Knowing how to stay under budget around Christmas time is a vital tip if you aren’t as well off as others! According to momslivingdebtfree.com, it takes the average American family about 6 months to pay off debt accrued from the holidays. If you want to break away from those statistics, stick around to check out these tips on how to stay under budget this holiday season. You can still celebrate and enjoy all the fun Christmas traditions, but without the added expense to your wallet!
1. Plan Ahead
One of the key steps to learning how to stay under budget around the holidays is planning ahead! If you try to get most of your Christmas shopping done before the holiday rush hits, you can save time and money. Spreading your expenses out over the year is better than lumping everything into one big sum. If you don’t like the thought of Christmas shopping all year, then start saving up about mid-September so you have extra money come Christmas!
2. Take Advantage of after-Christmas Sales
My personal favorite time to shop for Christmas presents is right after Christmas! There are always fantastic sales, so I find nice things for an inexpensive price. This theory works well for buying decorations for the next year too. If you don’t have many ornaments, or just want some new ones, go shopping right after Christmas for anywhere from 50% off to 90% off!
3. Give Family Gifts
Sometimes, even if you save up or plan ahead, it can be too expensive to buy for every single person in your family, and especially if you have a large extended family. That’s where this little tip comes in handy: buy family gifts! Some good ideas are board games, card games, movies, snack baskets, gift cards to a local restaurant, or Christmas decorations such as stockings, advent calendars, or nativity scenes.
4. Draw Names
Drawing names is a great way to really focus on just one person and buy them something they really want. When you don’t have 20 people on your list to buy for, it’s easy to spend more time and money choosing a gift. This strategy also ensures that each person gets a nice gift. While every Christmas gift is thoughtful, having one, large, nice gift instead of several smaller and less expensive gifts is usually a better idea.
5. Make Homemade Decorations
Christmas decorations can get pricey! This tip has been a lifesaver for me on years that we just didn’t have the extra money to buy new decorations. You can use craft supplies that you already have on hand and make Christmas ornaments. And be inventive with old decorations you already have. Last year's garland can be a wreath this year, and ornaments can be turned into cute garland strings. Don’t forget trusty old paper chains and popcorn strings!
6. Choose a Gift Theme
It can help the gift-giving dilemma if you decide on a theme for each year! Staying under budget is easy when you choose a theme like candy or cookies. Some other ideas include movie night, family fun night, sports, or reading. Each person buys their gifts pertaining to the theme that is chosen, and by the end of the evening you will have several gifts to contribute to the next time you have a movie night, or family fun night, etc.
7. Give Innovative Gifts
Have you ever stopped to think that sometimes the best gifts are not gifts that can be wrapped? This idea is a perfect way to still have gifts for each loved one, and spend little to no money. Offer your time and/or services in place of a gift this year. A night of free babysitting, an hour's worth of free housecleaning, or running errands for a loved one could be the best present ever. If you do want to spend a little money, consider a gift card to a gas station, restaurant, or grocery store in addition.
8. Free Entertainment
Around the holidays, entertainment seems to be more expensive than ever! Save a little money by looking for free entertainment options. Most churches will be putting on plays, dramas, and cantatas around the Christmas season for you and your family to attend. Another tip is to head to the park and build a snowman or use your local outdoor arena for some fun skating memories!
9. Don’t Buy Wrapping Paper
I think it’s such a shame to pay for pretty paper only to rip it up and throw it away. Instead, why not wrap your gifts with something fresh? A few of my ideas are newspapers, pretty fabric (which can be re-used), comic strips, or coloring book pages that have been colored by tots. With a little ribbon, you can make any of these wrapping materials look chic, fun, and super unique!
10. Quality Family Time
In order to stay under budget around the holiday season, try to spend more quality family time together. Spending nights at home reading Christmas books, decorating the tree, sipping hot cocoa, or watching a Christmas movie will make for fun memories as well as save you hard-earned $$$. If you feel up to it, cook a yummy meal to enjoy together. If not, order take-out or pop something in the oven.
11. Shop Smart
If you play your cards right, you can score some of your gifts and decorations at little to no cost! Throughout the year, use reward systems such as Swagbucks or credit cards with rewards. At the end of the year, tally up all your points to receive bonuses in the form of gift cards or free items! Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you!
12. Bake It
A Christmas gift that never goes out of style for anyone is home-baked goods! Explore the options of breads, cakes, pies, cookies, and candies and decide what you would like to make for your loved ones. Store your goodies in pretty tins or cute little baggies to keep them fresh. And while you are at it, bake up a couple of salt-dough Christmas ornaments and paint them! These will make good gifts for grandparents or anyone else who doesn’t have a sweet tooth.
