How do you plan for Christmas on a budget? Especially a tight one?
For most of Americans, here’s the scenario: You don’t have a single penny saved for Christmas. Half of your November 30th paycheck is spent, and it’s only December 5. Your credit card is already maxed out and you don’t know how you’ll pay for the umpteen gifts on your list.
How do you pay for Christmas when you haven’t planned for it?
Did I just describe you? Whether we want to admit it or not, the majority of us get to Black Friday in a panic that Christmas is here yet again. We forget that Christmas comes every year and we end up over-spending during the holidays. Here are some simple tips to save money this Christmas and simplify the season so that come January when you receive your credit card bill.
1. Make a Plan.
Even though Christmas is in 20 days (eeps!), it’s not too late to come up with a plan. Answer these questions:
- Have you purchased any presents already?
- How many more do you need to buy?
- How much are you willing to spend on each person?
- How much do you have in your budget to work with?
Start with a list and see where you may need to scale back and get creative!
2. Cut Down Somewhere Else in Your Budget.
If you’re planning on spending spending $500 on gifts this year, that’s got to come from somewhere. Take money from your food budget and eat simple meals during the week. Or vow not to buy anything for yourself, especially since you may get them soon! Decline evenings out with friends for a cozy evening in instead. Telling other people that you’re trying to save money during this time of year is kosher as there are so many things tugging at our wallet.
3. Buy Your Kids Just 4 Things.
A few of my friends are planning on giving just four gifts to their kids this year: Want, Need, Wear, Read. I love that idea! Keeps things simple.
4. Get a Small Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.
Christmas trees are expensive, yo! If you are set on getting a live Christmas tree, then buy a small Charlie Brown tree, or go to get your tree after December 15th, when the prices are normally a lot lower. Or save money this Christmas on your decorations and find some natural evergreen limbs to cut and decorate around your house. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be festive!
5. Limit Your Christmas Card List, Send a Postcard, a Virtual One, or Not At All.
This year J and I scaled our list down to 50 and bought a postcard design instead of a card with an envelope to cut down the costs. There are some cute ones out there! I used Minted, and if you use this link for Minted.com you can get $25 off of your order of $50 or more.
6. Make Some Extra Cash.
Figure out some ways to make a little extra cash this month to help with your Christmas budget. Ask a few friends if they know of anyone who needs a babysitter and I guarantee you’ll have a couple of jobs. Almost everyone with kids needs a sitter this time of year to attend holiday parties, so take advantage of that and make a little money. My sister in fact told me last night she had 8 babysitting jobs in the next couple of weeks. That’s a lot of money to add to your Christmas budget!
7. Bake or Make Your Gifts.
Assuming you have acquaintances to buy for, bake them cookies, peppermint bark, fudge… everyone loves a sweet treat wrapped up in lovely packaging (and if you don’t, well I don’t know if we should be friends). Or if you’re crafty, make gifts for others, such as candles, aprons, pillow covers, etc. (Be careful with that one though, sometimes I’ve found it’s cheaper to buy an item than make it myself.)
8. Use Kraft Paper or Paper Bags as Wrapping Paper.
Instead of spending a lot of money on seasonal wrapping paper, consider buying a large roll of kraft paper and red and white baker’s twine or simple ribbon to seal the package. You could even attach a note that says, “Brown paper packages tied up with string — these are a few of my favorite things!”
9. Celebrate the Season with Experiences, Not Stuff.
Christmas morning doesn’t have to be all about the presents. It’s really easy to go overboard because we want to please everyone, but at the end of the day, think big picture. Is it really worth it to go into debt for one day of the year? Christmas on a budget doesn’t have to turn into a boring or plain holiday. My favorite holiday memories have never been around the gifts, but rather around the traditions and the people that I share them with.
What other tips do you have for keeping costs down during the holidays?