Save money this summer

The combination of summer, school holidays and Christmas can mean just one thing for some families – great expense.

Taking a holiday

The average cost of a domestic holiday in Australia is around $150 per person per night. However, it’s going to cost you more than this over summer, as December is the most expensive month to travel, closely followed by January.1 Here are a few ideas to help you get away while still keeping the costs down:

  • If you can, take holidays outside of the school holiday period (e.g. late November, early December or February). This is a great tip if you don’t have children of school age.
  • Consider holidaying somewhere within driving distance, even if it takes a few days of travel to get there. Australia is blessed with so many beautiful holiday destinations in every state, so flying elsewhere isn’t always necessary. The journey itself can bring its own joys if you have the right mindset and a spirit of adventure.
  • Camp – for free. National parks often offer free camping spots or at least vastly reduced rates compared to many private camping areas or holiday resorts. It may take a bit of research, and you might need to purchase the right supplies, however you should still be able to find a great destination to have a holiday cheaply.
  • Make your own meals. Eating out, especially with a few kids in tow, can be very expensive – particularly in touristy areas. If you’re spending $50 to $100 every time the family eats, it is going to add up quickly over a one to two-week holiday. Research a few meals that can easily be prepared on the road, pop an esky and picnic set in the car, and you’re all set.
  • Make a list of things you like to do that don’t cost anything – you may be surprised how many there are, such as reading a book, hiking, swimming or surfing at the beach, bike riding, fishing, puzzles, card games and so on.


Last Christmas, Australians spent $10.7 billion on Christmas gifts collectively, with the national average for an individual spend around $600, according to a Commonwealth Bank study. Worst of all, over half of us went shopping without a budget and almost 40 per cent did not keep track of what they were spending.2

Here are a few tips to keep a cool head this festive season:

  • Make a gift budget before you buy anything – this should be a reasonable total spend that is within your means.
  • Write a list of those you would like to buy a gift for. A visual list can keep you from overdoing it and help you prioritise those who are really important.
  • Consider e-cards this year rather than paper cards – they are cheaper and better for the environment.
  • Consider homemade gifts, particularly for neighbours and work colleagues, for example jam or cookies, a Christmas wreath, bath bombs or scented soaps, plants in a homemade pot (start growing them now!), hand-painted mugs or coasters and so on.
  • Arrange a present swap or Secret Santa with extended family, where everyone buys a special gift for one person on a set budget. Buying for everyone in a large family can be stressful, expensive and wasteful, particularly as you often don’t know what they want.
  • Remember that young children easily get ‘present fatigue’ and more than likely will not appreciate huge quantities of gifts.

New Year’s Eve

Australians spent $74 million on New Year’s Eve purchases last year, and that’s not even including pre-bought tickets.3

So, have a good think about how important it is to you to go out on this particular night, given the expense – not to mention the crowds. It is rare not to pay hugely inflated prices for everything on NYE, from entertainment to food, drinks and transport. Consider a house party or gathering with friends away from the city and/or arrange to ‘go out’ another night when prices aren’t exorbitant.

School holidays

Research has found that Australian parents spend an average of $2,130 on entertaining their children over the summer holidays, and up to $2,611 for parents of three children.4

This year, why not make a list with the kids of what they like doing that won’t cost very much. There are so many inexpensive options if you think outside the box. When it comes down to it, most kids actually value quality time with you – and their friends – the most. You could also insist the kids earn the money to pay for any expensive activities themselves, such as by completing household chores. This at least teaches them the value of money – one study found that children ask their parents for money almost eight times on average over the summer holidays!5

Here are a few ideas for having fun on the cheap:

  • Get Active: go to the local pool, go cycling, head to the beach, go on a bushwalk, go to the local skate park, go fishing, make an obstacle course.
  • Find adventure: go on a public transport ‘mystery tour’, visit a farm, go fruit picking.

Stay in: cook biscuits or other treats, write a story together by taking turns to write a paragraph, write a play they can act out, play board games, do some face painting, make ‘jewellery’ out of painted dry pasta and cheap shop-bought beads, build an awesome cubby house, do some simple science experiments with household items (google it), make a papier-mâché sculpture, host a dance party, have a movie night/sleepover in the living room.

  • Have fun outside: plan and execute a gardening project, get down and dirty with painting in the yard – you can even paint old wood or other ‘junk’, camp in the backyard, plan and execute a mystery hunt with clues for them to solve, make and fly a kite.

So, if you are dreading the ‘silly season’ and the cost that typically comes with it, take heart. With a little creativity and planning, you can definitely enjoy your summer holidays without destroying your budget.

SOURCES: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5