We are all looking forward to the holiday season because it is a time of joy, cheer, and giving. At the same time, the holidays can also be a stressful time for some families financially. It can be stressful to buy gifts, decorate, and host celebrations, especially if you’re tight on cash.
In fact, 54% of holiday shoppers expect some financial burden during the holiday season, according to Bankrate. Interestingly, 33% say they anticipate being pressured to spend more than they are comfortable with as a result of inflation, 25% say they are stressed over costs, 23% say they are concerned about budgeting, and 13% say inflation will change the way they shop.
You don’t have to despair if you’re worrying about how you’ll enjoy Christmas this year. It is possible to create a fulfilling and memorable holiday without breaking the bank. The following are 25 tips for having an affordable and memorable Christmas.
1. Set a realistic budget.
The first step to an affordable Christmas? Set a realistic budget.
The first step is to track your income and expenses. Your Christmas spending plan can be created once you have a good understanding of your financial situation.
Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t for everyone, so be realistic about what you can afford. It will be more meaningful to your loved ones if you show thoughtfulness and creativity than if you give them an expensive gift that they don’t really need.
2. Decide what your spending priorities are.
It is important to prioritize your spending after you’ve created a budget. Your finances should be allocated based on what’s most important to you and your family. For example, you might want to prioritize gifts for your kids. Alternatively, you might want to spend a little more on food and decorations if you’re hosting a family gathering.
Additionally, make sure you don’t take on too much. To avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed, focus on a few things and do them well rather than trying to do everything.
3. Keep other expenses in check.
For the first time since the pandemic, Deloitte expects spending to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2023. According to the survey, consumers plan to spend an average of $1,652, up 14% compared to last year.
First of all, spending that much isn’t necessary. It is important to stay within your comfort zone this season and throughout the year.
However, what about Christmas money? Perhaps you’re already set up if you’ve been shopping all year or putting money away for the holidays. However, if that isn’t the case, you’ll have to find alternative ways to pay.
As a result, your budget might have to be adjusted. For example, spending less on eating out or subscription services in December to compensate for the extra holiday festivities.
4. Get creative with gift-giving.
The best gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money. This year, think outside the box when it comes to gift-giving. Some ideas are as follows:
- Make homemade gifts. Unlike store-bought gifts, handmade gifts can be more personal and thoughtful. A wide variety of homemade gift ideas can be found online, from baked goods to crafts.
- Give experiences over things. Material possessions are often more expensive than experiences, yet they can create lasting memories. Gift certificates for massages, spa treatments, or museum memberships are all wonderful options.
- Shop second-hand. Buying gently used items from thrift stores makes great gifts. Books, toys, and clothes are all examples.
- Take a look around your house. For example, has your child received a gift they’ve never used? It can be rewrapped and placed under the tree.
- Give your time. Oftentimes, the best gift you can give is your time. Offer to do their errands, child care, or housework. Taking care of your loved ones is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationship with them. You can make your own coupons to make it seem like a gift.
5. Take advantage of free and low-cost activities.
During the holidays, you can take part in many free and low-cost activities. The following are some ideas:
- Take a walk in a local park or nature preserve.
- Try hiking or biking.
- Attend a free holiday concert or performance.
- Watch holiday movies with your family or friends.
- Volunteer your time to help others.
6. Make use of discount gift cards.
Are you aware that you can buy discounted gift cards from hundreds of retailers? This includes realtors like Airbnb, Home Depot, Amazon, Panera, and Target — to name a few. Typically, discounts range from 5%-30% off face value. However, CardCash claims that you can save up to 35%.
7. Use coupons.
It is no longer necessary to spend hours cutting coupons. You can, however, take advantage of available store coupons.
Discount codes and coupons make saving money easy today. Keep an eye out for coupon codes. For finding discounts and the best price online, I recommend Capital One Shopping as a browser extension.
