema).” — Robyna May, The Mummy and the Minx

2) Host a BYO Christmas party: If you want to throw a party for friends and family, there’s really no need to make it some big fancy affair. Most people just want to relax and have a few cocktails…and ultimately end up buzzed enough that they don’t even taste the food! I like to host a party where we provide the main course and a specialty cocktail (usually involving low-priced spirits, cranberry juice, and soda water), and ask guests to bring nibbles, salads, side dishes, dessert, or a bottle of wine.  Allie M

3) Gift homemade caramels: My girls and I have been making these Martha Stewart Caramels for a while now. We wrap each one individually in wax paper and then I have the kids decorate small boxes (like from tea bags) with glitter glue and sequins. They make a great gift for teachers and friends.  Amy B

TRY THESE: Healthy Choc-Caramel Fudge Bites

4) Create framed masterpieces: I’ll take some of my son’s best artwork from the year and put them in frames for the grandparents. You can get nice looking Ribba frames from IKEA that cost less than $10. And even if your kid is no great artist, Grandma and Grandpa will inevitably think he’s the next Picasso.  Marisa S

5) Little and often. Every time you have a $5 note in your wallet put it into an envelope and save it.” — Michelle T, Keep Calm, Get Organised and Throw your coins in a jar at the end of every day. It’s amazing how quickly that change adds up!Allison Tait

6) Bake cheaper treats: In general, simple cookie recipes that are variations on sugar or porridge are much less expensive than those that use nuts, chocolate, coconut, condensed milk and dried fruits. Rolled sugar cookies cut into holiday shapes and decorated with homemade butter frosting are less than $2 a batch.  Stephanie Nelson, Coupon Mum

7) Save on wrapping paper. Get your kids in on the fun and make your own Christmas paper! We bought a very large roll of brown paper for $5 and some Christmas stamps for $5 and spent an afternoon stamping metres of paper! — Eva Lewis, The Multitasking Woman

8) Skip on takeaways. Tempting though it is to get take out at this time of year (who has time to cook!), try to resist. Instead make a big-big pot of something yummy and use it over 2-3 nights. You’ll save heaps. — Stacey Clare, Stacey Clare – A Healthy Mum

9) Sign up for sales: I’ve been subscribing to Groupon for years now. You can get daily deals on toys, clothes, and gifts. A lot of their stuff is specifically for kids, so I really start paying attention so I can great stocking stuffers, clothes, and fun decorations on sale. — Jenny B

10) Come up with a gift-giving system: I read this thing on a blog about how to buy for your kids. It said something like, “One thing you want. One thing you need. One thing you wear. One thing you read.” I love this idea because it really simplifies the gift-giving craziness, and your children get both the essentials and fun stuff.”  Hillary T

11) Make beautiful music: A really fun, inexpensive idea is to give burned CDs of Christmas songs to family and friends, packaged really nicely, the cases decorated by your kids.  Kazia Cumbler, Mama Needs a Drink

12) Give DIY gifts: Make your own presents to keep to your budget. Pinterest is a treasure chest of DIY gifts that people will want to receive. — Bec Senyard, The Plumbette

13) Get organised: As soon as I can, I make my who-gets-what gift list and then do all of my shopping online over the next month. Then, I set aside one Saturday, usually the first weekend in December, to hit the shops and buy whatever I couldn’t find online. I always save money because there’s no impulse-buying or last-minute scrambling, and I don’t stray from the list! — May B

TRY THIS: Our Christmas Planner Calendar Will Keep You On Track

14) Think ahead. After Christmas, I’ll take advantage of all of the incredible sales and buy clothes and shoes for my kids in several bigger sizes. They won’t fit into any of it for months, but I can save like 50% doing that, knowing I’ll need those items later.  Carolyn L.

15) Cruise the discount stores: I always scour the sale bins and racks at shops like Kmart and Target. You can find great stuff for cheap, and no one cares where you bought it.  Karishma M

16) Buy through a mum group. I belong to a mum-to-mum group online where we sell our stuff to each other. Many people sell brand-new, never-used toys and clothes for a fraction of the price. This is a year-round saver, but it’s especially helpful when I’m buying Christmas gifts.  Jenn P

17) Give “free” gifts to your kids. Your kids will love fun experiences even more than they love toys. We give coupon-type gifts, like one is “a free day” where they can miss a day of school (one kid at a time) and do something special. Another is a certificate for something fun, like eating dinner under the kitchen table. It doesn’t cost anything, and the kids totally look forward to cashing in their certificates.  Ariela P

Image: Getty

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