First of all, good on you for looking to do Christmas on a budget (whether you chose to or were forced, I don’t care). Many people think Christmas budgeting is for the birds… crazy quacks. You though, my friend, are very wise, so let’s talk about how to do Christmas on a budget… and still feel the magic.
Related resources that will help you keep Christmas special while sticking to a budget:
- Life-Saving Christmas Budgeting Hacks
- Budgeting Binder- (Great for those new to, or struggling with budgeting).
- The 7 Bank Accounts Every Family Should Have
Why You're a total boss for doing christmas on a budget
I just want to throw this in for those of you who may feel a little embarrassed or ashamed that you need to do Christmas on a budget this year… and perhaps a tight one at that.
Let me tell you this: You are an absolute, total boss and deserve some type of award. The easy thing to do during the holidays is to go hog wild. It takes self-control and a whole lot of strength to set and stick to a budget anyway, let alone during the holidays. But you’re doing it! You’re so cool! Don’t let comparison get you down. When the holidays are over, you’ll be the one enjoying the new year while everyone else is drowning in debt. So keep your chin up, blinders on, and stay happy my friend.
Tips for doing christmas on a budget (and not losing the magic)
We’ve been married seven years now and still haven’t had a Christmas where we aren’t on an extremely tight budget. In those seven years, we went through two job losses, five job transitions and unemployment, are growing our family and paid for my hubby’s master degree in cash. So there has always been something seriously limiting us financially, but that’s life right? So instead of ignoring that fact, we have worked hard to love the Christmas season despite the financial limitation we have experienced… and so should you.
Here are eight of my favorite ideas to make Christmas on a budget not only do-able, but enjoyable and oh, so special.
1. Focus on Traditions instead of gifts
Christmas is so much more than just December 25th. Start putting the magic into the season well before the big day comes and take the pressure off of having to make Christmas day a financial knockout. When you think back to your Christmas’s past, what traditions stand out?
My grandma passed away before I met her, but my dad brings her to life every year when he pulls out her chocolate recipes for his annual chocolate party. We help make centers as he tells stories, some of them new, some I’ve already heard 100 times, but I get to know a small piece of her as I listen. It’s magical to me and has become a nostalgia I long for.
Instead of spending a lot of money on gifts, spend more time making traditions with your own little family. And for heaven’s sake, don’t make it overwhelming. It can be something as simple as doing a candy cane hunt around the house with your kids (or spouse because who doesn’t love a good competition) or just driving around the neighborhood to see Christmas lights. Maybe it’s coloring a Christmas picture, or even painting snow. Whatever it is, focus on spending more TIME with those you love instead of spending more money on them. Here are some ideas you could start as traditions with your family:
- “Snow Painting”- Dye a few bowls of water different colors with food coloring then bring in a cookie sheet of snow and let them paint the snow before it melts. Even better, stick them in the tub for zero mess.
- “Candy Cane Hunt”- hide candy canes around the house and let your kids find them.
- “Secret Service Santa”- Do service for a family member without getting caught.
- “Christmas Coloring Pages”- A favorite at our house-print the same coloring page for everyone and color it together while sipping hot chocolate.
- “Lip Sync Christmas Caroling”- Go caroling except hide a Bluetooth speaker in your coat or somewhere on the front porch and do a Christmas version of Lip Sync Idol.
- “Neighborhood Photo Scavenger Hunt”- Head out in different teams with a list of Christmas related items you have to take a picture with. The first team back gets a prize. Create a shared photo album and watch the slideshow of photos once everyone is back at the house.
- “Bigger or Better” Service Edition”- Instead of just asking for bigger or better items, ask if you could serve them in a “bigger or better” way than the house previous. It would be so neat to come home after helping an elderly widow move heavy furniture, or clean up dishes for a young mom or shovel snow for a neighbor. Talk about alllll the feels.
I’m telling ya, family traditions are so special. My wonderful husband started doing a chocolate kiss trail from our kids’ rooms to the Christmas tree and it has quickly become my most favorite thing…. like, ever. I always lay awake Christmas morning waiting for my little people to find the Kiss trail because their squeaky, thrilled little voices are too much for me to handle. So special.
Whatever you decide, make it yours and own it, honey
2. DOn't be shy about thrift shops
Embrace the thrift shop darlin’! We live in a time of overproduction taking the phrase “out with the old, in with the new” to be too much of a cultural norm. The good news for those of us doing Christmas on a budget is that second-hand stores are serious gold-mines if you don’t mind… digging (haha…. couldn’t help myself).
Plus, little people are so wonderful. They don’t care if something is used, they just enjoy the excitement of the season. Relish in the satisfaction of buying something awesome for next to nothing, take it home, wash it and wrap it up. I recently attended a second-hand event in my area and actually found multiple items that had never been used, still with tags on them! #thankyouverymuch
3. INTENTIONALLY LIMIT OR STAY OFF MEDIA
In 2015, the average person saw between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. Um… what?? That is insane. And then again when I listen to Spotify I’m forced to listen to 3-4 ads just between every few songs, and that’s only one source of media I use every day.