8. Download apps for rewards, discounts and/or cashback.
In addition to credit card rewards, Bankrate recommends checking out apps that can also earn you rewards and cashback. Often, cashback sites allow you to check prices for popular items to find the best deals.
“To save money, aim to stack discounts,” says Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman. “As in, combine a store promotion with a rewards credit card (which you hopefully pay in full to avoid interest) and an online shopping portal such as Rakuten or Shop Through Chase. A lot of the big airlines have these, too. Also, take advantage of unused gift cards (about half of Americans have them and the average value is close to $200.”
Some of the most popular cashback apps are:
- With special holiday savings at stores like Walmart and Nike, Rakuten offers both online and in-store deals.
- With Ibotta, you can get big savings on grocery items and connect your grocery loyalty accounts.
- With Dosh, you can book hotels and receive up to 40% cashback.
9. Don’t leave anyone out in the cold.
Here’s where some candid conversations are required. Surely, your spouse/partner knows what you’re going through financially. But it’s important to be on the same page about Christmas. Take some time to discuss your holiday goals and desires, as well as brainstorm ideas together.
You should then decide who in your extended family or friends should be informed.
- Are there certain friends or family members with whom you usually exchange gifts?
- Have you ever gone shopping with a friend or go out for a special night with another couple as part of a tradition that requires money?
It is not necessary for you to go into details. However, you can explain to them that you cannot afford to do those things this year. Don’t forget that there are probably free alternatives available.
If you have kids, definitely talk to them too. In my opinion, younger kids are unlikely to notice the difference, so they do not need to know. Often, it’s not the presents that matter to younger kids, but the decorations, family traditions, and movies they will enjoy.
However, you should talk to older children and teens about this issue. Let them know Christmas will still be great, but it won’t be about gifts. Even better? Encourage them to help. For example, they might be able to help you create Spotify playlists or come up with free holiday activities.
10. DIY decorations.
While decorations can be an expensive expense, there are many ways to save money on them. For instance, use your creativity to make your own decorations, such as wreaths, garlands, and ornaments. You can do this by using items you already have, natural items like pinecones, or free holiday printables.
Additionally, a dollar store or a craft store are also good places to find affordable decorations.
11. Potluck-style gatherings.
Think about hosting a potluck-style event for your Christmas party or gathering. By doing this, you can save money on food and drinks, and everyone contributes something to the party.
12. Plan your meals ahead of time.
You can save money on groceries by planning your meals in advance. Prepare an inventory of all the meals you’ll need to prepare, and then go shopping for the ingredients accordingly. When buying groceries, look for deals and discounts, and consider buying in bulk for items you use often.
13. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop.
Look for sales all year long, not just on Black Friday. Don’t miss out on that stuffed TRex on clearance in July for your nephew who loves dinosaurs. By spreading out your spending and stress throughout the year, you’ll reduce both the amount spent and the amount of stress you’ll experience.
Did you miss the early shopping rush this year? Consider it when you plan your next Christmas budget in, wait for it, January.
14. Implement the envelope system.
You should leave your credit and debit cards at home if you are going out and about. Set aside a certain amount of money for each gift and place it in an envelope marked with the name of the recipient. Once it’s spent, you’re done shopping.
After all, the last thing you want is a hefty credit card bill in January!
15. Don’t take part in random gift exchanges.
You might look like you’re emulating Scrooge if you do this. Nevertheless, you should stop exchanging white elephant gifts at your workplace, small group, or book club.
Even without these social pressures, Christmas is expensive enough. It’s okay to say no, but just be kind.
16. Invest in a group gift.
Even “token” gifts can add up when exchanging presents with a large group of people, such as at work. Instead, organize a “white elephant” exchange, a Secret Santa strategy, or a gift exchange with colleagues.
17. Plan a Pollyanna or Secret Santa gift exchange.
A Pollyanna, or Secret Santa if you prefer, involves people buying gifts for one another at Christmas. In fact, this is something that my siblings and I still do to save money. You can, however, use this at work or with friends.
