The Hidden Costs
Of Christmas

The silly season is officially upon us - and with it can come the impending doom of expenses. The Christmas period is no stranger to racking up impressive bills, and it’s easy to let your spending spiral out of control. To ensure you stick to your budget this year, we’ve created a one-stop guide to all things Christmas spending.
Family Gathering for Christmas Dinner

A Post-COVID Christmas

Christmas really is the most magical time of the year, and this year will be no exception. With borders finally opening in Australia, friends and family will have the opportunity to celebrate together for the first time in almost two years.

It’s bound to be a huge festive season, but with this comes the worry of overspending. It’s definitely easy to do, and may land you in more trouble than you’d think. However, there are plenty of ways that you can be smart with your spending while still enjoying the Christmas season.

How Much Does
Christmas Actually Cost?

Each year, Australians spend billions of dollars stocking up on gifts, decorations, and food supplies - with Christmas 2021 predicted to follow this trend.

The ARA-Roy Morgan 2021 Pre-Christmas Retail Sales Report predicts Australians to spend a whopping $11 billion dollars on presents alone this Christmas with total festive spending reaching $58.8 billion. While this reflects 2020 levels, it is a solid 11.3% up on pre-pandemic levels.

of Christmas gifts will be
bought online
of Australians will be purchasing more of their gifts online than last year
Predicted average spend per
person on gifts in Australia
35 - 49
Cohort the most generous with
Most popular items predicted to be toys, jigsaw puzzles, and boardgames, followed by vouchers and gift cards

Based on data from ARA-Roy Morgan 2021 Pre-Christmas Retail Sales Report

Average Spend On Gifts Per Person

Map of Australia showing Average Spends on Gift Per Person by State

Based on data from ARA-Roy Morgan 2021 Pre-Christmas Retail Sales Report

Average Spend On Gifts
Per Person

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra has previously outlined the criticalness of the Christmas period within the retail industry - a period during which the majority of discretionary retailers make two-thirds of their annual profits.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions finally easing around the country, the ARA are anticipating an exceedingly high Christmas sales period in 2021, which will undoubtedly contribute to a strain on supply chains. With this, Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine predicts that, thanks to the COVID-19 digital acceleration, Australians are now much more likely to do their Christmas shopping online, therefore creating a greater mix between in-store and online retail shopping.

A recent industry study conducted by SOTI has revealed that, with the increase in online shopping, more consumers are demanding higher levels of convenience.

of respondents expect real-time visibility of online Christmas purchases this year, including shipping updates from order placement to delivery drop-off
of respondents would shop elsewhere if a retailer’s delivery/pick-up window was greater than two days
of respondents are more likely to purchase from online retailers that communicate a simple and easy returns process during the festive season

How-To: Christmas Budgeting

Christmas budgeting will be your saving grace during the festive season. Whether you’re hosting Christmas lunch or organising Secret Santa, you’ll probably end up spending more than you bargained for. While it can be tempting to whip out the credit card, sitting down and creating a budget for the festive period will be a lifesaver when it comes to not overspending - and avoiding those post-Christmas blues when checking your statements.

Budgeting isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Your version of a budget will depend largely on your income, expenses, family size, and a bunch of other factors - some of which might not apply to others. A budget for the Christmas season should be started as early as possible, with most choosing the beginning of November to get the ball rolling. If you’re only getting around to it in December, though, not all hope is lost. You will still reap the benefits from getting your finances in order in the weeks leading up to December 25th.

Common Hidden Costs Of Christmas

Christmas spending doesn’t end with presents. No matter how hard you try to plan, there will always be one or two hidden costs that pop up over the festive season. To help out, we’ve nailed down just a few of these expenses to make sure they’re on your radar for when you start your Christmas planning.

Christmas Trees

While buying a real Christmas tree is more of a white-Christmas tradition, it’s still a popular choice for many Australians. There’s something special about the smell of fresh pine filling your living room, but - buyer beware - a real tree can be pricey.

A large-sized tree (over two metres tall) can set you back around $250 - $300, and will only last you a few weeks before wilting. If you’re trying to save, investing in a fake, good quality Christmas tree is a great option. Not only will a fake tree last you up to a decade (if stored properly), you’ll be saving yourself roughly $2,500 compared with buying a new tree each year. If you keep an eye out for bargains (like this Winter Alps Christmas Tree from Target), you can even snag a real-looking ‘fake’ tree for around $100 - $200.

