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Present Panic: Surviving Christmas on Minimum Wage

How do you survive Christmas when you live on minimum wage? Here are tips to get you through the expensive present buying season but still leave you able to buy gifts.

The following is a guest post.

If you’re on minimum wage, or no wage at all, Christmas can bring you out in a cold sweat. You may resort to a DVD grabbed off the shelf at the supermarket, but it is possible to give very cheap presents that are personal and appreciated. Own up – have you ever been excited to receive a box of shower gels? Didn’t think so – so here are three of our top tips for giving great gifts on a tight budget:

Affordable champagne

Cheap champagne is a fantastic gift. Everyone who’s ever celebrated a birthday, graduation, wedding or anniversary knows that they will end up with at least half a dozen of bottles afterwards – most of which are never drunk. So if you buy an affordable bottle of bubbly to celebrate the season or thank somebody, the recipient might not ever know it wasn’t top of the range (and they’ll never remember who gave them each bottle anyway).

And let’s be honest with ourselves – cheap fizz is always better than no fizz, and most people we know would be more than happy to drink up. How much better is that than a tacky photo frame?

The gift of time

One word: babysitting. If there aren’t kids about, offer to fix your parents’ computer, help Grandma around the house or garden, make your best friend a website for her small business, lend a few days to a sibling’s never-ending DIY projects, and so on.

If you’re not TOO broke, a food delivery is a great way to lend a hand and save your loved ones some trouble. Order fresh or frozen meals to be delivered to an elderly relative, buy a veg box subscription for your busy friends, or order a crate of wine for a car-less friend who can only buy at the store what she can carry home on the bus.

Homemade with love

One of the main rules for gifting is to give something the recipient wouldn’t get or do for themselves – everybody enjoys homemade holiday sweets, but they are a pain to make, so give your loved ones an unexpected treat by making batches of fudge, marshmallows or other candy and package them in pretty old tea tins. Everyone loves it, because nobody else is willing to put in the effort – but if it is going to save hundreds of dollars, spending an afternoon over the stove is worth it.

Even better: make your own gift tags to put on your food gifts, by cutting out and collaging old Christmas cards from years past. The results are hilarious, with kittens pulling Santa’s sleigh and elves popping out of Christmas puddings.

Spending time and thought crafting a cheap gift is much harder than grabbing a generic present from the bargain bin, but handmade food, a helping hand and a cheap bottle of fizz at the end of the day make for a more personal and touching gift than any book or box set.


  1. I don't have the patience to baby sit for others… but the cheap bubbly is a good idea! 🙂

  2. Anne @ Unique Gifter says

    I LOVE the bubbly. We do this all the time. We have a case of it, I think the bottles were $12 each. The ones that we don't drink (ha!), are used as gifts. There's something infinitely more awesome about a bottle of bubbly vs a bottle of wine.

  3. It's sad that we've been convinced that we need to get everyone we know something at Christmas. Most of the time we end up getting things people don't even want and they get us something we don't even want. Nice to see some suggestions that would be appreciated and not just be a waste of money. Maybe we could just agree to have people over for dinner or games around the holidays and not exchange gifts.

  4. My favorite Christmas gift exchange is at my grandparents' house. When everyone is able to come home, there are more than 60 of us, ranging from birth to 83! Instead of buying new presents, we have a recycled white Elephant exchange and each adult who wants to participate brings only one gift. The item(s) must be something from your home you no longer want or something you make. If something new is purchased, it has to be under $20. And if you bring back the crappy gift you got the previous year, you have to add something to it. e.g. The singing Tom the Turkey usually has lottery tickets (sometimes cash) attached to it – Tom has been passed around for more than 10 years. We have a lot of fun stealing presents from one another and enjoying our time together as one big, crazy family!

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