Author Katrina Shanks, CEO Financial Advice NZ Article originally published in

With little more than a week to go till the Big Day, it’s time to think about what’s happening with Christmas lunch.

With this Christmas likely to be one of the toughest families have faced for some time as the price of everything, including credit, seems to be on an out-of-control upwards escalator, most of us will likely be looking more closely at what we’re spending than we have for some years.

I’ve written here recently about how the challenge presents to our savings or credit cards, and ideas for ways of keeping that spend down. Things like not over-spending on children, rather than buying heaps of presents just sticking to one main one and a few smaller ones they can use during the year that you would have to buy later anyway – highlighters, a pencil case, a board game, a beach towel, togs.

For adults, agreeing with your family to go the Secret Santa option with a dollar cap can be a lot of fun while keeping the budget down. Or try making your gifts. Fudge and shortbread are favourites of mine and wrapped in a ribbon or with an icing design they can look very impressive.

The other big expense, of course, is Christmas lunch and all the trimmings that go with it, especially if you’re the host for extended family or friends. Many people share the expense by everybody bringing a dish (ham, salad, potatoes, desert etc) and their own drink. Not only does it cut down your costs, but it saves you having to worry about preparation, which can take a lot of the fun out of the day and takes you away from the conversation.

But if it’s just your small family or maybe a dependant who’s not in a position to help, then sharing costs may not work.

So, what to do?

Basically, shop as cheaply as you can.

I recently worked out a typical menu for Christmas dinner and then did some costings. And what I found is you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a pretty good Christmas dinner, and with some nice trimmings.

These figures are to feed six people, and were as the goods appeared on the respective websites on December 8.

I’ve deliberately paid a bit more for some of the key items, such as ham and wine, and have added a turkey as an extra, and lots of fresh berries (note that I’ve guessed the price of fresh berries, which are so wonderfully favourful at this time of the year but which get more expensive as Christmas Day creeps closer):

Ham, ½ leg on bone                                   67.50
Turkey                                                           60.50
Baby potato salad, beans, pesto               14.89
Kumara                                                         3.90
Broccoli                                                         5.00
Honey glazed carrots                                 2.99
Peas & corn, frozen                                    4.20
Gravy                                                            4.50
Pavlova                                                         13.00
Fresh berries, 4 punnets                           26.00
Cream                                                           4.00
Trifle sponge                                                6.00
Fresh berries, 2 punnets                           12.00
Cream                                                           4.00
Custard                                                         4.00
Bubbly (Moet x 2)                                       94.00
Beer (12 cans)                                              22.00

TOTAL                                                            348.48

Now, I think that’s not a bad price for six people, and if a couple of them are littlies then you’re likely to have leftovers for Christmas tea or even Boxing Day.

But some people will find $348 is too steep for their budget.

So, I went down the road to PAK ‘n SAVE to do a comparison. Not only did I change store, but I also opted for cheaper versions of some items. I also swapped the turkey for the chicken and cut back slightly on the number of punnets of berries.

Here’s what I found:

Pressed ham                                                 34.98
Whole stuffed chicken                               14.99
Gourmet potatoes                                       8.99
Kumara                                                          3.29
Broccoli                                                         5.00
Cheese sauce                                                2.50
Honey glazed carrots                                  2.95
Peas & corn, frozen                                     5.39
Gravy (2 packets)                                         2.38
Pavlova                                                          13.00
Cream                                                            4.00
Grated chocolate                                         2.00
Trifle sponge                                                 5.49
Fresh berries, 2 punnets                            12.00
Cream                                                            4.00
Custard                                                           4.69
Bubbly (Lindauer x 2)                                  25.98
Beer (12 cans)                                              20.99

TOTAL                                                            172.62

That’s a whopping $175 in savings, and we’ve managed to retain all of the nice-to-haves by not going quite so flash and shopping around. You could save even more if you shopped at both stores, picking out the cheaper items at each.

Our family is quite traditional, so I like the turkey and ham. We have always been mad with deserts but this year this is an area where I will reduce, as sometimes less is best! And this year I have made a budget for what I believe is reasonable to spend on one meal. Let’s see how I go!

As my financial adviser would say – the joy is not in what you spend but in the memories you make, and they don’t have to put you into debt.