If you intentionally stay off of media you’ll limit the ads you interact with and will, therefore, lessen the influence they have on you and ultimately save money! Just go on a media fast and enjoy the blissful ignorance that comes with it. You’ll save oodles!
4. Theme your Christmas
When all my siblings hit the late teen-early twenties stage, we went through a phase where we themed our Christmases. It was mostly my older sister’s doing and we still tease her about it to this day, but one year we had a “homemade” Christmas (hilarious), and another year we did colors (everyone was assigned a color and the gift you got them had to be their color… mine was yellow).
But now that I’m a wife and parent whose love language is NOT gifts, I totally love the idea. It makes things a bit easier since gifting is like a foreign language to me and spending oodles “just because I should” makes me a little hard to handle.
Here are some fun themes you could do for Christmas on a budget:
- “Get Your MOVE On”– Everyone gets something that makes them get out and move! (I think I’m going to push this one with the hubs this year… maybe I’ll finally get those snowshoes I’ve always “sort of” wanted).
- “Self-development”– Everyone gets to sign up and take a class of their choice. I’d totally try a kickboxing class right now… what about you?
- “No Name Christmas”– No names on gifts. Randomly open one and decide to keep it or give it to someone who would like it more than you.
- “Stockings Only”– Exactly like it sounds. Gifts must fit in stockings.
- “Vacation for Christmas”– NO physical gifts, just good ol’ quality time. Definitely my type of gift. And, if you use Pomelo Travel, which I am shameless about promoting (because they found deals that got us to Ireland for $179 RT), you could easily do a family vacation cheaper than a regular “gifty” Christmas.
5. Do anything but go into debt
What would you do differently in January if you weren’t paying off Christmas debt? I remember reading an article from a local news station last year around tax season from a man frustrated with the new tax adjustments our state implemented. He said that he had four daughters and went a little overboard on Christmas and the entire intent while making the purchases was to use his tax return to pay off the debt. Well with the new adjustments, he didn’t get a return big enough to cover his debt.
That’s absolutely insane to me, but people do it… perhaps you do it. I don’t care if you’re reading this the week before Christmas, don’t go into debt. Work hard to make do with what you have now and then save for next Christmas. Use the 12 months leading up to Christmas to save up instead of robbing your future self. You’ve got to stop the debt cycle sooner or later. Why not make that right now?
6. Something to Wear, Something to do, Something to read + Something for fun
This is our current gifting model of choice with our children. It’s too easy to go bonkers shopping so this is really for my hubby and I. It limits ourselves and therefore, limits our spending and that is a beautiful thing.
I’ve noticed that there are some other hidden benefits from choosing to model your Christmas shopping after this method too. I have little people in my house right now and doing this has kept the house from being overly-cluttered with too many toys, and I really feel like it helps avoid growing entitlement in our kids. Time will tell.
It’s easy enough. You purchase something to wear, something to read, something to do (think concert tickets or a snowboarding pass) and then something fun- like the toy they asked Santa for, if you want to go that route. And that’s it! I also love that this helps my children understand that gifts come and can be given in many different forms.
7. INtentionally Plan your shopping Purchases now
Deals are coming your way honey, and not just on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Don’t be caught off guard or you’ll spend like a sucker.
My husband and I always sit down before Black Friday and write down what we want to get everyone in a notebook to simplify things and make sure we were on the same page. This year, I’ve upped my game and made a spreadsheet (you can use it too if you’d like- just click to copy, then share it with your spouse so you can both add to it).
I love simplicity, so it’s an easy concept. We just put down the ideas of things we want to get our loved ones and then on Black Friday we search for deals on those items. If we strike out, we do the same thing on Cyber Monday. If we strike out again, we watch through the following weeks for the item to go on sale if we really want it. We are no longer last-minute shopping, scratching our heads about what to get someone and oooooh baby do we save so much cash. I love it.
8. MAKE CHRIST THE CENTER OF IT ALL
Most of all, and definitely the tip that will have the biggest impact on your life is this: if you are feeling like your holiday season is lacking something, add more Christ. Sing about Christ, talk about Him with your family and children, read about Him and do things He would do.
The adversary wants to keep us as far away from Christ as he can and he uses distraction during the holidays. Less is definitely more when it comes to the holidays, but that’s not what Satan would want you to believe. He wants you to buy all the things, do all the things, eat all the things and stress yourself out to the max so you forget the only reason we even celebrate Christmas. If he can do that, he’s won, and you are miserable.
If you find you’re feeling “meh” during the holidays, make Christ the central focus and see how it goes. With your mind more on the Savior and less on how you can or should spend money, the right things will fall into place, including your budget. Promise.