As well as helping you save money when you are broke, it makes shopping less stressful.
18. This year, allow yourself to skip some things.
Christmas shouldn’t have to cost us a fortune, right? Consequently, it might mean giving up expensive things and replacing them with free ones.
Listed below are some things you can give up during the Christmas season without missing out on the magic:
- Advent Calendars
- Gifts for extended family and friends
- Expensive gifts, like family vacations
- New decorations and ornaments
- Stocking stuffers
Although these options are all perfectly acceptable, you don’t have the money at the moment. If you feel guilty about skipping out on these unnecessary expenses, you can write yourself a permission slip.
19. Skip the Christmas cards.
There is no better example of a deceptively expensive item than greeting cards. Most greeting cards cost between $2 and $5.Adding on the cost of postage and multiplying that by all your loved ones could add up to a steep bill.
For a cost-effective Christmas, consider free and low-cost alternatives like:
- Sending e-cards
- Making your own Christmas cards
- Buying your cards when on clearance or in-bulk
- Calling or Zoomng a friend or family member
20. Save on wrapping paper.
Each year, Americans spend over $12.7 billion on gift wrap. By 2030, the gift-wrapping product market is expected to reach $32,314.35 million, up from $19,493.67 million in 2021!
Here are a few alternatives to wrapping paper that won’t cost you a fortune:
- Buy in bulk. A dollar store like Dollar Tree, Dollar General, or Family Dollar sells wrapping paper in bulk.
- Shop after Christmas. It is common for retailers to clear their stores of bulky, inexpensive items such as wrapping paper after Christmas.
- Check thrift stores. Wrapping paper is often available at thrift stores for $0.50 to $1 per roll.
- Buy tissue paper. Rather than wrapping paper, you can use tissue paper and decorate it with ribbons or other decorations.
- Use what you have. Aluminum foil and newspaper make great wrapping paper.
- Make your own. To make your presents look seamless, you can make your own reusable gift bags or use double-sided tape.
21. Hit up the dollar store.
Put pride aside. There is everything you need at a dollar store, including ornaments, decorations, wrapping paper, and even gifts. There are also candles, glass vases, and other home décor items available for just $1!
Plus, you don’t have to pay for shipping like you would with Amazon.
22. Make a list…and check it twice.
You should make a list of gifts you plan to purchase and stick to it. It’s the same with any meals, decorations, or activities you’re planning.
It’s important to remember that going off the list means overspending!
23. Find extra money.
As you’ve already figured out, my focus has been on ways to celebrate Christmas without spending money. However, you can still solve the problem by finding ways to earn extra income.
In the same breath, I caution you against overstretching yourself during this busy time of year.
As a helpful tip, I made use of the food in my freezer and cupboards during a “no-buy week.” By doing this, I saved money for Christmas.
You can also sell things around your house that you are no longer using or start a side business.
24. Celebrate late.
It’s possible to stretch your budget further by celebrating Christmas late if you’re struggling to afford it.
It is not uncommon for retailers to offer significant discounts in the days immediately following Christmas to sell their leftover inventory. If you want to stock up on non-perishables for next year, take advantage of these sales.
It’s also a busy time around the holidays for travel. According to the 2023 Deloitte Holiday Travel Survey, nearly half of Americans plan to travel between Thanksgiving and the middle of January. In spite of this, you can avoid crowds by postponing your trip until January. In addition to cheaper flights, you can also find cheaper accommodations.
In short, airlines consider January and February to be dead zones. Therefore, this is the time of year to get the cheapest airfare. So, if you want to celebrate the holidays, you might just want to wait until the new year.
25. Embrace the spirit of the season.
There is more to Christmas than gifts and decorations. During this time of year, you can share joy and goodwill with family and friends. Spending less money on Christmas is possible if you pay attention to the real meaning of the holiday.
