christmas on a budget

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Tis the season to be jolly, or so the song goes. In reality, it can be a drain on us financially which can weigh in the next year if we aren’t careful. CNBC said that Americans racked up more than $1,000 in holiday debt at the end of last year. In this article, I want to give you my top tips on how to enjoy Christmas on a budget

Christmas for me is about family and friends, I’ve made mistakes in the past of going over budget to buy gifts or to celebrate the season. I’ve put together my top 10 tips to help you if you’re like me and have spent too much in the past.

1. To do Christmas on a budget you need to make one

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

It may seem hard to think that Christmas can be as expensive as you make it. UK money advice website moneysavingexpert says the key first is to work out what you can afford.

And this I have found to be true, too often in the past I have been thinking of the perfect gift to get my family and friends when in fact the first step is to work from your budget then find a gift within that budget.

Gifts of course are just one aspect of the holiday season, don’t forget to budget for groceries, social nights, work events, and travel. Those things that you only do once a year can soon take you over budget.

Remember Christmas is just one day of the year, don’t let it ruin the rest of your year!

2. Use extra discounts

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Once you have a list and specific budget its time to look at how you can get the best value for money! Make sure you’re shopping smart this season by using all of the tricks in the book. Here are some of my favorites:

Sites like honey search and find the best discount codes for you, make sure you download and install the extension on your browser. It will then tell you when on any website if there are deals to be had.

Amazon deal finder

If you just want to find the best deals on Amazon within your budget then use the deal finder which can be found by following the below steps. This will let you browse by your budget and see Amazons deals that are on for limited periods.

1) Go to Amazon on your full web browser Click here to do so

2) Click todays deals in the top bar

3) on the left bar select your budget and discount level

Cashback sites

Don’t forget to utilize cashback sites to gain any extra savings on your purchases sites like Quidco (UK) and (US) are great and the best part is that they are free!

Join the mailing list

Often when signing up to a website mailing list as a new customer you can bag yourself at least a 10% extra discount. Don’t worry if you have used one before, just go and sign up with a different email address. Google email addresses are free to sign up for and you can sign up here.

3. Don’t buy what you already have

Before you buy any decorations or wrapping paper check what you already have from previous years and can you can use it. The video below shows how you can save money on wrapping paper by using items you probably already have around the house.

Then thinking about next year consider saving paper from presents you open to save money in years to come. In my home we now have a drawer where we keep gift bags and wrapping paper that is still in great condition and can be used again. Its also handy for sometimes last minute gifts.

4. Upcycle to save on the unimportant stuff!

Ok this ones not everyones thing but it can save money and create some great activities if you have children. The tip on this one is not to get carried away in decorations as the cost can add up. Think about what you already have around the home that you could upcycle and make into something for the holiday season. Check out the video below for some great inspiration!

5. Buy gifts that aren’t expensive

This goes back to making a budget and not going overboard with expensive gifts. Sometimes we can feel the pressure of buying expensive gifts because we feel that it is expected of us. The question to ask yourself is that would your family and friends really want you to put yourself in debt for the sake of a day? i’m sure the answer is probably not.

If you are worried that your family and friends will spend more then talk to them before hand. You could all decide to set a christmas present budget, this could create a bit of fun around the normally stressful time. It’s easy to go and spend $200 on a present but getting a great one for under $20 can be a challenge!

6. Gift exchanges

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

A friend of mine told me about this one and I thought it was a really great idea. Rather than spending lets say $50 on each family member (and potentially buying thigns they dont want/need) the whole family partipate in a secret santa with a set budget.

So let’s say you would normally go to your family and there are 6 of you and you spend roughly $50 on each family member (so around $250). The family would instead write a list of what they would like and a budget of lets say $100. You draw from a hat the family members name and you just buy one present. This means everyone gets a present, everyone saves money and you are buying what people want.

Pretty genius I thought, afterall christmas is about family and not endless opening of presents.

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7. Agree to buy gifts in the sale

If you all insist on going ahead with present buying you could make a pact to buy them in the sale. This method does take away from the day you are all together though but would allow you to stay on budget as you could gift a gift card.

8. Dont do unnecessary gifts

So by now hopefully you have budget in mind. But my next question is are you buying for people you barely see? Too often at Christmas we buy for friends and distant family. Do you need to or are you both just spending money out of what you perceive is right? To do Christmas on a budget you really need to think whats essential.

Let’s start with your friends they too will have family and likely it is a tight time for them too, why not agree on a secret Santa with a $20 or $30 limit? Or just agree to go out for Christmas drinks. I did this with my friends a few years back and it saved me a bit of cash. Check out my other article on secret Santa gifts if you want some gift inspiration.

Distant family, again just agree a limit i am sure they might be relieved to save the money themselves too. I’m sure you will agree its hard buying for someone who you barely see.

9. Sell stuff you haven’t used since last Christmas

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Do you have presents you haven’t used since last Christmas? or items lying around the house that haven’t been used in over a year? Well sell them and pocket the extra cash! You can use sites like eBay or for bigger items and the free listing Facebook marketplace is a great way to sell stuff for not paying fees.

10. Get a short term side hustle

If you are really struggling at Christmas you might want to consider doing a short term side hustle to earn a few extra bits of cash. Swagbucks could be a great one to do.

11. Start thinking about next year

Now you are a master at doing christmas on a budget, don’t forget to use what you know for next year.

The boxing day sales are great for picking items up for next year at the fraction of the cost. Wrapping paper, decorations can all be bought cheap in the sales if you do find yourself needing to stock up for next year. But only buy it if you actually neeed it and will use it otherwise its not a saving.

Then add up everthing you have spent this year so you have a realistic budget for next year, use this information to put aside a nominal amount aside each month for the rest of the year so that christmas doesnt create in a whole in your budget next year.


Christmas is great and my favourite time of the year but the joy doesn’t come from spending money it comes from spending time with your loved ones. Don’t get into debt like I have in the past over one day of the year. Hopefully some of these tips are useful and will will help you enjoy Christmas on a budget! Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments below.

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About the author 

Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is a passionate advocate for financial freedom. She is the founder of MeMoreMoney, and a featured Personal Finance expert in GO Banking Rates and Yahoo! Finance. Mary loves to make money simple and understandable for everyone. Her goal is to help people make simple changes so that they have more money to live the way they want.

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