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Stealing Santa: The hilarious game that cuts the cost of Christmas

Here's how to save on Christmas gifts this year. (Source: Getty)
Here's how to save on Christmas gifts this year. (Source: Getty)

If Aussies keep on the trajectory of the past few years, we’re set to spend $5,500 on a credit card over the three-month festive frenzy.

That’s the share per card holder of a projected total $86 billion for which history suggests we’ll flash the plastic.

Or are most of us planning on being a bit more, well, sensible this silly season?

An annual survey by Deloitte of retailers, who literally ‘read the relevant rooms’, has revealed they expect the worst Christmas since 2013, as consumers fret about the economy and go without pay rises.

Twenty percent expect no sales growth over the period, while 11 percent believe their takings will drop up to 5 percent.

And it’s presents where most Aussies look poised to cut back.

An exclusive survey for Yahoo Finance by data house Canstar, reveals 12 per cent of us won’t buy any presents and 23 percent are skipping them for adults, a further 23 percent will avoid last-minute panic purchasing, when we’ve probably all experienced the ‘spend spiral’, and 9 percent plan to snap up bargains in the Black Friday sales.

But a full 12 percent now intend invoking the cost-conscious concept of the Secret Santa, where you’re confidentially allocated just the one person for whom to buy a gift.

It’s the same technique my family’s been using for years now… but we add a hilarious twist.

The highly entertaining ‘Stealing Santa’ version of Secret Santa not just saves money but provides a brilliant, umm, family activity for Christmas Day.

How to play ‘Stealing Santa’

What you do is this.

Step 1: Each person buys a gift for no one in particular, of an agreed value. We push the boat out a little and do $50, because it’s just the one present. We also try and get a mix of fabulous, funny and, frankly, freaky presents... you’ll soon understand why.

Step 2: Wrap the present in a way that makes you, and it, unidentifiable. You don’t want to ruin any surprise.

Step 3: Put all the presents under the tree, or wherever you’re going to ‘play’ on Christmas Day.

Step 4: When it’s time, write numbers corresponding to the number of players on pieces of paper and put them in a hat. Or (dry) champagne bucket.

Step 5: Gather around and draw the numbers out of said hat/champagne bucket. If you draw ‘1’, you’re in trouble… just sayin’.

Step 6: No.1 starts, and chooses and unwraps a present. They shouldn’t get attached though.

Step 7: No.2 goes next. The twist is that if they don’t like the gift they get – say it’s a DIY plumbing kit – they can steal, or swap it with, the present of No.1… say their mother-in-law. But neither should they get attached.

Step 8: Then No.3 goes. Perhaps they open a copy of the Kama Sutra in front of their grandmother and are mortified; they can execute a forced exchange for either of the previous two presents. Maybe not the DIY plumbing kit.

Step 9: Rinse and repeat, until the person with the final number ends up, possibly, with a Gold Class cinema voucher and No.1 ends up with a premium-quality rubber chicken. You can see that the higher the number, the better will probably be your pressie.

Step 10: Repair some family relations!

Financially, the yule can often be cruel… and how many of the trinkets and stocking fillers you’ve given over the years have realistically fallen flat? At what personal expense?

Whichever version of Secret Santa you choose, not only does it contain your costs to one – ok perhaps still unappreciated – gift for your family, but it also saves a lot of time and shopping-centre tedium.

Of course, Santa is still very generous with all the small children in our clan.

But with 39 percent of retailers intending to begin discounting way before Boxing Day, Stealing Santa could make this your cheapest Christmas yet.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is a financial educator and commentator, and the author of How to get mortgage-free like me, available from November 16 at Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram @NicolePedMcKMoney.

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