Five Christmas presents that won't break the bank

Five Christmas presents that won't break the bank

Christmas is just around the corner and retailers are getting into the swing of the silly season, with baubles, tinsel and holly adorning shops across the country. 

With spending on the rise, many Aussies will be falling back on their credit cards which may seem like a great idea now but will appear less so when the bill rolls around in a month’s time. If you are cash strapped and worried about having to rely on your card, it may be worth exploring the glorious world of the DIY gift.

So how can you wow friends and family with fabulous Christmas presents without getting yourself into debt? Here are some ideas that won’t break the bank!

Brownie jars

Homemade Christmas Cake Mix in a Jar decorated with pine cones and spruce branches on a dark wooden background

Christmas is a time for sweet treats, so why not gift relatives a DIY brownie kit?

You’ll need sterilised mason jars, some coloured twine, cute fabric, thick cream card and a calligraphy-style black pen. Don’t forget your favourite brownie recipe, either.

Measure out the required dry ingredients and layer them in the jar — think flour, soft brown sugar, chocolate chips and cocoa. You’ll need to make sure the jar is filled to the brim to keep the layers in place. Then you can place a square of colourful fabric over top and secure it with twine. Finally, write instructions for brownie preparation on squares of card. Usually this is as simple as mixing the dry ingredients with egg and oil. Tie the card on with twine and you’ve got yourself an adorable gift!

Sweet candles

Rustic Christmas scene with jar candle, pine cones, metals stars and round tag with copy space.

Candles make a great Christmas present, but you don’t have to fork out for the trendiest offerings. Instead, pick some candles in simple glass jars and package them in hand-decorated brown card boxes, before tying with a silk ribbon in black, red or navy blue. The personalised touch will make the present extra special.

Alternatively, if you have a lot of people who you need gifts for this year, you could try your hand at making your own candles from scratch. If you’re making a large batch (and have the time to spare) this could end up being an efficient way of making something special for the whole family.

Homemade hampers

Christmas hamper basket with a chocolate Santa, cookies and a bottle of wine close-up

It’s tempting to buy pre-made hampers at department stores or supermarkets but there can be hefty mark-ups, stinging your savings account. Not to mention, they often come with a few good products and a whole bunch of products that no one ever uses.

Instead, why not put together your own hampers? These are great presents for relatives — if you can’t afford to splash out on numerous nieces and nephews, why not give a hamper that your relatives and their kids will all enjoy together?

Items like herbal tea, high-quality olive oil and chocolates are good additions. You can also include some homemade baking for an extra personal touch. Transparent cellophane and brightly coloured ribbons will give the hamper a professional look.

Gingerbread house and men

Gingerbread house with gingerbread couple in front

The perfect gift for kids in your family is a gingerbread house which you can leave undecorated for the gift recipients to have some fun. If you’re good in the kitchen, putting together a gingerbread house and accompanying men is a cost effective gift for all your nephews and nieces.

On Christmas day, every one can have a turn icing and decorating your gift. What’s better than a DIY gift that brings the whole family together?

Potted plants

Horizontal composition color photography of a beautiful floral composition, plant bouquet with multiple plant type used to celebrate holidays (Christmas, New Year, or just a gift...). There are a Poinsettia with some golden glitter on vibrant red leaves, Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum), Echeveria succulent plant colored in red, some green moss etc... Close-up on the red plant leaf of Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) with small golden glitter / flakes to offer on Christmas Holidays. Picture shot with soft focus.

Finally, if you’ve got a friend or family member with a green thumb, why not give them a potted plant?

Dip the lower half of a terracotta pot into mint green, candy pink or lemon yellow paint, then flip it upside down and allow it to dry on newspaper. You’ll get a fun ombre effect — pop in a cost-effective perennial and you’ve got a perfect gift for grandparents, siblings-in-law or even mum and dad.

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Learn more about savings accounts

Can you set up direct debits from a savings account?

It’s not usually possible to set up a direct debit from your savings account to cover ongoing expenses or bills, as savings accounts are structured around growing your wealth by earning interest on regular deposits, and discouraging withdrawals.

Some transaction accounts allow you to set up direct debits and also earn interest, though you may not enjoy as much flexibility as a dedicated transaction account, or get as high an interest rate as a dedicated savings account.

