The festive season is upon us! Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when many of us find ourselves buried in credit card debt. While we all want to capture the perfect Instagram-worthy moments with family and friends, overspending can quickly dampen our holiday spirit.
The good news is that you can enjoy the magic of the season without maxing out your credit card or draining your emergency fund. In fact, some of the most cherished gifts don’t cost a dime. Here are some great ways to save money during the holiday season while making it truly memorable and meaningful.
The best part? Most of these tips apply whether you acknowledge Christmas, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, or the African American celebration of Kwanzaa.
1. Plan Ahead
Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday may be too late to begin thinking about the holiday season. After all, the fourth Thursday of November is kind of close to December 25. Create a gift-giving plan well ahead of important holiday dates to take advantage of early discounts and avoid last-minute expenses.
You can also plan ahead by setting savings goals throughout the year. If you can set aside even $10 or $20 per month for your holiday fund, that will give you some breathing room when the festive season arrives.
2. Make DIY Decorations
Create your own Instagram-worthy decorations for this festive season. Homemade crafts add a personal touch while allowing you to save money on something you display only once a year. Making decorations is also a fun activity to do as a family!
3. Budget for Gifts
Set a budget limit for gifts and stick to it. Like decorations, consider handmade gifts or thoughtful gestures that don’t require you to overtax your checking account.
4. Look for Online Deals
Monitor online retail sales, especially surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. These are some of the best times to snag discounted gifts for family and friends. Another great day for savings can be Christmas Eve if you’re looking for last-minute gifts.
5. Start New Traditions
Start fun traditions like watching holiday movies, viewing holiday lights, playing games, building gingerbread houses, or organizing a potluck to maximize the festive season while enjoying the holidays on a budget.
6. Give Experiences
Give the gift of experiences rather than physical items. Tickets to events or a promise to spend quality time together are meaningful and budget-friendly gifts for family and friends.
7. Give Homemade Treats
Bake and share homemade cookies or other treats with family and friends—as well as neighbors, co-workers, clients, your kids’ teachers, you name it! These goodies are a thoughtful and cost-effective way to save money while spreading holiday cheer. You can even create a tradition out of making them through an annual cookie bake.
8. Volunteer Together
Give back to your community by volunteering. The holiday season is a time for giving, and giving your time can be invaluable. Remember, you will certainly not be the only one doing the holidays on a budget in the United States. And some people’s budgets are significantly (significantly) smaller than yours.
Donating old or unused items, volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen, or simply giving what you can when you can means the world to others.
9. Start a Secret Santa Exchange
Instead of everyone buying gifts for everyone, let Santa Claus provide the gifts. Have a Secret Santa gift exchange to save money while still sharing the joy of giving. A spending limit forces everyone to be extra creative!
10. Go Christmas Caroling
Organize a caroling group and spread cheer in your neighborhood or at local nursing homes. Singing together is a heartwarming way to celebrate the holiday season.
11. Learn About Other Traditions
Take the time to learn about different holiday traditions, such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, to appreciate the diversity of this time of year in the United States. Visit your local library for a wealth of information about traditions that are new to your family.
12. Give Thrift Store Treasures
Thrifting is not only a great way to save money, but it’s also become trendy! Shop at thrift or consignment stores for unique and affordable holiday decor, clothes, and gifts. You may discover hidden treasures or even save on reusable Christmas trees. You never know what you may find!
13. Santa Claus Photos
Instead of schlepping out to the mall for professional Santa Claus photos, take your own photos with a festive backdrop at home. It’s a fun and budget-friendly activity.
14. DIY Wrapping
Here’s another saving tip: Create your own wrapping paper and gift tags using recycled materials such as plain brown paper. It adds a personal touch, saves money, and allows you and your kids to show off your creative side.
15. Extend Your Celebrations
The most wonderful time of year doesn’t begin and end on December 25. Especially if friends and family are already in town, you can create even more opportunities for holiday time together. Consider celebrating winter solstice, Boxing Day, and of course New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Remember, the key to a budget-friendly holiday season is starting with a realistic budget and embracing the idea that “stuff” isn’t always the most cherished gift in the long term. Sometimes, the gift of time spent together with family and friends can be the most meaningful present of all.
The APM Family wishes you and yours a joyous and budget-friendly holiday season!