It’s officially that time of year again: it’s the holiday season!
Sure, it’s crept forward a little bit, but when October 1st hits, that’s my cue to start thinking about all things holiday.
It’s hands-down my favorite time of year.
Understandably, though, the holiday season also gets a lot of people stressed out. During this time of year, there are more opportunities to spend money than ever before – and more pressure than ever to do so.
How can you keep to a budget while having a fun, meaningful holiday season? Trust me, it’s possible, and here are some tips that will help.
How To Budget For The Holidays
DIY gifts are a great way to save money on Christmas. You can make cheaper and more meaningful gifts than you’d ever be able to buy, and be able to afford to do so for more people on your list.
They might take some time, especially if you’re into more involved crafts (like knitting or crocheting) so planning ahead doesn’t hurt, but even if you’re not super crafty, this is still an idea for you. Just check out this list – none of them take a creative genius to make! https://www.busybudgeter.com/cheap-diy-christmas-gifts/
Remember to be careful with DIY gifts, though, because craft stores can be a huge money suck if you don’t go in with a set purpose in mind. Plan your visits in advance and put your blinders on – or, if you really don’t feel like you can watch yourself, shop online instead. The coupons still work, I promise.
Start an alternative tradition altogether.
There are so many fun alternatives to the super-expensive “buy a gift for every. Single. Person.” tradition.
There’s Secret Santa, which you could do with your friend/family groups – meaning you only have to get a gift or two for the whole season, and nobody on your list feels left out because they know that’s all you’re giving.
Our family tradition is to do a $10 Christmas https://www.busybudgeter.com/10-00-family-christmas-tradition/: basically, there’s a limit of $10 per person, and stuff you owned beforehand doesn’t count toward the limit. It’s really fun to see how creative everyone gets, and it limits both the money we all have to spend and the clutter we all accumulate.
You could also eschew gifts altogether in favor of going in on one big group event with your family/friends, like attending a performance or something together. That provides the warm fuzzies of doing stuff together during the holiday season and avoids amassing clutter completely.
White Elephant is always an option, but it depends on the people you do it with. If you think it’s going to get ugly, go ahead and cross this one off your list – it may not be worth the money saved!
Start shopping super early.
If you really, really want to get gifts for every person, this is the way to go. It gives you time to space out your purchases throughout the year and thus take advantage of any sales that come up.
Doing this takes some organization and preparation. Keep a list of everyone you want to buy for, plus some idea of what you’d like to get for them, then consult it whenever there’s a major sale.
Also, make sure to use that list to note when you buy something so you don’t forget and end up buying multiple gifts for the same person.
A good place to keep a list like this is on your phone, since you’ll probably always have it with you when you’re shopping.
You can read more tips on the best times to shop for the holidays here.
This strategy is also useful when it comes to shopping for kids. I mean, have you ever seen how drastically the price of toys gets reduced at Target after Christmas? It’s insane.
While you can’t necessarily predict what your kids will be into come next Christmas, you can try to get some “evergreen” toys that they’ll enjoy regardless – stuff like books, or even special Christmas pajamas – then fill it in later with more “specific” stuff as you’d like.
Speaking of shopping for kids…
Limit gifts for kids.
This sounds kind of sad, especially if you’re used to huge, lavish Christmases, but it really doesn’t have to be. Kids don’t always need as much as we think they do.
After all, I know I’m not the only parent who’s had their kid attach to the one present I was most excited to give them, and the rest end up getting donated a few months down the road.
Choose gifts for your kids thoughtfully. I love the idea of the want/need/wear/read gift categories, but even if you go with all toys, try to go for stuff that’s versatile.
For instance, if your 3-year-old really likes cars, I get how appealing that race track toy is – but realize it will probably only get played with for a few days, then it’ll be tossed aside because it only does one thing.
Instead, you could spend your money on a few new cars for him, then get creative with different race tracks – even just masking tape on the floor. He’ll have way more fun for way less money – and you’ll end up with less clutter around the house.
Take advantage of post-holiday sales.
The best time ever to buy stuff like stockings, stocking hangers, lights, and pretty much everything else is in the days following Christmas.
Lights especially get crazy cheap. We’ve bought the LED ones we like best for less than a dollar a box during post-holiday sales. We always buy a few extra to make sure we don’t end up having to rush out in the middle of December because our lights burned out prematurely.
You might not be able to take advantage of this tip this Christmas, but totally take advantage of it for next year!
Invest in an artificial tree.
Real trees are so awesome and so beautiful, and you can’t beat that smell. I get it! But they can also be really expensive every year. I’m not sure you can get a real one for under $60 these days!
Artificial trees, on the other hand, are more realistic looking than ever, and you can get one you can use year after year for not much more than what you’d spend each year. I mean, they have super expensive ones too, so spend your money wisely, but when you consider cost per use, you’ll come out ahead before too long.
Plus, you can buy “scent capsules” to put in the tree so you still get the nice scent throughout your house.
Another bonus: no worrying about watering the darn thing!
Keep it simple.
You don’t have to be the owner of “that house” in the neighborhood to get into the holiday spirit: you know, the one who goes the whole nine yards on lights and inflatable decorations, that kind of thing.
Could you maybe be just as happy with a simple string of lights along the roof of your house and a few holiday-themed things inside, even if it’s mostly some free printables you found on Pinterest?
Sure, it’s not lavish. But maybe that’s okay! I mean, the Whos had all their gifts and decorations stolen and still had an awesome Christmas, so you can keep it simple and have fun, too 😉
But seriously, your jolliness this holiday season will be much greater if you don’t have to worry about the credit card bills putting a damper on things afterward.
Prepare for the stuff that matters most to you.
This time of year, there are endless holiday events you could choose to go to. There are concerts, lights at the zoo, local specialty light exhibits, fundraisers, charities, and any number of other things that are prone to sucking your money away.
Some of these might be really important traditions to you and your family, and that’s okay! Saving money doesn’t necessarily mean skipping out on them.
It’s all about prioritizing what matters most. If one event matters more to you, put your money there and enjoy that – and don’t feel bad about not doing the rest.
If you want to do more than one, maybe you just do those things a little more simply – like bringing your own hot chocolate to an outdoor event rather than paying $5 for one when you get there.
I’d also suggest checking Groupon before buying tickets for anything on the offchance you can get a mega discount on them without any extra work!
With a little creativity and advance planning, you can still attend the holiday events that are important to you.
Keep your parties simple.
Have you ever noticed some of the best parties are the ones where the people and the food are the priority, not the decorations, party favors, or whatever else?
Fun, memorable parties don’t have to be expensive. There are lots of alternatives to consider.
If you’re used to hosting, maybe this year you could suggest a potluck dinner.
Lots of your friends are hosting? Just enjoy being a guest instead and offer to help out where you can.
You could also do something fun and easy like a cookie swap instead. Who doesn’t love cookie swaps?
Focusing more on the company you’re enjoying and less on how Pinterest-perfect everything is going to do wonders for your sanity this year.
All in all, if you want to save money this holiday season, see all the ways you could earn and save with Navy Federal Credit Union. It’s easy to confirm your eligibility and become a member. The biggest piece of advice I have for you is to focus on what matters most.
Ultimately, it’s not the stuff that matters. It’s the people you love and the memories you share with them.