Christmas is supposed to be a merry and magical time. You’re surrounded by beautiful holiday decor, Christmas songs are playing on the radio, and stores are starting to put out their holiday displays.
While you may be feeling the Christmas spirit, you may also be dreading how much this year will cost you in presents. After all, you have to buy for your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, and everyone in between. Now instead of red holiday decor, you’re seeing red in your bank account.
Ideally, you’d be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on the people you love and not have to think twice about the price tags on your gifts. However, in the real world, you may be wondering if it’s possible to have a magical Christmas on a budget.
The good news is that you absolutely can! Celebrating Christmas on a budget doesn’t have to be a sad affair. There are many inexpensive ways to celebrate Christmas that are just as thoughtful and enjoyable as any other holiday.
We’ve put together this comprehensive guide on how to spend Christmas on a budget so that you don’t overspend or go into debt this holiday season.
How Much Does Christmas Cost
Investopedia reports that Americans will spend around $920 per person in 2019, up from $885 in 2018. This means that holiday sales will equal over $1 TRILLION nationwide!
Americans tend to spend more and more every year, but you don’t have to be part of this statistic. With these frugal Christmas ideas, you can have a magical holiday without overspending, going without, or having any regrets.
How to Have A Great Christmas on a Budget
Create a Zero-Based Budget
The first thing you need to do is create a Christmas budget so you know how much you can spend. Be sure to include things such as gifts, holiday decor, and travel accommodations.
The best method is to use the zero-based budget.
The concept of the zero-based budget is simple: Income minus outgo equals zero. This allows you to know exactly where your money is going and helps keep your Christmas spending in check.
How to Create a Zero-Based Budget
If you want to spend less money on Christmas, you need to have a plan. You can create this zero-based budget in just four simple steps. Here’s how:
1. Write Down Your Monthly Income
Write down the amount of money that is coming into your household each month. This includes paychecks, money from side hustles, etc. You can also include any extra money you made on apps like Ibotta or Decluttr. Add up all of your income and write the number down.
2. Write Down Your Monthly Expenses
Next, it’s time to write down all of your monthly expenses, especially things like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and utilities. After you account for those expenses, write down other costs such as cable, phone, internet, etc.
Make sure to specifically account for any expenses that are coming up based on the needs of the month.
3. Write Down Your Christmas Expenses
Ideally, you have been saving for Christmas all year long. If not, it’s still important to write down your Christmas expenses so that you can subtract them from your income.
Don’t forget to include ALL aspects of the Christmas season. This includes everything from gifts, travel accommodations, holiday decor, ingredients for Christmas meals, right down to the stocking stuffers.
4. Subtract Your Income From Expenses
In a perfect world, you would get a total of ZERO when you subtract your income from your expenses. It may take some playing around with the numbers by bringing some up or down, but you’ll get the hang of it.
If you’re spending more money than you are bringing home, you need to revisit your expenses and see where you can cut costs. Is there anything you can go without this month? Can you use extra coupons at the grocery store or find ways to make extra money?
If you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and have money left over, you HAVE to assign that money to something. This ensures that every penny you have is accounted for and you don’t spend carelessly.
5 Ways to Have a Frugal Christmas Budget
If you want to learn how to spend less on Christmas gifts or any other holiday-related expenses, then check out these five ways to have a frugal Christmas budget.
Stick to Your Christmas Budget
You spent a lot of time creating your Christmas budget – now you need to stick to it!
Many Americans are willing to go into credit card debt just to get expensive gifts for their loved ones. You don’t have to do this! There are many thoughtful, affordable Christmas gifts you can give your family and friends. You can even make or find cheap Christmas gifts for friends, neighbors, or teachers for under $10.
Start New Inexpensive Christmas Traditions
If you’re doing Christmas on a budget this year, then it’s the perfect time to start some new inexpensive Christmas traditions!
Here are a few inexpensive Christmas traditions you can try to save some money this year:
- Stay home with family instead of traveling, or invite them to come to visit you.
- Watch a Christmas movie every night leading up to Christmas.
- Read a story by the fireplace or by a candle.
- Drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights.
- Have a family sleepover around the Christmas tree.
- Get creative with some elf on a shelf ideas
You can create some wonderful memories with these traditions without having to spend hundreds of dollars!
Find Alternatives to Buying Christmas Gifts
If your Christmas budget won’t allow for an expensive gift for everyone on your list, consider some alternatives to buying Christmas gifts.
