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6 Totally Doable Ways to Have Christmas On a Budget

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Inside: Here are 6 practical ways to celebrate Christmas on a budget. You don’t have to go into debt to have a magical holiday!

Christmas is the most expensive holiday of the year for most people.

But it doesn’t have to be!

There are several, practical things you can do that will keep you from crying when you look at your credit card statement on December 26.

RELATED: 30+ Family Christmas Traditions to Start This Year

1. Set A Budget

Follow these easy tips on how to budget

This one may be self-explanatory, but you need to set a budget!

It doesn’t matter if it’s $100 or $1000, you should sit down with your partner (or yourself) and make sure you’re clear on how much you’ll be spending on gifts.

But I would highly, highly suggest that you don’t go into major debt to purchase Christmas gifts. No potential excitement or spoiling is worth going into debt.

In our family, we budget $100/person for immediate family, and then $25 for our sibling gift exchange and for our parents. The amount could change as our income grows, but it’s been pretty consistently $100/person for several years.

And don’t forget to include small things like stocking stuffers because those can add up quickly!

2. Simplify Your Gifts

Wrapped Christmas gifts under a Christmas tree.

Christmas was always so magical growing up.

My parents really tried to make it special by getting us what we put on our lists, but I almost wish they hadn’t.

Looking back I can see what a financial burden it was for them to buy us the expensive toys we had asked for.

Of course, I want my children to feel the magic of Christmas, but I also don’t want them to get greedy and expect that they’ll get everything they ask for.

Once you have your budget in place, the easiest way to make that budget count is to simplify your gifts.

We do this with the “four gifts” idea:

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something they want
  4. Something they need

We’ve also done this pretty consistently for several years and it’s amazing at the stress and anxiety it removes from Christmas shopping.

And it’s amazing how easy it is to stay in the $100/person budget when I’m only looking for 4 gifts for each person!

Here are some suggestions for gifts from each category:

Something to Wear

  • Christmas pajamas
  • Dress clothes
  • Socks, underwear
  • Snow clothes
  • Dress-ups
  • Shoes

Something to Read

  • Board books
  • Chapter books
  • Magazines
  • Cookbooks
  • Busy books
  • Kindle
  • Handwriting books

Something They Want

Something They Need

  • A new backpack or lunchbox
  • Anything from the clothing category
  • A helmet
  • New bedding
  • Luggage
  • Toiletry Items

If you do Santa gifts in your family, you may need to adjust your budget to fit those in because those are usually in addition to the gifts you give your children. 

You could do this by adding the gift they want as a Santa gift and only giving three gifts from mom and dad.

Or you could move some money around so they three less expensive gifts from mom and dad and one expensive gift from Santa.

I’ve also seen parents suggest that Santa bring the more practical gifts like clothes, socks, etc. so that the parents can give the bigger, more exciting gifts.

This way, the parents are the big shots to the children and it helps any jealousy or disappointment for friends with homes where Santa can’t afford to bring an iPad or electric scooter or playhouse.

Just something to think about.

3. Shop The Sales

Christmas gifts in a shopping cart.

I can’t emphasize this enough:

Do not buy a Christmas gift if it is not on sale!

If you really want to do Christmas on a budget, you have to make your money go as far as it can go, which means buying gifts on sale and using coupons and promo codes.

To make sure you are getting the best price on gifts, you have to start checking prices now.

And to start checking prices, you have to have a list of items to check.

So make your list, keep track of prices, and buy those gifts when they are on sale.

Which usually means waiting to buy gifts until the Black Friday Sales start. If you start buying gifts in the summer, you may be done early, but you may also spend more than if you would have waited.

**A note about Black Friday sales: sometimes the prices aren’t that great and stores just want you to get caught up in the hype.

But if you’re checking the price of those big-ticket items now, then you’ll know if it’s really a good price once the Black Friday sales start.

Some stores are even doing price matching through the holiday season, so you can grab those gifts now if they are on sale, and get the price match later if they drop even lower.

I’m sharing lots of sales for popular gifts daily on my Instagram stories, so make sure you are following me over there!

4. Get Your Gifts For Free

A stack of gift cards on the table.

What’s better than saving money on your Christmas gifts?

Getting those Christmas gifts with money that’s not yours!

Let me explain:

Every quarter, my husband gets $50 toward several different gift cards if he does certain health challenges for his job. When we get the $50 in the 4th quarter, I always use it to get our parents’ gift cards. 

So they get a date night and it’s no money from our pocket!

I understand that not everyone works for my husband’s company, but there are several other rewards programs out there that offer the same sort of benefits.

Fetch Rewards

I’m sure you’ve seen the grocery shopping apps where you get rebates for purchasing certain products, ya-da, ya-da.

