What does giving mean to you? Is it about finding the perfect present for each special person in your life? Do you scour all the websites, all the stores, and all the sales all year long? Is it about the hunt or the look on their faces when they open the well-thought-out present?
“We don’t want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing we need. Make our wish come true. All we want for Christmas is you—to budget.” Okay, that’s not how the song goes, but hopefully it gets the point across. The way you become the hero of the holidays is by budgeting for the holidays.
Nothing puts the “Bah! Humbug!” into Christmas like overspending. Keep yourself safe from the Ghost of Christmas-Spending Past. In other words, don’t regret all that Christmas shopping when January rolls around—track your expenses as you go.
And you know what makes that easier, right? EveryDollar Plus! It connects to your bank account and streams transactions straight to your app. You just have to drag and drop them into your budget categories. It’s easy and it gives you more time to do the things that really matter to you.
There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s the thought that counts,” and for some people, the thought of spending time together is better than the joy of a physical gift. You can save money this year by being intentional about being together—valuing experiences over accessories, trips over toys, and conversations over clutter.
So, you have a bit of holiday-induced obligation to deal with. You can’t pass around gifts at family Christmas and be like, “Uh, sorry, Cousin Scott . . . You’re the only one I couldn’t find anything for.” But you also shouldn’t grab Cousin Scott a random ugly bunny ornament unless that’s something he specifically collects.
Be sentimental as you spend. Get presents that line up with the interests or needs of those on your list. This is one of the top ways to make sure you’ll see sincere smiles by the light of the Christmas tree.
We know Christmas is expensive. According to a national survey, Americans plan to spend an average of $1,047.83 this year on gifts, food, decor, cards and other random holiday expenses this season. How can you come up with that big chunk of change?
But how do you rustle up the money you need for Christmas? If you’ve been shopping all year or stashing cash into your Christmas sinking fund, you might be set. But if not, you’ll have to find that money somewhere else. Try moving things around in your budget—spending less on some categories in December to make up for the extra Christmas celebrations.
Don’t wait for Black Friday to start Christmas shopping—look for sales all year long. Nab that stuffed Sasquatch on clearance in July that you know your bigfoot-enthusiast nephew will cherish. When you’re mindful of your list throughout the year, you’ll spread out both the spending and the stress (and maybe even get rid of the stress altogether).
As you’re in the spirit of trimming the tree, trim down that Christmas list while you’re at it. Don’t just drop everyone off the list—at least not the ones who’ll notice and take offense (like Cousin Scott). But not everyone needs a gift. This year, send your tidings of comfort and joy to some people on your list through a thoughtful card only .
And if you want to cut back even more, have a kind chat with your family members. Are you all giving just to give? Does everyone want to cut back? A clear conversation about skipping presents this year for a shared meal and stocking stuffers instead could be just the thing both your family and your finances need.
Why do you send Christmas cards to everyone you’ve ever met? Oh, because your mom always did? Why do you purchase the overpriced, annually released Waterford Crystal ornament? Oh, because your grandmother always did?
The real question here is this: Why do we hold on to expensive traditions that don’t mean much anymore? We aren’t suggesting you stop making paper chains or going around the table sharing your favorite Christmas memories. Those sound like beautiful traditions. But making a 20-layer, authentic German chocolate cake for Santa? Maybe drop that one. Santa doesn’t need the calories anyway.
Friends. The National Retail Association expects holiday spending to hit between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion this year. Yes. Billion. And you know what? There’s no way everybody’s going the cash-only route this year. That’s a lot of spending. And a lot of debt.
Don’t let yourself get wrapped up in all the sales and spending shenanigans. You may think these retailers are posting sales from the goodness of their hearts to help you—but their real goal is to get in on a part of that $730 billion holiday “magic.” Stick with your budget—and shop wisely.
Think about all the money you have left on old gift cards, as well as the cards you’ll never use because they’re to places you never shop, eat or visit. Consider the partial cards as discounts and use them to buy presents. Regift (which is not a dirty word, as we’ll explain later) the other cards to people who’ll appreciate them. Or sell cards online at Cardpool or Raise. Don’t let those little pieces of plastic go to waste this Christmas!
Ordering online means shopping around from the convenience of your very own couch as you roast chestnuts on an open fire. That’s the kind of multitasking we’re all about. Cross-check the price on that walks-and-talks doll across multiple stores without ever putting on real pants. But make sure you do this early enough to get the cheapest online shipping options. The last thing you need is a budget ruined by all those overnight shipping fees. (Prancer doesn’t deliver in a day without a hefty fee, after all.)
Speaking of shipping, plenty of stores offer it free of charge if you spend a minimum amount. So, do that! If you see the perfect superhero-themed sweatshirt you know your kid-at-heart dad would love, but you’re below the minimum amount for free shipping, keep shopping inside that store. Is there anything for your brother or admin assistant on that same website? Don’t buy just to buy—but be thoughtful and combine orders to keep those shipping fees at bay.