Gift Wrap

Congrats! You’ve done your Christmas shopping, and now have to access your inner creative to get wrapping. While a roll of Christmas wrapping paper retails at an average of $5 - $10, it’s common to spend upwards of $20 per roll for premium paper with custom designs. While these costs aren’t astronomical, they do add up. If you’re wrapping 20 reasonably-sized presents, you could be looking at spending around $50 once you include gift tags and ribbon.

With gift wrapping, why not opt for some old-fashioned tissue paper, or even newspaper. If you’re using gift bags with family, avoid writing on the tags - you’ll be able to reuse them again, saving money while also helping out the environment. If you have your heart set on matching Christmas-themed paper for all of your presents, though, why not check out what Etsy has to offer; many sellers offer bundles of wrapping paper that won’t break the bank.

Christmas Cards

While handwritten cards are somewhat a thing of the past, they still have their place during the festive season. If you’re lucky, you can usually nab a pack of Christmas cards for around the $5 mark at a discount store; while choosing cards with custom or hand-designed artwork can set you back $40 without a blink. What’s more than the cost of the actual cards, however, is that of postage. Whether you’re posting cards locally, across the country or overseas, you’ll be hit with some nasty stamp fees. Australia Posts’ standard stamp price rose 10% in 2020, meaning it could cost you up to $1.10 to send a standard letter. With 50 recipients, you’re looking at about $55.

While some love the feel of holding cards in their hand, they’re not always the most practical of items. If you’re short on time, hate handwriting, or just want to try something new, e-cards are a great way to wish friends and family festive wishes while not wasting paper. There are plenty of websites, like Canva and Greetings Island, that let you create awesome e-cards for any occasion, with hundreds of designs for Christmas.


Who doesn’t love a festive party? There’s something extra special about entertaining during the Christmas season, but you should be careful not to overdo it. It’s easy to spend a little extra on things when it’s the season of giving, so if you’ve found yourself with leftovers, you’re definitely not alone. If you’re hosting the celebrations this year, try to organise a potluck, so you’re not left buying all of the food. If you have a big family with lots of children, think about having separate food for the kids; saving the fancy food for the adults and serving the young children a basic cake for dessert. At the end of the day, children aren’t going to appreciate the food as much as you will, so saving some cash here and there does help.

Aside from food, there are other costs that come with Christmas parties. You might want to purchase a new outfit, or (if you’re not hosting) bring along a small gift for the host. Aside from the obvious ways to avoid such costs (i.e. re-wearing an old outfit), try checking your local Facebook Marketplace to see if you can grab a bargain on a pre-loved outfit, or DIY a ‘brownie-in-a-jar’ as a sweet and homely gift.


Christmas decorations are one of the most iconic parts of the festive season. There’s such a wide variety of decorations out there, that it’s easy to get carried away. A handy trick is limiting yourself to buying one new ornament each Christmas, giving each sentimental value.

If you’re a fan of decorating this time of year, make sure you check out Clean Up Australia’s Eco-Friendly Christmas Guide to learn how to make sustainable decorating choices around the house!


It’s no secret that Australians love a drink - especially on Christmas Day. Whether you’re stocking up the fridge for visitors or just enjoying a cold one on your own, the average Australian spends around $130 on alcohol during the festive period (excluding alcoholic gifts).

If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll be able to find some good deals on alcohol over the Christmas period, both leading up to and after Christmas Day.


Millions of Australians travel throughout December and early January to visit friends and family. Thanks to COVID-19, travel was a distant memory last Christmas; however, things are starting to look up for 2021, and planning is in full swing with borders finally opening. But keep in mind - as exciting as it is to finally be able to hop on a plane again, you’re likely to be hit with substantial travel fees and high additional charges on flights, accommodation, and other holiday costs. Flying Christmas Day tends to be the cheapest day for travel within the week of Christmas, while the days leading up to December 25th are the most expensive. Therefore, it still pays to be savvy with travel costs - even if you’re willing to spend a bit more than usual this Christmas.

