Frugal Christmas Ideas for Christmas On The Cheap This Year
As much as I love love love Christmas, if I’m not careful it can really take a toll on two things I try hard to protect: my health and my bank account.
Going into Christmas 2022, I REALLY FEEL the pressure to keep Christmas on the cheap in 2022. There’s just less disposable income this year than there’s been in the past, and I know our family isn’t the only family in that position.
I’ve been making plans and carefully preparing for an awesome Christmas that doesn’t cost multiple hundreds of dollars – because we just can’t justify that.
I thought I’d share my favorite ways to have a frugal Christmas with you today so you can plan to have a good Christmas on a low budget too!
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What should I do for Christmas on a low budget?
This is what I’ve been asking myself this year, and here’s the best ideas I’ve come up with!
1) Set a budget and stick to it
Determine how much you can / want to spend this Christmas.
Get that amount out in cash before you go shopping, and leave the credit cards at home.
Speaking of shopping –
2) Limit yourself to a single shopping trip
I know it sounds absolutely nuts but hear me out.
Along with the budget, you should have a list. And you should do your best to stick to the list – that gets harder and harder if you make ten stops and have ten chances to be tempted by all the extra Christmas amazingness.
Impulse buys are one of the greatest culprits when it comes to overspending at Christmas. Stopping in the store to pick up one (or four) last-minute things is bound to result in 10 extra things and an extra hundred bucks down.
This is how I avoid (almost) allllll the Christmas shopping:
Start planning in Oct (even Nov is not too late) for gifts.
MAKE A LIST. (A small list is ok – remember, Christmas can be about the experience and not the gifts!)
Buy the bulk of Christmas gifts in advance, online. Get an amazon prime account (free for 30 days as a trial) and order as many of your gifts as you can through amazon. (You can cancel the prime account after you do all your shopping).
You won’t have to pay for shipping if you Try the Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial, BUT you also won’t be able to impulse buy ANYTHING. (Trust me, this is the goal.)
Make a list for gifts you absolutely can’t find online, and a list for food things that can be purchased in November (before Holiday price rises take effect). Do one shopping trip in November and check everything off that list.
Allow yourself one more well-planned shopping trip 1-2 weeks before Christmas for the rest of the things you need (because really, lettuce just isn’t going to keep from November to Christmas).
Stay. Away. From. The. Stores.
3) Shop for Second Hand Gifts
I’ve really come around to the idea of second hand Christmas gifts – especially for kids – this year.
I’ve already grabbed my son an awesome Lego set on Marketplace and I picked them up a few games that’ll be under the tree at garage sales this summer. Last year I got them one of those complete kitchens for 30 bucks – the same one in the store was about 170 bucks! (There was a drawer missing from the second hand one, and that bothered me a lot, but I decided to press past it… and the kids neither noticed nor cared.)
4) Buy group gifts instead of individual gifts for extended family
If you generally buy gifts for a whole family that’s not your own – maybe your sister’s family, or your best friends from down the street – buy one family gift instead of individual ones. A board game or “movie night” (DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate etc). Here are more great gift ideas for families!
If you generally buy small things for co-workers, make them cookies or Christmas candy yourself.
If your kids have “forgotten” or unloved toys in good condition (and most do!), see if you can find a friend to trade with and each give your kids “new to them” toys.
Set a “no purchased gifts” with your spouse rule – find FREE ways to make each other feel special.
Also, impose a hard rule that all stocking stuff gifts for preschoolers are under 10$.
5) Plan a potluck dinner if you’re hosting
There is nothing wrong at all with asking everyone coming to your place to bring something for dinner. It’s easier, it’s cheaper, and it’s fun!
6) Make your own decorations
It’s gorgeous and rustic – and extremely cheap – to decorate with homemade wreaths and pine cones and popcorn strings.
7) Make extra money for your Christmas fund
Instead of paying for Christmas out of your regular budget (and making everything tight), challenge yourself to make an extra $200 per week for the month of November (or October etc). Use THIS money to pay for those Christmas “extras”.
8) Plan a gift exchange for large groups (instead of individually gifting)
You can do it traditionally and draw names from a hat and buy the person you draw a nice gift. Buying one gift is still cheaper than buying 6!
But we take it one step farther and make it a garage sale gift exchange game. (I talked about this in my Christmas Traditions to try this year post. Actually, I’ll copy and paste it here, so you can plan one too, because they are the most fun ever!)
We play it like a standard gift exchange game- except that years ago we realized that none of us really need another box of soap or other sort of standard gift exchange type gift… so we decided to bring “garage sale gifts”. Things you would typically get at a garage sale. ANYTHING you want to get rid of, really.
Everyone “playing” brings one gift to the game, is assigned a number and then as numbers get drawn out of a hat you get to choose a gift from the pile. The first person opens a gift, the second person can either take that gift or open a NEW gift. The third person can choose from either open gift, or can open another gift. If someone steals your gift, you can steal someone else’s open gift (just not the one that was stolen from you) or you can open a new gift. Each time a new gift is open, that’s the end of that “round” and the next number is drawn. (We play that a gift is “frozen” – no longer available for stealing – after you have had it 3 times.)
(I got a half-eaten box of liquor chocolates one year. Last year I got an antique breast pump (cira 1900 perhaps) that a neighbor lady found in an old cabin they were bulldozing. Serious. We literally laughed until we cried.) If you get something particularly terrible, keep if for next year and make someone else take it home.
We have so much fun playing this game, it totally trumps actually spending money on giving or receiving real gifts. We look forward to it all year. (Especially to see what sort of bizarre gifts will show up.) The best part is that we are all together, and all having a freaking awesome time.
(Or do the standard gift exchange thing, if antique breast pumps and laughing are not your style.)
9) Practice Contentment – and reprioritize
If you think “Christmas”, and you think “Shopping! Gifts! New things!” then you are in for a major bank account struggle.
The best way to have a frugal Christmas is to think Christmas and then think “Family! Friends! Candlelight service! Watching movies in my PJS and eating too much!”
Make Christmas about people and experiences, instead of things. That is the number one way to save money at Christmas time.
If you plan a materialistic Christmas, you are planning an expensive Christmas.
And if you feel like you can’t give your kids a great frugal Christmas because you’re not giving them expensive stuff, well, I feel bad for your kids. Because what you are actually giving them when you put the focus on stuff is an attitude of entitlement and a lifetime of chasing after things that will never make them happy.
What your kids need for a great Christmas is a great season with you. (Plan to start some Christmas traditions with your kids this year.)
10) Bonus: start planning this year for next year
I know it might be too late for you to get this done THIS year, but it’s important to know so you can keep it in mind at the end of the season this year.
Stocking up post-Christmas on the sale stuff ISN’T always the best way to save money (the best way to save money is to not buy things “just because” even if they are cheap).
But there are some things that I always buy post-Christmas in the sales, because they are things that I know I will need next Christmas, and they keep. From this year on, wrapping paper, Christmas crackers, napkins etc should never be on your shopping list leading up to a frugal Christmas. They should be in storage in your attic, purchased for 75% off the year before.
A frugal Christmas can still be a fun Christmas. Spending money does not equally living fully, it never has and it never will. Remember that, and enjoy every second of your frugal Christmas.
(If you’re up for something REALLY different, you could even save money by taking a family vacation instead of having a regular Christmas. Sounds crazy – but think about what you usually spend on the season!)