Also, check out that ship-to-store option. A lot of retailers offer this free and don’t even require a minimum order. You’ll have to brave the cold to grab the gift, but if you ship several things to the store together, you’ll just need your hat and gloves once.
It’s almost that time again—time to get more stuff. So in preparation, why don’t you get rid of some of your old stuff? Not only will you make room for new things, but you’ll also make some money to buy other people stuff.
The stockings are hung from the chimney with care in hopes that you’ll fill them, so they don’t stay bare. Yikes. That would be a Christmas catastrophe. You definitely don’t want to leave your stockings bare, but there are easy ways to fill them without spending all your holiday budget on things you’ll jam into an oversized sock.
For example, stock up on Halloween candy when it goes on sale. (It’ll still be good come Christmastime.) And don’t feel pressured to fill the stockings with expensive gifts. Think thrifty and necessary: an avocado slicer for your guac-loving spouse, a selfie light ring for your Instagram-obsessed teenager, and a grow-a-sunflower-in-a-bag kit for your nature-enthusiast kid. These are all real things, and you can find plenty of other real items that are well priced and take up a good amount of stocking space.
You can also hit up the dollar store for gel pens, coloring books, and those character-themed washcloths that are folded up into tiny circles until you just add water. Hold the excess spending and give the people what they (affordably) want and need.
If you want to give something personal, memorable and one of a kind, make it! Seriously. Pinterest has a wealth of ideas and instructions. If you aren’t super crafty, you can bake up a storm, put together a gift basket of someone’s favorite things, or whip up some DIY sugar scrubs. Nothing says “Happy Christmas” like something homemade.
Instead, give money in their honor to their favorite charity. Create a card or get one from the organization explaining the donation. If it feels a little off to not give something, find a charity that specializes in selling fair trade goods that give jobs to those in developing countries. That way, everyone is blessed.
Instead of buying things, consider going places this year. Buy your loved ones tickets to a show, musical, play, game or activity. You can add in a gift card to their favorite restaurant, and you’ve got a full evening of fun. Not only do you get to enjoy the excitement together when you give them the present, but you also get to look forward to the event itself.
Make extra cash to cover the extra costs of Christmas. We’re talking side hustles like driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering food, picking up holiday hours at a seasonal job, dog sitting while people are traveling for the holidays, or wrapping gifts in your community. Seriously, offer that last service on your Facebook neighborhood group or work forums. Have people drop off their gifts, and you can wrap them for a fee!
There’s a reason Santa checked his list twice, and it’s not because he’s absent-minded. When we go off the list, we overspend. Now, if you realize you forgot a friend—of course you add them in! But once you’ve got your philosophy and budget set, don’t get swept up in the Christmas spirit and start buying every snowflake-themed item you find for every person you’ve ever met.
Put an end to the white elephant or junk-for-junk gift exchanges at your work, small group, or book club. Christmas is expensive enough without these social pressures. Be kind, but just say no (thank you).
A bigger, more expensive gift doesn’t have to be off the table just because you’re on a budget this year. Just go in on it with someone else. Get all your siblings in on buying one big gift for your parents. Ask teammates to go in for a nice gift card for the coach. Email all the parents in your kids’ class to donate small items for one gift basket for the teacher.
Regifting has a bad reputation, but it’s time to move away from that. Maybe you should say you’re working in the “present relocation program.” It isn’t catchy—we’ll work on the title while you work on the concept.
Seriously, it’s okay to regift! But there are ground rules. You don’t want to hand Dad the same teacup night-light he gave you last year. And you definitely don’t want to give him the “Stay Paw-sitive” cat poster your great-aunt gave you (no matter his love of cats). Mostly because she’s his aunt too.
But the brand-new slow cooker your well-meaning in-laws gave you when you already have two could easily be regifted to your newlywed cousins on the opposite side of the family. Be tactful, but there’s nothing wrong with this kind of thrifty regifting. It saves money and keeps a gift from going unused.
Avoiding the mall means also avoiding every single pushy kiosk salesperson. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the millions of distractions, including (but not limited to) creepy mall Santa, the wafting aroma of cinnamon-sugar pretzels, and all those tempting retail window displays. Oh, and the parking lot jams. And the gobs of people. Save money, stress and time—don’t go to the mall.
You don’t have to spend half of your December income on colorful or character-covered paper that’s going to end up torn to shreds in piles on your floor Christmas morning. Get creative! Pick up some reusable bags at the dollar store, and you’ll be giving a gift inside a gift. Or try wrapping presents in newspaper and topping them off with red twine. That’s eco-friendly, wallet-friendly and festive.
Now back to where we started—the very best thing you can do to save money this Christmas is to budget. When you make a plan for your money and stick to it, you’re setting yourself up for financial success all year long .