Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ten Tips for Celebrating Christmas on a Budget

There are all sorts of articles on the web about saving money on Christmas presents, which you can view by doing a quick Google search.  However, seeing as this is our first Christmas as a married couple (i.e. the first Christmas we actually bought decorations, are starting traditions, etc.), we had to figure out ways to do all sorts of Christmas celebrating on a tight budget.  If you are looking for some cheap ways to decorate, start traditions, and get into the Christmas spirit, look no further!

Here are my top ten tips for celebrating Christmas on a budget:


Tip #1: Start planning early.

I started planning our Christmas traditions, decorations, activities, etc. in September.  If this isn’t your first Christmas, you may not need to start that early, but by starting so early I was able to get some great prices on Christmas items before the season had started and was able to make some awesome decisions I would not have made if I were to plan during crunch time.  Now, I get to focus on the holiday, its meaning, and the happiness it brings me instead of getting all the details in order at the last minute.


Tip #2: Make your own decorations.

Although this is not always possible, I try my best to make any decoration I can if it will save us money.  Making things does not always save money, especially if you can buy them inexpensively at dollar stores or secondhand (which is the next tip), but making some bigger high-cost items can really save you some dough.  For example, to spruce up our tree, we made some incredibly inexpensive ornaments (which I will share with you next week) and a tree skirt.  Specialty ornaments can cost a fortune, and don’t even get me started on how expensive tree skirts have become.  Think outside the box when it comes to mantel and table décor, and see what you can come up with when it comes to making your holiday decorations.  They’ll be much more meaningful if you make them yourself!


Tip #3: Buy decorations secondhand.

By starting early and knowing what we could make ourselves and what we had to by, we knew what things to turn to thrift stores and Craigslist to buy.  A couple months before the holiday season, we spotted a nice Christmas tree on Craigslist for $15.  The lady was desparate to get rid of a ton of holiday décor and threw in a box of 50 ornaments, some snowflake photo holders, and tree lights for an extra $10.  Major money saved!  Buying secondhand sometimes affords you the luxuries of items you would never have been able to even come close to affording at retail prices.  Give it a try!


Tip #4: Use items you have on hand to spruce up your home for the holidays.

This takes some effort and creativity, but I’m sure somewhere in your home you have items just waiting to be repurposed for Christmas time.  We used pinecones to decorate in our hurricane vases for the fall, but they easily transition into holiday decorating as well.  We have Christmas books we could display as decorations.  Even things like Christmas cookie cutters, plaid scarves, wool blankets, and anything Christmas-colored can serve as a decoration if used in the right way.  I challenge you to look around for the random items you own just waiting to be turned into holiday decorations.

Tip #5: Shop around until you can’t shop around anymore to find the best price if you must buy new.

Over the years, I have saved big bucks by using this tip with everything, but it especially rings true during the holidays.  Every store I can think of has holiday items for sale, and they come at a premium.  Just because this time only happens once a year doesn’t mean you should have to shell out top dollar to get your home looking festive.  It will happen again next year and year after, too, so it’s not the last chance to stock up on any item.  This year, we shopped around like crazy online to find inexpensive holiday photo cards.  I could have made them and had them printed, but we ended up finding some on Walmart’s website that charged only $22 for 50 and that included the envelopes!  Most places sell them for over a dollar a piece, so we got a great deal.


Tip #6: Collect Christmas items throughout the year when they are discounted.

I keep my eyes peeled all year for Christmas items.  I’ve scoured some great deals on Christmas books and random decorations.  I used to sigh as I passed the Christmas books at the bookstore during this time of year because they are never on sale and I cannot afford to stock up on $20+ books when I want to save for presents.  By buying them throughout the year, we have started our own little library for little money out of pocket.  Just make sure you are looking at what’s around you!


Tip #7: Find inexpensive activities to do in your area.

Christmas time can be full of incredibly expensive or hilariously inexpensive activities for you to do depending on where you are looking.  Taking a trip to drive around and look at the lights will cost you just gas money.  In Minneapolis, we sometimes go to the local weekly Hollidazzle parade to get into the holiday mood.  Just going to the grocery store and hearing the bells ring is something fun we love to do at this time of year.  Sure, going to a Christmas play or concert, taking a snowy carriage ride through the city, or taking a winter vacation can be fun, but they all come at a hefty price.  We stick to small things that don’t cost us a lot and save the big things for really special occasions.

Tip #8: Celebrate your own way.

Stores, commercials, friends, and family members may persuade you to celebrate Christmas a certain way, however there are no rules for celebrating the right way.  I find this time of year is a great time to get creative and do things my way.  We don’t do traditional colors or decorations if they don’t fit with what we like, which many times they don’t.  We also don’t have stockings yet (no mantel and no small presents for each other to put in them anyway) and we don’t bake a lot of cookies because we don’t need the extra calories.  We don’t let anyone tell us what we have to do or can’t do to celebrate the right way.

Tip #9: Do your normal, everyday activities with the spirit of Christmas.

Sometimes the everyday, normal activities lose out on the spotlight during this time of year.  To keep every day feeling festive, why not do your normal activities in the spirit of Christmas.  For example, your weekly spaghetti can be Christmas spaghetti – maybe with a little more fresh green spice on top or plated in the shape of a Christmas tree.  Replace your daily reading with Christmas books or Bible reading to get in the spirit.  This time of year goes by fast – look for all the moments you can to focus on the reason for the season!

Tip #10: Find happiness in the littlest details.

I find that when I have less, I appreciate more.  If you can’t afford all the decorations you want or don’t have time to make all the food and baked goods that you dream of making, try to focus on the little bits you can do.  Take time to look at your tree, or any decorations you have big or small, and think of how lucky you are to have them.  Find happiness in what you do have – family, friends, your health, etc. – and forget about what you don’t have because chances are, you have a lot more than you need.

What are your tips for celebrating Christmas on a budget?

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

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Home Stories A2Z


  1. My husband and I are doing our own take on Advent and calling them our 25 days of Advent(ures). It's giving us a reason to celebrate, create new traditions, and even give back in our community. Definitely not trying to talk ourselves up, but it has made me see Christmas outside the box so to speak. All your other ideas are great. Christmas on a budget is actually really fun.

  2. I remember my first Christmas's when I did not have much money. I loved making cookie and sweet bread baskets/plates for my friends. They did not cost much money but people really did enjoy receiving them and I loved giving them. When you are grateful in life, you get to experience the joy of small things. God Bless.

  3. Great tips! This is our first Christmas as well so we have been looking for ways to save money along the way. We plan on stocking up on Christmas decorations in January, when they all go on clearance, for next year.


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