How to stay sane and survive the Christmas holidays on a budget

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Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.

"So I will mostly likely be working Christmas," he told me.

"That’s fine," I said, sitting at the table and cradling my incredibly old dog.

For those new to my columns, we are currently unemployed. So any work is good work, regardless of the time of year.

He cocked his head to the side and said, "So I'll actually probably be away for most of the school holidays." 

I dropped my head and rolled my eyes and said something that rhymes with duck, but without the warm and fuzzy image or feelings that go along with it.

'Hmm,' I thought to myself, 'the whole school holidays with just me and the kids 24 hours a day for 42 days straight.' I repeated "duck" for a little longer than I should, as I sat there contemplating all the hours of quality family time ahead of me.

Eventually I lifted my head, grimaced the best smile I could and said: "That’s just fine honey." 

The truth is I have done this before. In fact, I've coped alone for seven school holidays because my husband has spent just three Christmases at home in the past 11 years. Regardless, I have always made the most of it and managed to stay sane despite setting a strict budget and sticking to it. 

This year, especially, is no exception. So if you are in the same boat, here are a few ideas on how to survive the Christmas holidays on a budget.

  • Check out the free activities run by your local council. 
  • Head to your local pool. 
  • Arrange play dates, especially with other fun mums who give you energy. 
  • Stagger your special outings. We break cabin fever every second or third day with a trip to the pool or library, and one big outing such as the movies or trip to the city once a week. 
  • Create an art kit for those times it's too hot or it's raining.
  • Have a movie marathon.
  • Do a park crawl. This one is our favourite: we head to one park for morning tea, another for lunch and then a final one for afternoon tea. 
  • Bush walk. For the cost of some petrol, head out to your nearest national park.
  • Set up a good old slip and slide in the back yard.
  • Have a picnic at the beach, at the park or even in the garden.
  • Explore your local area on bike rides. Get to know your local community and the shops around it.

If these ideas aren’t enough to fill your days or you have older children, consider volunteering your family's time at a homeless shelter, a no-kill animal shelter or hospital. The options are endless, even on a tight budget. You just need to stretch your imagination a little and devote yourself to planning. 

Regardless of how you spend your holidays, from my family to yours ... wishing you a very Merry Christmas and safe new year.

Love Deb x

More columns from Oil & Gas Mum Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at and if you've got any questions for her, please click here.

And here's another oil and gas couple's advice on making FIFO family life work when you're working offshore