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Tips to save money during the holidays


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We can all use more tips to save money during the holidays.  

Let’s think through the categories of spending during the holidays and go through them individually.

  • Food
  • ​Gifts
  • ​Christmas Cards
  • Decorations
  • Special clothing
  • Gift wrapping

But first!

Before we dive into our money-saving tips, we first need to talk about something…

The people in your life that you want to bless this Christmas; they don’t want you to go into debt for them. 

Your loved ones do not want to see you spending in ways that are irresponsible all in the name of giving them a “magical” Christmas. 

Yes, I’m even talking about kids. They wouldn’t express it quite so clearly, but they certainly can tell when the family is tense or having financial stress. (Maybe not always, but kids are often more attune than we give them credit for.)

So, our goal this year should be a debt-free holiday! 

woman throwing snow in the air wearing a fur trimmed coat and stocking hat.

Let’s enjoy a Christmas that is within our spending limit so we don’t have a heart-attack when the credit card statements arrive after the new year.

With a little pre-planning and grit, we can do this. It’s going to be awesome.

Make a plan and stick to the plan.

The first step to your holiday preparations is to make a plan.  Write down what day you will be having get togethers. Plan out what food you will serve and when. 

Write out a list of people to buy (or make) gifts for. Write out a recipient list for Christmas cards (if you choose to do those). 

green coffee mug next to a notebook with a "tis the season" sticker on the front.

I like to keep track from year to year, which has really helped ease the decision making fatigue that happens every fall. 

It’s been so helpful to see what I did last year, and I can better embrace the holiday time of year. 

This is a really easy way to keep traditions going yearly.

Assess the situation.

Once you have everything written down for your holiday plans, you will likely feel relieved to see your manageable tasks. If you look at your plans and feel completely overwhelmed, I’d encourage you to cut a few things out.

Celebrating the birth of Christ should not be the most dreaded season of the year!

If it’s turned into something you don’t enjoy, then please reconstruct your holiday celebrations.

Holiday meals and food planning.

With the planning of food items, try to pick recipes that have repeat ingredients.

For instance, if you want to make a new Christmas cookie recipe that features almond flour, try to find another recipe that uses almond flour also. This way, you will use ingredients up instead of wasting a majority of a bag of almond flour (or any other ingredient you don’t typically use). 

Gingerbread cookies with royal icing surrounded by ornaments, cinnamon sticks, evergreen sprigs, and pine cones.

Buying food items in bulk will greatly reduce your grocery bill. This is especially wonderful for baking supplies. Of course, you should only buy in bulk ingredients that you truly need a lot of. (But you already knew that.)

Also, don’t be afraid to shop the sales! Before you make your shopping list make sure you check which grocery stores are having the best deals for holiday meals. 

I’m from a very small town, and even our grocery store has fabulous markdowns on a great selection of holiday food items and baking supplies. 

Your holiday meals don’t have to be extravagant or unique, either. I want to encourage you to serve anything you are comfortable serving. 

fancy white table laden with rolled napkins, white plates, gold flatware, and a beautiful holiday feast.

​Holiday spending

When we say “Holiday purchases” most of us will automatically think about the gift list. There are many “holiday purchases” we will inevitably be making (mindfully, I hope), but a huge proportion will be on gifts.

According to this study, 71% of holiday expenses is spent on gifts. That’s a huge percentage! We need to be intentional here.

If you need a little help with WHAT to give to your loved ones for gifts, please check out my post on “How to give a thoughtful gift to anyone.” 

wrapped gifts under a tree adorned with lights and ornaments.

The gift list

When you’re planning how much money to spend for each gift recipient, aim for the high end of the price potential. This way if you come in under budget you will be pleasantly surprised.

If you want to save some money on handmade gifts, just be sure to account for how much time that will take. (Sometimes our time is even more precious than money!)  That’s not to say we need to be buying expensive gifts for everyone on our list so we can save on time. 

Remember: our loved ones don’t want us going into debt!