Some ideas include gift exchanges where you only buy one gift instead of multiple, charitable donations in the recipient’s name, a month of their favorite membership club, or treating everyone to a nice dinner instead of buying presents.
You can go a step further and see if there is anyone who may want to do a no-gift exchange. This is where neither of you buys a present for each other. You never know! Someone in your family may also be doing Christmas on a budget and appreciate having to buy one less gift.
Share Meals Together
What better time than the holiday season to have a potluck? You can spend time with your family and friends and create some wonderful memories by sharing meals together.
The best part is that you can ask everyone to bring a separate dish so that you can save time and money. Everyone will bond over making a meal together and appreciate not having to cook everything themselves!
Shop Discounts and Sales
If you are doing any online shopping, you need to be using sites like Rakuten.
Rakuten gives you cash back on your online purchases. You can even earn a free $10 gift card just for signing up! What a great way to save money on Christmas gifts!
Don’t forget to check out other discounts and sales, too. Most stores offer some type of holiday discount, so be sure to sign up for their mailing lists to see when their specials are going on and wait to shop until then.
How to Make Extra Money for Christmas
Cutting expenses from your budget can only get you so far. If you need extra money for Christmas, it’s time to look at some side hustles to bring in extra income.
Flip Old Items on eBay
Got any gifts from last year’s Christmas that you never used? Consider flipping them on eBay.
You can even bargain hunt for thrift store or flea market finds and flip those as well.
If you need more information about flipping old items for a profit, be sure to check out the course from Flea Market Flipper.
You’ll learn all about the process, how to find the best deals, determine product value, and reselling and shipping information.
Take Online Surveys
There are many sites online that allow you to take surveys for cash or gift cards. We’ve listed a few of our favorites down below. Our favorite sites give you free money just for signing up!
This method won’t net you hundreds of dollars, but it can be a great way to earn some money taking fun surveys from the comfort of your own home!
Use Cashback Apps
Apps such as Ibotta or Dosh give you cash back depending on your purchases. This is a great way to earn some of the money you’ve already spent.
Be sure to check into any perks offered by your credit card companies. Some credit cards will also give you cash back incentives to use for your holiday shopping.
Just be sure to use your budgeted money to pay them off quickly!
Deliver for Postmates
Did you know you could make money delivering groceries?
That’s right! Postmates is a delivery service where you can make up to $27 per hour delivering things such as groceries, fast food, takeout food, and even alcohol.
The best part is there is no start-up fee and you can work on your own schedule.
Sign up for Postmates here and start making some extra money!
Find a Part-Time Retail Job
If you have the extra time on your hands, consider picking up a part-time retail job.
Many stores hire extra employees to help with the holiday crowd and may even pay more than a regular employee. If you have the time and patience to deal with large crowds, it may be worth looking into.
While you can’t work from the comfort of your own home, you get the stability and guarantee of a paycheck.
These are just a few examples, but check out our full post to learn different ways to earn extra income!
One of our favorite ways to make some extra money is by earning free gift cards.
How to Earn Free Gift Cards for Christmas
You can earn free gift cards to spend on your holiday shopping or give away as Christmas gifts. All you need to do is register and spend a little bit of time (around 20 minutes per survey) answering questions, watching videos, or playing games.
Here are three favorite survey sites that pay in gift cards.
Sign up for Swagbucks and get a FREE $5 Bonus! You collect Swagbucks when you do things like answering questions, playing games, and watching quick videos. They also offer opportunities to earn even more points.
You receive $1 worth of gift cards for every 100 Swagbucks you earn. When you redeem your points, you are paid in gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart.
Survey Junkie is a paid survey site that matches you with surveys based on your interests and demographics.
After you complete a survey, you receive virtual points. When you reach 1,000 points, you can redeem them through PayPal or eGift cards.
InboxDollars is another paid survey site that pays in real money, not just points! It is very similar to Swagbucks and Survey Junkie – all you have to do is take surveys, watch quick videos, sign-up for different products and services, and get paid!
You also get a $5 bonus just for signing up!
Final Thoughts on Having Christmas On a Budget
There are many memorable and enjoyable ways to spend Christmas on a budget. You don’t have to go into debt or go without.
Remember that you can always give the best gift of all away for free: your time. Spend time baking Christmas cookies with your family, give your best friend a phone call to catch up, babysit your nieces and nephews so that your sibling can have a date night, or build a fort by the fire.
As you create these beautiful memories, think about how you can budget for next Christmas. Start putting aside money for your Christmas budget now so that money won’t be an issue next year.