It is most important to spend time with loved ones and create memories that will last a lifetime during Christmas. Take advantage of this special time of year by not letting financial stress get in the way. A budget-friendly Christmas can be achieved with some creativity and planning.
How can I plan an affordable Christmas?
The following tips will help you plan a budget-friendly Christmas:
- Set a budget. Make sure you know how much you can spend on gifts, decorations, food, and other holiday expenses before you begin shopping.
- Start shopping early. Deals and discounts are more likely to be found if you start shopping early.
- Make a list of who you need to buy gifts for and stick to it. Having a list of those you need to buy and sticking to it will prevent you from getting carried away when shopping.
- Consider homemade gifts. You can make homemade gifts at a lower cost than buying store-bought ones, and they’re just as thoughtful and appreciated as their store-bought counterparts.
- Get creative with gift wrapping. You don’t have to buy expensive wrapping paper and ribbons to make your gifts look festive. Make your own recycled materials or use brown paper and twine.
- Cook a festive meal at home instead of eating out. Saving money by cooking a festive meal at home can be a great alternative to eating out.
- Find free or low-cost holiday activities. Taking part in a local holiday parade or festival, going caroling, or visiting a free Christmas tree exhibit are some of the free or low-cost holiday activities you can enjoy with friends and family.
What are some affordable gift ideas?
A few affordable gift ideas are listed below:
- Homemade gifts. Gifts that are homemade are just as thoughtful and appreciated as gifts that are purchased from a store. There are many homemade gifts you can make, including baked goods, candles, soaps, and jewelry.
- Gift cards. A gift card is always a safe bet, and grocery stores and drugstores often offer discounts on them.
- Experiences. It is more memorable to receive an experience rather than a material gift. You can give the gift of an experience by purchasing tickets to a concert or sporting event, a massage or spa treatment certificate, or museum or zoo tickets.
- Books. There is nothing better than a book as a gift for people of all ages and interests. Online retailers and thrift stores often sell books.
- Gifts that give back. It is possible to make a donation instead of a gift to many charities. Giving back to the community and making a difference in others’ lives is the perfect way to give back.
How can I save money on decorations?
For decorating on a budget, here are some tips:
- Use recycled materials. By recycling cardboard, paper, and plastic bottles, you can create your own decorations.
- Shop at thrift stores. At a fraction of the cost of new decorations, thrift stores offer gently used decorations.
- Make your own decorations. DIY decoration tutorials are available on many blogs and websites.
- Borrow decorations from friends and family. You may be able to borrow decorations from friends and family if you only need them for a few weeks.
- Get creative with your decorating. Creating a festive atmosphere in your home doesn’t have to cost a lot. Utilize what you already have and get creative with your decorating.
What are some ways to save money on food?
You can save money on food during the holidays by following these tips:
- Plan your meals. You don’t need to buy more food than you need if you plan your meals ahead of time.
- Cook in bulk. Whenever possible, cook in bulk and freeze leftovers.
- Shop at discount grocery stores. The quality of food available at discount grocery stores is the same as that at name-brand stores but at a fraction of the cost.
- Buy in bulk. Non-perishable items can be cheaper when purchased in bulk if you have the space.
- Grow your own food. You can save a lot of money by growing your own food if you have a green thumb.
How can I make the holidays more about spending time with loved ones than about spending money?
To make the holidays more about spending time with loved ones than spending money, follow these tips:
- Focus on traditions and activities. Spend your time with your loved ones enjoying traditions and activities instead of buying gifts. You can bake cookies with your family, go caroling, and watch holiday movies as traditions and activities.
- Volunteer your time. Making a difference in the lives of others by volunteering your time is a great way to give back to your community.
- Set realistic expectations. Make sure you aren’t putting too much pressure on yourself to make everything perfect. It’s just a matter of relaxing and enjoying the company of your loved ones.
- Be mindful of your spending. During the holidays, it’s easy to overspend, so keep your spending in check.