Planning a waste-free, debt-free Christmas

The silly season is upon us and it’s easy to get swept away by all the excitement and anticipation of this wonderful time. The shops are full of amazing festive decorations and homewares, and as mums we are busy buying presents and planning the Christmas menu.

As someone who cares very much for the Earth as well as the state of my home, I am becoming increasingly mindful of the clutter and waste that we can sometimes fall into at this time of the year. So I make it my mission to get back to basics, and plan a magical Christmas for my children and myself, while being mindful about the choices I’m making.

Here are my top tips for planning a waste-free, debt-free Christmas that’s not only kind on the Earth but also your hip pocket.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Go minimalist when buying presents without spoiling the fun

Two things I hate most are clutter and waste, so it makes sense to think carefully about the presents I buy. I also want my kids to enjoy this magical time, so when it comes to buying presents for my babes I have started to follow this riddle: something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need. This year it looks a little like this:

Elsie: Frozen nighty, sun hat, Barbie horse and rider; Claris in Paris book.

William: Construction machine pjs, sun hat, wooden truck transporter and car set; trucks and diggers pop-up book.

These gifts are from mum and dad and then *Santa* also brings them something special. This year it’s a trampoline.

The best thing about this approach is that it makes everything so simple and you can get started early. I started putting things away in October and I had all of our Christmas shopping for the kids done by the end of November, debt free.

Some my say this approach is too strict while others may say I am spoiling my children, but for our family this feels like an appropriate level of Christmas cheer. My aim is to encourage my children to be grateful for the privileges our family enjoys, without going over the top with material gifts. As part of this Elsie and William have been saving part of their pocket money to give away this year (we are following The Barefoot Investor for Families by Scott Pape) and we will soon be sitting down as a family to discuss who we will be giving a donation to at Christmas time.

For other family and friends I will be making some homemade treats in rustic, earth-friendly packaging, and will also check out the local markets for some inexpensive but thoughtful gifts.

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on

Reusable and recyclable gift wrapping

I usually just go for regular store-bought gift wrap, ribbon and tags but did you know many types of gift wrap aren’t actually recyclable? Only pure, uncoated paper can be recycled and many gift wraps, ribbons and tags are made of plastic or are foiled or laminated in some way. Paper covered in sticky tape is also unable to be recycled.

So this year I am wrapping individual gifts with plain brown kraft paper and natural twine (and attempting no tape, wish me luck) and adorning the packages with natural foraged gum leaves. For the kids I will be making reusable drawstring gift bags with calico and jazzing them up with some iron-on transfers. This should cut down on wrapping time too! #winwin

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Naturally beautiful Christmas decorations

I just love decorating at Christmas time! It’s probably one of the few times us Aussie’s change out our home decor and get to play around with new ideas. I just adore natural farmhouse style and this lends itself so well to plastic-free, homemade Christmas decorating ideas.

Although I do believe Christmas is one of the rare occasions for which faux plants are acceptable “I usually prefer using fresh or preserved plastic-free alternatives for decorating. When buying plastic I try to choose timeless pieces and buy second hand to avoid it ending up in landfill. For example, our ex-display Christmas tree only cost us $10.

This year I plan to forage for fresh greenery and use pine cones to decorate my dining table along with natural cotton napkins and reusable wooden laser-cut place cards. I am also really excited about drying slices of orange to display alongside fragrant cinnamon scrolls to make the setting really pop.

My usual collection of bells, lights, table-top trees and flourishes will be out in force and I look forward to reinventing some new and inspired ways to display these pieces to create a fresh new look which I will be sharing over on Instagram.

Some other ideas for naturally beautiful decorations you might like to try are:

  • fruits – dried or fresh such as orange slices and berries
  • nuts and seeds like gum nuts or pinecones
  • botanicals – dried or fresh such as leaves, herbs and potted plants
  • shells
  • beeswax or soy candles.
Photo by Jessica Lewis on

Planning the menu

It would be remiss of me to talk about Christmas without mentioning the food. After all that’s one of the things we all look forward to the most, right? Though it you’re like me you could (and likely will) get over-excited and plan for way too much food on the Christmas table. In order to avoid food waste I have devised these three strategies for planning the Christmas menu.

  1. Buy the right amount and/or delegate strategically. Think about previous years and if you had too many left overs, scale back your shopping list. If you’re asking people to contribute to the meal, allocate specific dishes and quantities.
  2. Try to buy local, sustainable and organic where possible and where the budget allows. Go for quality over quantity and if catering for a group, provide plenty of side fillers such as breads and potato dishes to make the meal stretch further.
  3. Freeze left overs immediately after the main meal to avoid waste. If you’re like me you’ll probably forget otherwise and things will go off in the fridge. I slice left over ham and freeze it in smaller packets so it can be used for lunches, in fried rice and on pizzas later.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

War on waste

OK the term ‘war’ might be a little dramatic, but truely it is all too easy to fall into the pattern of excess when it comes to Christmas time which can hurt our Earth, our sanity and our budget.

There are so many practical ways we can reduce your footprint whether it’s simply reusing old decorations in new ways, cutting back on gift buying or gifting something homemade, or trying zero-waste wrapping options.

With these handy tips in tow, I hope you will find some ways to cut back and find even more joy in this special time with your family.

Please let us know in the comments how you’re planning a waste-free and debt-free Christmas in 2020! We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Feature image courtesy of Olya Kobruseva on

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