I’ve downloaded several of them myself and they usually turn out to be a big waste of time because you have to purchase expensive items that aren’t pantry staples for most families.

Well, I was super hesitant to download Fetch Rewards, but I’ve been really surprised at how easy it is to use!

You just scan your grocery receipt every time you go to the grocery store and you get points no matter what!

You then redeem those points for gift cards! It’s so awesome! Plus, it’s free!

It does take a little while to rack up the points, but to get you started, use my referral code, LOVELOVELOVE, during signup and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points!).

1-2-3 Rewards Mastercard

I have a Smith’s Mastercard and I get a certificate 4 times a year that varies from $15-$30. When I get my certificate in November, I can put that toward purchasing gift cards or stocking stuffers from Smith’s!

Feeding Reading Program

If you buy Kellogg’s products, you should sign up for their Feeding Reading program to get the books for your ‘something to read’ gift for free!

They have a variety of books for every reading level for kids. I’ve done their program twice now, and decided to keep the books for my kids until Christmas and give them as gifts.

You do have to submit your receipts by September, so make sure you make a note for next year if you missed it this year.

I’ve also seen reward programs for diapers, frozen meals, credit cards, and grocery stores, so take a look at where you’re shopping frequently and what you’re buying to see if you can’t get rewards from shopping.

DIY Gifts

Another way to get gifts for free (or cheap) is to make DIY gifts!

Some ideas are:

  • If you like to sew, you could make blankets, pillows, or doll clothes.
  • If you’re good with wood, you could make frames, decor, or furniture.
  • If you like to bake, you could put together pre-measured baking mixes of some of your best recipes.
  • If you paint or do graphic design you could create wall decor to give to someone.

You can check out my ultimate guide of easy DIY projects for more ideas with step-by-step instructions.

5. Earn Some Extra Money

Rolls of U.S. dollar bills on a table

One way to ensure you don’t go into debt for Christmas presents is to earn some extra money.

You can do temporary things like sell old stuff around your house, donate plasma, or deliver food for a few nights.

If you want a more consistent stream of income, you may want to look into a part-time job.

There are lots of options out there for real stay at home jobs! Some of the ideas are:

  • Virtual assistant work (bloggers are always looking to hire!)
  • Online surveys
  • Turn your hobby into a business (if you craft, do photography, do handyman work, etc.)
  • Become a nanny

You can also ask your friends and on social media if anyone is hiring work-from-home positions. You never know who has the right connection unless you ask!

6. Don’t Spend A Fortune on Wrapping, Cards, or Decor

Dollar store Christmas cards and tape on a table.

Not only can Christmas gifts get expensive, but all of the wrapping paper, bows, and bags can also add up.

And don’t get me started on how expensive cards and Christmas decor are.

Here are a few tips for cutting down your Christmas wrapping, cards, and decor budget:

  • Get your cards, wrapping paper, and bags from the dollar store! I have an entire post on my favorite dollar store finds, and two of them include Christmas cards and gift bags. I always get beautiful $1 cards to give our parents every year, and you could never tell they came from the dollar store.
  • If you’re getting packages delivered frequently (hello, Amazon Prime) save any brown packing paper. It makes a great wrapping paper that you can customize with stamps, lettering, and fancy ribbon.
  • Speaking of ribbon, you can make a beautiful decoration for gifts with scraps you have lying around the house, so check there before you go out and buy new spools.
  • If you have Christmas cards from years past, don’t throw the cute ones away! You can cut the back off with the personalized note, and use it as a fancy tag for this year’s gift.
  • For the cards you send to family and friends, make sure your pictures are done early so you can buy your cards on Black Friday. Lots of printing companies have sales that weekend. And if you really can’t spare the money for a physical card, a digital one works just as well!
  • When it comes to Christmas decor, it can be tempting to buy everything you see in sight. Make sure you shop the sales and only buy things you really need.
  • If you’re just starting out or have changed your style, buy things a little at a time. It will take a few years to get all of the decorations you may need, but you’ll stay within your budget.
  • And of course, you can always DIY your Christmas decor! I made glam Christmas trees out of cereal boxes when I was a newlywed that I still put up every year. I also flocked my own tree to save money. Check out my post on glam Christmas decorations on a budget for more ideas.

Mom and daughter decorate a Christmas tree as part of their family tradition.

Want More?

If you liked these tips for having Christmas on a budget, be sure to check out my ultimate guide of frugal living tips!

Your Turn

What was your favorite tip I shared about doing Christmas on a budget?

Do you have any additional ways to save?

Let me know in the comments!

Here are 6 Christmas budget ideas!

Ashley Ziegler

Monday 16th of November 2020

This was helpful! Thanks Jessica!

Jessica Ashcroft

Wednesday 18th of November 2020

Glad you liked it Ash!