This is important to remember as we get into the holiday spirit. 

Some people have the personality to start shopping for Christmas gifts in early October. If that’s you, then GO TEAM! 

woman smiling in a red robe while she writes out a holiday shopping list with a Christmas tree in the background.

But If you can’t mentally bring yourself to “Christmas shop” before Thanksgiving, then that’s great too. You’re going to be just fine, I promise.

In fact, if you’re getting gifts for young kids, you may want to wait until a little closer to Christmas because their interests can change every few months.

Also, kids are not going to be checking the prices of their gifts and comparing with their siblings to be sure everyone received the exact same dollar amount in gifts.

Unless there’s a really obvious gap in gift grandeur, please don’t stress yourself out trying to get everything perfectly even between all the kids. (Like I said; unless it’s an obvious gap!) 

I used to find myself buying meaningless junky gifts because I was concerned about spending the exact same amount on every kid in the family, and would need a few dollars of “filler” gifts to make it all even.

Please don’t do that, unless you truly feel like a little extra gift is really needed.

woman holding three gift bags.

Then a great way to cut down on some of the spending on holiday gifts is to hit up some black Friday shopping. 

Now, I would also caution you to still pay attention to what prices are on “black Friday” deals.

Just because something says it’s a black Friday deal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s really a dramatically lowered price. If you have to spend extra to get the “deal” then please take a moment to consider if this is what you really need to be purchasing. 

Cyber Monday can also be worth checking into, especially if you live in a smaller town.  Often, you can find free shipping on a large purchase with the cyber Monday deals.

Again, just pay attention to what prices actually are, because sometimes they just slap a huge SALE ticket on the item to trick you into thinking it’s a great deal when it may only be slightly reduced. Try not to purchase things only because you see a great sale. 

​Have a plan and stick to your plan!

I know we’ve been discussing a lot about gifts, but remember, it accounts for 71% of the average people’s holiday spending! So, I just have a few more things to mention about gifts and then we will move on, I promise.

Group gifts. Giving a group gift instead of many smaller gifts to everyone on your list can be such a fun idea!

This could be a new board game for all the kids to enjoy together, or restaurant gift cards for all the couples in the family so they can enjoy a date night.

You can totally get creative here, but this is really something to consider as it will usually be a larger gift and make a big impact. But it will greatly reduce the number of gifts you will be buying and it can really save you money in the long-run. We dive deeper into group gifts in my post on staying sane during the holidays.

related: How to save your sanity this holiday season.

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Gift cards are also something to consider.

I’ve often said how I used to feel like purchasing a gift card was like admitting defeat.

But I’ve come around to the idea of gift cards. They’re so fun to receive, and it can be a great memory when you get to spend the gift card.

If you like the idea of gift cards, you may consider gifting a certificate for a massage, art class, pedicure, facial, or restaurant date night. These can be wonderful experience gifts. 

Don’t be swindled

Also, beware of credit card debt. If you find a credit card that gives you 2% cash back… think about it. That’s $2 back to you if you spend $100.

This is just something to be mindful of.

If you are absolutely certain you can pay off your credit card every month and treat it more like a debit card, then those points and cash back can be a nice thing to accrue. 

Holiday cards

Plan out the cost of holiday cards, and decide if those are a priority. The last few years, our number of Christmas cards we’ve received has dwindled to less than half.

It seems people are moving to a more digital option by just sharing a nice family photo on their social media, instead of sending out physical Christmas cards (and Christmas letters).  

Cutting this out could reduce your holiday spending by a huge percentage. Decide with your family members what your priorities will be for your Christmas. 

If Christmas cards are a special tradition, then please continue doing them! There will be other opportunities to cut back on our holiday expenses. 

Next let’s talk about decorations.

This is one of those categories that can quickly get out of hand and be rather unaccounted for.

This is where the impulse buys and random add-ons can really hurt you.

If you love Christmas (that’s me) then it’s really easy to want to bring home all of the pretty holiday cheer we see at the stores.

two women Christmas shopping outside holding many gift bags and wearing stocking hats.