13. Make Homemade Gifts
Something I’ve done in years past is make homemade gifts! If you love to knit, sew, crochet, paint, craft, embroider, scrapbook, or all of the above, try your hand at making your gifts! It’s less expensive, and your gift will have so much thought and love put into it. You don’t even have to be crafty to make a homemade gift. Grab a wooden picture frame, paint it up, and insert a favorite photo. There, you have a unique, homemade gift!
14. Combined Presents
Here’s a tip for families with small children. To keep the gift giving fun, inexpensive and fair, why not give mostly combined gifts? For example, a set of building blocks, a collection of storybooks, bath or pool toys, or bouncing balls can be fun for kids to share with their siblings! Keep these ideas in mind while shopping this year.
15. Ornament Exchange
One way to keep Christmas gifts simple and under budget is to do an ornament exchange! Each person in the family should bring an ornament, and then you can draw names to see who chooses their ornament first. Wrap them up to make it more interesting!
There’s nothing like spending a day with others who have nothing to help you feel a little more grateful at Christmas time. You may not have as much as you’d like, but there is always someone worse off than you are! Take a day to volunteer this Christmas and give the gift of your time to someone less fortunate. The benefits you will receive from this action will far outweigh any financial benefit you could ever receive.
17. Narrow down Your List
Do you really need to buy for every person you have on your list? While it’s a lovely thought, it’s not always possible to buy a gift for all your loved ones. Do narrow down your list to those most important, and then give the others a Christmas card. Family and true friends will understand!
18. Make Your Own Goodies
Buying cookies and candies at the store can add up, so try to do your own holiday baking this year! You don’t have to be a gourmet cook to whip up a batch of pre-mixed cookie dough. You’ll find that you save quite a bit this way and come in under-budget.
19. Buy Used
Many times, you can find Christmas supplies for sale in bulk on websites like eBay or Amazon. Take advantage of this offer! Don’t forget to always check for Christmas gifts on these sites as well. I once found a brand new Leapfrog toy, never even opened, that I wanted for a child for half the price it was in the store. Secondhand stores generally have some unique things too, and kids don’t care if their new toys were previously owned! Just make sure to wash it up first.
20. Team up on Gifts
If you are really trying to stay under the budget this holiday season, one thing you can do is team up on giving gifts. For example instead of buying individual gifts, combine your money with your friends or family members. This way instead of trying to find a gift that fits you budget, you will be able to find the perfect gift by combining money!
21. Buy Gifts in Bulk
You have probably noticed that around Christmas time companies begin to sell gift sets consisting of a number of items in one box for a great value. Therefore instead of actually spending tons of money on buying these products separately, you can purchase a couple of the gift sets and divide them among the people on your Christmas list! You can even put those items in stockings alongside candy bars and other essential Christmas items.
22. Save Money on Xmas Cards
If you are really trying to save up your money this year, one thing you can consider is not sending out your family Christmas cards. This way you will save on actually mailing them out and making them. However if this is one of the traditions you refuse to ignore, you can always make the Christmas cards by hand. In fact to give you an idea, my art teacher uses his talent every year and draws his Christmas cards himself. It's a thoughtful idea that may help you save up during this hectic holiday season!
23. Purchase Artificial Xmas Trees
You might be used to buying a real Christmas tree every year, but to be honest it can get quite expensive over the years. One solution to this problem is artifical Christmas trees! They look just as good and can last you a lifetime. You buy it once and you don't have to worry about it for years down the road. In addition real Christmas trees are not only high maintenance but they can also be serious fire hazards.
24. Set a Spending Limit
Before even starting your Christmas shopping, you can always set a spending limit among your friends and family. If you are anything like me, you can easily get carried away with purchasing gifts, so having a set limit that everyone is bound to follow will tame your urge to buy everything you lay your eyes on. Every year my friends and I set a limit of $20-25, you will be surprised how many quality gifts you can purchase with that amount of money!
25. Go with the Flow
As you celebrate the holiday season, it’s so easy to get stressed out. Try to remember the true reason for the season, and just go with the flow. You may not be able to afford every little thing you want, but the things that matter most will fall into place. Christmas is a time for cheer, so remember to spread as much of it as you can, and have a happy holiday season!
With these tips for staying under budget this holiday season, you won’t need to worry about spending more than you can afford. Christmas is all about spreading cheer, but it’s hard to spread cheer when you’re broke! Don’t let this holiday season be gloomy. Put these tips into practice and save money without missing out on the fun and festivities! How do you come in under-budget during the holidays?
This article was written in collaboration with editor Vladlena Lee.