How do I open a savings account?

Opening a savings account is a relatively simple process. If you’ve found an account with a suitable interest rate, you’ll just need to get in contact with your chosen lender via a branch, phone call or hop online to begin the process. 

You may be required to provide:

  • Personal details, including identification (driver’s license, passport etc.)
  • Tax file number
  • Employment details

How much money should I have in my savings account?

A good rule of thumb when working out a minimum balance for your savings account is to make sure that you’ll earn more in annual interest on your savings than what you’ll be charged in annual fees.

If you’re saving with a specific goal in mind, prepare a budget so the interest you earn on your deposits will help you efficiently reach this goal. Online financial calculators may be helpful here.

How to open a savings account for my child?

Some banks and financial institutions allow parents to open a bank account for their child as soon as it is born, and start depositing funds to go towards the child’s future.

Children’s savings accounts generally don’t have fees, and are structured to help develop positive financial habits by limiting withdrawals, encouraging regular deposits, and earning interest on the savings, similarly to standard savings accounts.

Who has the highest interest rates for savings accounts?

As banks frequently change their rates, the most accurate way to know who currently has the highest interest rate is to use a savings account comparison tool.

How does interest work on savings accounts?

The type of interest savings accounts accrues is called compound interest. Compound interest is interest paid on the initial deposit amount, as well as the accumulated interest on money you have. This is different from simple interest where interest is paid at the end of a specified term. Compound interest allows you to earn interest on interest at a higher frequency. 

Example: John deposits $10,000 into a savings account with an interest rate of 5 per cent that he leaves untouched for 10 years. At the end of the first year he will have $10,512 in savings. After ten years, he will have saved $16,470.

What is the interest rate on savings accounts?

As banks frequently change their rates, the most accurate way to look at interest rates on savings accounts is to use a savings accounts comparison tool. When you look at the savings rate check what the maximum and minimum rates are. Often banks will offer you a promotional rate for the first few months which is competitive, but then revert back to a base rate which can sometimes be less than inflation. Ongoing bonus rates are often a safer bet as they will keep rewarding you with the maximum rate, provided you meet their criteria

What is a savings account?

A savings account is a type of bank account in which you earn interest on the money you deposit. This makes it one of the easiest and safest investment tools.

Can I overdraft my savings account?

A lot of savings accounts won’t let you overdraw. Some will allow this feature but you’ll need to apply first. It’s best to read the fine print and check with your lender whether this is a feature they offer. It can be a helpful addition, but as your lender can charge you a fee as well as interest for going into negative numbers, it’s best to avoid overdrafting when possible.

Can you direct deposit to a savings account?

Yes. You can make one off payments or set up regular direct deposits into a savings account. This can be organised easily through online banking or by making deposits in a branch. Talk to your lender to find out the easiest way for you to set up direct deposits.

Can you have a joint savings account?

Yes. Joint savings accounts can be useful for two or more people wanting to combine their savings to meet shared financial goals, including spouses, flatmates and business partners.

Some joint savings accounts require all parties to sign before they can access the money. While less convenient, this extra security can help encourage all parties to meet their shared financial goals.

Other joint savings accounts allow any of the account holders to access the money. These accounts can be convenient for financially responsible couples that trust one another implicitly. 

What is a good interest rate for a savings account?

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind with savings accounts is to look for a rate that is higher than the CPI inflation rate. This number is constantly changing, so check the Reserve Bank of Australia’s page. If you aren’t earning interest above this then the value of your money will go backwards over time.

How to make money with a savings account?

Savings accounts make you money by earning interest on your savings. The more money you deposit, the longer you leave it in the account, and the higher the account’s interest rate, the more interest you’ll be paid by the bank or financial institution, and the more your wealth will grow.

To make sure your savings account makes money and doesn’t lose money, it’s important to maintain a large enough minimum balance that the annual interest earned exceeds any annual fees charged on the account.

Can you set up a savings account online?

Yes. Several large and small banks offer online applications for savings accounts, and there are also online-only financial institutions to consider.

Online-only savings accounts are often less expensive than other savings accounts, though they may not offer the same flexibility, features, or face-to-face service as more traditional savings accounts.