Your Ultimate Guide to Christmas on a Budget

I once heard that the best gift we can give our kids is a happy mom. While I wholeheartedly believe that’s true, the holiday season is fast approaching and many kids are composing wishlists with many different types of gifts. While the lists are mounting, mom-stress (and the inevitable mom-guilt) mounts just as quickly. 

Don’t worry! Just follow these 16 tips for a happy, stress- and guilt-free holiday season.

Gift Giving

Limit the Number of Gifts

The most obvious solution to spending less this holiday season is to buy less!

When planning gifts, a popular mantra to follow is: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” This clever approach provides a structure that limits the number of gifts being purchased and ensures variety. Additionally, it can help children learn to recognize the difference between wants and needs (a valuable, life-long lesson!). 

Go Homemade

This idea may seem great in theory, but can be a little tricky to put into practice. If you have an obvious talent, such as crocheting, it can be straight-forward; however, it can also end up being more expensive than anticipated, considering supplies, time, and energy. Take time to ensure your effort will be appreciated, before investing your energy. You can also consider outsourcing to small business owners for a few meaningful quality gifts, versus purchasing a pile of less expensive, impersonal ones.  

Pay it Forward 

While opening gifts is inarguably one of the most exciting parts of the season, it can be fleeting. Instead, provide your children the memorable opportunity of paying it forward to others! 

Try limiting the family gifts and invest, instead, on gifting a family in need through a community secret Santa program. Your children can participate in service projects, donate to food or clothing drives, and volunteer their time with community organizations.  

Embrace Experiences

The “toy of the year” may be today’s hot ticket item; but in a few months, a couple weeks, or even days, your child may have forgotten the Christmas morning thrill of unwrapping that expensive, hard-to-find toy and left it to gather dust in a closet, or under their bed. They are less likely to forget experiences, particularly those with family and loved ones. 

Family trips, classes, or even subscription boxes can provide a wealth of memories for a lifetime. While the gift of an “experience” can be expensive upfront, you may be surprised to see you end up saving money in the long run, by investing in something lasting. 

Create Quality Time 

Make new traditions by spending quality time with friends and family, instead of spending money. A free, but just as meaningful, gift could be coupons! 

Play a game, listen to an audio book, or take a walk. Video calls are also a great option for far away loved ones. 

Try Regifting

The concept of regifting gets a bad reputation, but can be a truly great option! Obviously, you want to be considerate. Keep in mind the recipient, and make sure the gift is something they would actually want. It also needs to be in good shape (preferably something unopened, or still new with tags), but “like new” can be appreciated and helpful.

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Skip the Gifts

Communicate with friends and acquaintances ahead of time and agree to skip gift exchanges altogether! Say no to obligatory gift exchanges at work or elsewhere, if they aren’t in your budget. Your coworker may appreciate one less gift to buy as much as you do! 

Smart Shopping

Shop Early

In addition to participating in sales events, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shopping early can help avoid the time-anxiety rush that has many of us frantically scrambling and often overspending.  

Save on Shipping 

Shopping early will help you avoid paying extra for shipping, but it’s not the only way to save. Look at ship-to-store savings. Many companies will offer a discount if you choose to have your purchase shipped to their store for pick-up, rather than to your house. If you have a lot of people to shop for, try buying from the same location, so you only pay for shipping once. 

Utilize Your Resources

Do you have an old gift card kicking around with some cash still on it? Any points, or free gifts, you can redeem through memberships? Put them to good use, rather than breaking into your bank account. 

Another great option to take advantage of is group gifts. With everyone pitching in, you can still participate in getting someone a gift they will truly appreciate, without tackling the giant price tag all on your own!

Stick to the List

Resist the urge to buy things spontaneously. Just as you shouldn’t go grocery shopping while hungry, you don’t want to go Christmas shopping without a plan. Set a spending limit and stick to your list. Those little, extra gifts here and there can add up! 

Gift Wrapping

Don’t pay extra for gift wrapping. Wrap gifts yourself, and don’t be afraid to go a little unconventional. The comic section of the newspaper can be fun wrapping paper, or even painting Amazon boxes in a creative way, skipping the paper altogether! 

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Finding Extra Cash

Get a Part-time Job

Seasonal positions are often available at locations receiving an influx of business during the holiday season. Look at retail locations, restaurants, and tourist attractions to see if they are offering any part-time positions for some extra Christmas cash. 

Offer Seasonal Conveniences

If you find yourself short on cash but wealthy with time, you could reach out to the community and offer services, such as wrapping gifts, baking holiday goods, or making Christmas cards. If you’re feeling ambitious, and not afraid of heights, hanging Christmas lights is another popular holiday activity to outsource. Those who enjoy the personal touch, but don’t have the time, will happily pay someone else to do it for them. 

Reassess Your Budget

Don’t spend money on traditions that don’t suit you. If the white elephant gift exchange stresses you out, skip it and invest your cash elsewhere! Cancel subscriptions and take advantage of holiday deals, such as discounted memberships. 

Host a Sale

There’s nothing more classic than raising extra funds with a rummage sale. Sell unwanted items at a garage or yard sale and declutter your house for the holidays at the same time! First, check with local regulations to make sure you don’t need a permit, and then get to selling! 

If you live somewhere cold, this may be better to do ahead of time, like summer or fall, and save the profits for the holidays. Enlist neighbors to participate, so you can draw a crowd, and perhaps even advertise some of those seasonal conveniences, like gift wrapping. Donating good-condition items is also a great option to keep in mind during this time of year. If you don’t absolutely need the cash, your donations could make someone’s day! 

Ultimately, the idea of gift giving is to show your love and care for one another; and you don’t have to break the bank to do this! There are many free, or inexpensive, options for giving this holiday season, which you can take advantage of. 

It may sound cheesy, but it truly is the thought that counts. 

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