Celebrating Christmas When Funds Are Tight

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2020 has been the craziest year ever, has it not? It seems like we’ve been dealing with restrictions forever and yet the year is still flying by for me. We are just shy of 11 weeks away from Christmas. Are you ready? More specifically, is your budget ready?

I tend to over spend every year for Christmas. If I had to guess, I’m not the only one. This year might be even tougher for many, especially if Covid restrictions have affected your income. Our family was fortunate because our income didn’t really take a hit but we did have some extra healthcare costs and we’re about to start paying on Michael’s student loans. I’m looking to make Christmas as frugal as possible this year for those reasons. Here are 5 steps to take to help keep your budget in tact for the holiday season.

Check Your List (and Budget) 

You know I love to talk about budgets and you definitely need a Christmas budget. First step is to figure out how much you can afford to spend this season. Next step is to figure out who you need to buy for. Remember that buying gifts usually isn’t the only expense for the season. Gift wrap, food, and holiday activity costs should also be included if you expect to need these items or participate in extra holiday activities.

Paying for Christmas Gifts

So you’ve got your list. Hopefully you’ve kept your list manageable. If money is tight then you need to make sure you’re not buying for anyone extra. Relatives, especially older ones, will understand if you’re watching costs.

Frugal Gifts

Send a nice card (Dollar stores generally sell them 2 for a $1 or $1 each) with a thoughtful message.

Older/adult kids might like more practical gifts like paying their movie or music subscription, this way you are spreading the cost out. If they’ve got their own place then ask them what items they can use for their household. Check out Black Friday sales, which are supposedly going to be spread out this year because of shopping restrictions. Discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls are also great places to find bargains.

Younger kids aren’t going to care where the gifts come from. Check out Facebook Marketplace, Amazon, Goodwill, or yard sales. Also, please, please, please, don’t feel like you have to buy a hundred gifts to put under the trees if you can’t afford to do so. Putting yourself in a precarious financial situation is not what you want to teach your kids. 

Extra Funds

Is your list larger than your available funds? Here are some ideas to come up with a little extra money this season.

Temporary job

Many stores hire seasonal employees. My son just started working for UPS but I know here locally I’ve also seen signs at Target and Sam’s club among other places that are hiring.

Door Dash/Grub Hub/etc: I signed up for Door Dash since I know my son has made pretty decent money at this but then my day job got busy so I haven’t been able to try it out yet.

Use Your Reward Points/Dollars

I participate in several rewards programs through out the year. I currently have over $600 saved up between my cash back credit card, Rakuten, Shopkick points, etc. Some of this is available to me in cash and some are good for gift cards. I tend to let these balances save up so I can use them on gifts.

No Spend October and November

Try to have a few no-spend weeks in October and November. What are no-spend weeks? Pretty much just what it sounds like. Pick a week and resolve not to spend any money that week. Obviously you will still pay any bills that are due but other than that try not to spend any additional money. Get creative with meals from your pantry, no Starbucks, don’t pick up that cute pillow at TJ Maxx, etc. Read this post or this one to learn more on spending fasts. Use the money you save on Christmas gifts.

Take Advantage of Free/Cheap Holiday Activities

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune on Christmas fun. This year, in particular, is going to be a good year to get creative with holiday get-togethers since most states aren’t allowing big social gatherings yet.

  • Get a festive Starbucks drink (or fix one at home if you’re in the middle of a no-spend week) and drive around town to see who has the prettiest holiday lights/decorations
  • Have a Christmas movie marathon-check out the Hallmark channels or Lifetime for some really good options
  • bake some holiday cookies
  • if you have the room to spread out, then host a pot luck dinner with friends

The most important thing is to remember the reason for the season. Please don’t feel like you have to go into debt to have a nice Christmas or to show your family that you love them. 2021 HAS to be better than 2020 and starting it out without a boatload of Christmas debt will make for a better New Year.


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4 Responses to Celebrating Christmas When Funds Are Tight

  1. These are all SUCH great ideas, especially in a crazy year like this. Thanks so much for the info!

  2. Great idea on the no spend challenge for October and November. If you’re deliberate about it, you can budget exactly what limited spending you will do in October and November such as rent, electricity, etc. Then you’ll know your savings goal and what you can budget for celebrating Christmas!

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