We want to string holiday lights on every window in the house and deck our halls with boughs of holly!

So, one thing that has been a game-changer when it comes to holiday decor is finding as many reusable items as possible.

I don’t change out my tree ornaments yearly, I use fabric table cloths, we use things as long as we can.  

This will greatly reduce what you are purchasing every year, especially if you just slowly acquire things through the years. 

Also, we have found wonderful Christmas treasures during the summer yard sales. Hang on, hear me out!

This would probably break some people’s brains to think about Christmas in July, but some of us find a lot of joy in that. If you see a Christmas tree at a thrift store in the summer and you think “I can’t even…” then that’s totally okay!

There are plenty of ways to make holiday magic only in the designated holiday time.

If you want to refresh some of your decor for the holidays, don’t be afraid to ask around if anyone has any they are no longer using. Facebook marketplace can be a great resource. 

​Holiday outfits

Special clothing for the holiday season can be a really big expense, especially if you’re dressing a handful of kids.

When I had my first baby, I spent entirely too much time trying to find the perfect outfit for her first Christmas… and she wore it for approximately 23 minutes. I’ve since learned to loosen up a tad. 

When you are trying to find nice outfits for everyone to wear, try to pick pieces that are not too “holiday” specific. If you find things that are simply dressy winter outfits, then you can get a lot more wear out of them during the rest of the season.  

candlelight service at a church with people holding candles in the dark.

Maybe just don’t let the kids wear their outfits until the actual holiday event, to keep everything in nice condition!

​Gift wrapping

Lastly, I want to discuss gift wrapping.

If you like to use paper wrapping paper, I highly recommend buying a decent quality. The dollar store stuff is much cheaper in theory, but it tears so easily and usually you end up wasting quite a bit.  

Just get the good stuff and use it wisely. 

In some years past, when I was really trying to cut out unnecessary spending, I purchased butcher paper for gift wrapping. It was rustic and actually looked very cute! That might be a good option for you if you like the rustic look under your tree.

small gifts all wrapped in butcher paper, wrapped in twine of different colors all setting on a green table.

*My brother has been known to use old newspaper to wrap gifts. This is always a good laugh for everyone. So, if you have room for some comedic fun, I’d recommend trying that on a few gifts to save a little money.

But, what if this year, you opted for a fabric option!

You could save a little money buying some fabric that isn’t necessarily holiday specific (I’m getting a red pinstripe material) and fold the material around your gifts. You can use them for years and years to come, and you would only have to buy them once.

This would work best for gifts you are going to open at home, maybe you still want to use wrapping paper for the gifts you will give elsewhere.

One small thing you could do to save money on holiday spending is to open gifts slowly. This sounds like a subtle shift, but it has been a phenomenal way to stretch out the whole gift experience. Plus kids love actually getting to check out their new gift before opening another one!

family opening gifts in the living room with a tree in the corner.

Opening your gifts slowly will make it seem like there’s more of them. Or rather, it will emphasize the ones you’ve already purchased. It’s a richer experience as well.

We should be savoring our memories together.

A separate bank account

If you’re still looking to go harder on your holiday expenses this year, I would recommend having a specific holiday savings account, or a separate bank account just for holiday purchases.

You could put money into it throughout the entire year for the holiday season next year.

This may seem like an extreme measure, but sometimes we need to take drastic steps to ensure we are being good stewards with the resources we’ve been blessed with.

​Final encouragements

The best way to avoid financial strain this holiday season is to make a plan and stick to your plan.

You can do this, and you can ENJOY this Christmas. 

God bless you as we celebrate the birth of His Son.

If you’re looking for a fun subscription art box, please check out “Outside The Box Creation” We have loved using them! Get $20 off with the link above.

Hi, I’m Stephanie! I’m a Christian wife, mom of 4, homeschooler, and a technically trained chef. I love creating a simple, beautiful life with our sweet family.

I’m so glad you’re here!

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