stress-free Christmas, mama disrupt

[Guest Editor] Tracey Horton: 5 ways to scale back for a stress-free Christmas

In Features, Guest Editors, Home + Living, Stories by Nicole Fuge

Want a stress-free Christmas? Yes please. Mental health expert, Tracey Horton, shares her top sanity saving (and money saving) tips.

Tracey Horton

It’s been a big year for many families in Australia and now with another interest rate just before Christmas, I think we will see a lot less ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’, and a considerable amount of ‘Oh, No, No, No’.

Because while Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, it can quickly take over your life and easily get out of hand. Right?

So instead, I think as a culture we should observe the tradition and (this year in particular) try to find ways to enjoy the festive experience – with less money and less stress.

Let’s take back Christmas and regain control of its impact, not only on our mental health, but also on our back pocket. To help you, here are my five fav tips for a stress-free Christmas.


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1. Play to the strength of the season

In Australia, we are lucky that Christmas is our Summer, so why don’t we do away with the big roasts and traditional meals just this once and leave that to our English cousins who can’t go without. Instead let’s do light food, finger food, grazing platters, cold meats and seafood. Let’s serve it outside and enjoy the fresh breeze and sun.

The benefits of this are many, less electricity is used, everyone will be happier with a good dose of vitamin D and the food will be simple, cheaper and stress-free.

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2. Decide who gets presents and who doesn’t

I know it’s hard not to give at Christmas but there are people in your life that don’t want or need a gift and would happily just enjoy being together. Elderly grandparents more than anything want to be included, so pick them up and drop them home, give them time. Time is the most important asset for them and they value time spent with loved ones.

Many parents have almost everything they want, so why not try creating some of your own vouchers to give them for a picnic lunch, a movie afternoon at home with popcorn or a car clean? Give them your gift of time and energy. Current photos are a great idea and very inexpensive. What Grandma doesn’t want a picture of you surfing or smiling at a party; she will show it off all year round.

Knowing the love languages of your family can be very productive, because if they aren’t high in gifts as a way of receiving love, then maybe time with them or doing something with them is a way to save money and make them happy.

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3. Don’t budge the budget

Once you work out what you can spend then stick to it. Spend time looking online, especially in the Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales which many of the large Australian companies do now as well as smaller retailers.

Go shopping with an understanding of the amount you can spend and watch out for buy now pay later schemes and credit card payments. While they may be easy in December, they will leave you crying and stressed in January.

Plan to have all the shopping done on time so you don’t grab expensive last-minute gifts. These are budget killers.

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4. Be the present

Being present is something we all need to work on as we live in an ever-increasing digital world.

While Christmas is about the presents under the tree, it is also about the conversations and catch-ups with those closest to us. Being together and really enjoying a cricket game or pool volleyball match will make it one of the best festive seasons ever.

I have seen many children forget what they just unwrapped because Uncle Matt was putting them on his shoulders for pool volleyball. And I have to say, kids need this more than ever.

Do a treasure hunt for the cousins’ kids with smaller cheaper gifts but in a really fun way to find them.

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5. Start inexpensive special traditions

The cry of most adult Aussies is ‘I am too time poor’, but if we can find some time then a very efficient way to save money is to make our own gifts. There are plenty of simple things we can make such as creating our own Christmas crackers; and toilet rolls filled with lollies. This can become an annual tradition for the family to enjoy.

Little containers of encouraging notes or vouchers for people to cash in with you over the year also make great gifts. Make your signature dish and give this to people. Mine is lasagne and everyone loves it.

Write thoughtful cards. Writing is such a powerful gift. Christmas is about giving and it was never intended to financially stress anyone.

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