Money Saving Tips For This Christmas

Track Your Spending

After creating your budget, tracking your spending is the most important part of saving at Christmas, and will prevent you from getting carried away with buying unnecessary bits and pieces. Your internet banking app might have a nifty spending tracker which lets you break down your spending into categories; or, you might take a manual approach and buy yourself a spending tracker journal. Another great option (that’s also completely free) is browsing Pinterest for inspiration on DIY spending trackers.

Use Gift Cards

It’s not uncommon for gift cards to be shoved in the back of your wallet and forgotten about all year. With many having a 12-month expiration, make sure you don’t let them go unused. If you’ve received credit for a store that isn’t taking your fancy, use it to purchase something for a relative or friend who frequents the retailer.

Order Online Early And Use
Discount Extensions

Getting organised is an important part of saving money. If you start your Christmas shopping a few months before the silly season, you’ll be able to grab some great bargains if you keep an eye out. Early November comes with thousands of Click Frenzy sales, followed closely by Black Friday. While Boxing Day used to bring about the best discounts of the year, these earlier online sales days offer pretty much the same bargains.

A popular tool for online shoppers are discount browser extensions, like Honey. Once you’ve downloaded the extension, you’ll automatically be alerted if any websites you’re visiting have discount codes, and with one click of a button, you can run the program to see which codes are valid for your purchase.

Combine Orders To Save On Shipping Costs

No one likes paying for delivery fees, especially when it could be avoided. Many websites have minimum spends to qualify for free shipping, and it usually takes adding more than one item to your cart to reach it. If you plan ahead and have a list of items you’ll be buying, try shopping for them through department stores like David Jones and Myer that stock hundreds of brands. By placing larger orders through the online retailer, you’ll save a bucket load on shipping costs, and will most likely qualify for free shipping anyway.

Take Advantage Of Boxing Day Sales

If you didn’t get around to buying presents at Black Friday, you might still be able to nab a great bargain. Many people won’t get around to celebrating the festivities with friends until after Christmas Day, so if you have the time, set out on Boxing Day to grab your items at heavily discounted prices. No one will know whether you’ve done your shopping before or after the big day.

Bonus Tip

To avoid overspending, try your best not to fall into the trap of emotional spending. If you’ve had a bad day or are feeling rundown and stressed, trying to do your Christmas shopping will only end in making unplanned and unnecessary purchases.

Affordable Gift Ideas That Won’t
Break The Bank

Subscription Boxes - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

There are hundreds of online subscription boxes out there that offer everything from socks and food to magazines. They make a great gift idea, and are super affordable too. Sites like Subscription Box Australia offer a huge variety of monthly subscription boxes, ranging from beauty, pet products, fitness packs, and book boxes. Choosing a box that matches someone’s interests is not only a practical gift, but will keep things exciting each month.

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is an awesome way to save some cash while ensuring everyone receives a Christmas gift. It’s an especially great idea if you have a large extended family, and want to save yourself buying individual gifts for each person. You each get one relative or friend to buy for, and can put a little extra in since you won’t be shopping for everyone. A common price range for Secret Santa is around the $20 mark, meaning you have room to choose something thoughtful, while not breaking the bank.

If your family traditionally only purchases gifts for the children, try organising a Secret Santa for the adults. This way, you’ll each get something little from the family while not having to worry about spending too much.

Practical Accessories

Even though gifting socks is sometimes given a bad rap, there’s nothing wrong with giving a practical present. In fact, gifting someone socks, undies, and other everyday items can be quite thoughtful. As long as it’s appropriate (i.e. not for your boss), giving someone a pack of undies will save them a trip to the shops and usually some frustration when they realise their current ones are all in the wash. They can also make great stocking fillers if you’re wanting some smaller gifts.

Don't Forget
To Spread

At the end of the day, Christmas is a time to celebrate your love for friends and family. While it’s easy to get caught up in buying presents, decorating the house and cooking up a feast, don’t forget to cherish the time you have with your loved ones, as this is the most important part of all!

If you’re looking for ways to give back to the community during this time, see if any local soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or animal rescue centres are needing extra volunteers, or whether your local shopping centre has a toy or food bank for donations. While it may take a bit of searching, there will always be ways to give back and spread the Christmas spirit this time of year!

About The Author

Katie Francis is a Content Writer at Jacaranda Finance. She has a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing, and a Bachelor of Media & Communications from the Queensland University of Technology.