Christmas on a Budget

Awesome Christmas on a tight budget

Have an Awesome Christmas on a tight Budget

Christmas is a magical time of year! The holiday season has the potential to be filled so many memories and experiences that you will treasure your whole life! We love celebrating Christmas with our family and watching our children glow with delight during the whole season.

Christmas can also be a season of spending LOTS of money, and then facing the bills and debt of it later. In fact, in 2019, consumers took on an average of $1325 in debt to celebrate the holidays!

Yes, you want the holidays to be special and memorable. But you don’t want to be “remembering” them by paying them off over the next year!

The trick is to create your special Christmas memories around a budget that you and your family can afford. I want to help you create a Christmas on a budget that your family will love, and that will not follow you around for the next year!

How to do Christmas on a Budget

If you want to have an amazing Christmas, but not break the bank, you should focus on these tips for your Christmas.

  1. Make a Christmas Budget. Plan your purchases and all spending in advance so you know what you are going to spend.
  2. Stretch the Budget. Find ways to make your Christmas budget stretch as far as it will go. Shop the sales and discounts stores, limit the number of gifts you buy, etc.
  3. Find Extra Money for Christmas. Are your finances coming up short for your proposed Christmas budget? Find some ways to make extra money to use toward the holiday!

Having a great Christmas on a Budget is not hard, but it does take some planning. Let’s dive more into these steps for having your own Christmas on a Budget.

Make a Christmas Budget

The first step to celebrating Christmas on a budget is to actually make a budget specifically for Christmas!

When you sit down to do this, I want you to keep in mind ALL of the expenses that go into a holiday season, not just how much you need to be able to buy gifts for your immediate family. So here are some basic expenses that people usually spend money on during the holidays.

Christmas Budget Expenses

  • Christmas Cards and stamps
  • Supplies for Christmas cookies and goodies
  • Food for Special Meals and/or parties (Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, Christmas Dinner, etc)
  • Zoo lights (Or special Christmas light show)
  • Travel expenses
  • Stocking Stuffers
  • Decorations–both inside and outside
  • Shipping supplies and costs to send gifts to distant family
  • Donations to Special causes–Toys for Tots, Coats for Kids, Sponsor a Family, etc.
  • Extra cost in electric bill to run the Christmas lights
  • Wrapping Supplies–paper, tape, bows, etc
  • Hostess gifts for Christmas parties
  • Holiday photo shoots–Family Photo, Kids with Santa, etc.
  • Clothes for Holiday pictures
  • Life Insurance… you know, because Dad is putting up the Christmas lights… Just kidding, kind of. 😉

And then you have the gift giving. Think about gifts for:

  • Spouse/partner
  • Children
  • Parents
  • In-Laws
  • Brothers/Sisters
  • Nieces/Nephews
  • Neighbors
  • Boss, Co-Workers, etc
  • Friends
  • Teachers
  • Clients, Employees, etc.

Now, please don’t look at this list and get panicked. Not all of these costs, or people to give gifts to, will apply to you. And, if your budget is smaller, then focus on the things that are MOST important. You do not have to give gifts to every person in your life! 

The point in making this list was to let you see how all the little costs for the holidays can add up and to help you be prepared for them by making you aware of them.

If you know the expected expenses for Christmas, then you can make plans for which ones you are going to spend money on. And, when you add an item to your budget, then you can plan for it. Then you aren’t surprised when the time comes to pay for it.

So now, I want you to write down all the expenses that apply to your and your situation for the holidays. Then, you need to assign a dollar amount to each item. If you need help for how much to assign, try to go back into past years’ expenses to see how much you spent then. For example, it is fairly easy to figure out how much you paid for Christmas cards (and how many you sent) so you can make a good estimate for how many to buy this year, and how much stamps will be.

Once you have assigned a dollar amount to every item, add it all up and see how much you have planned.

If the number you come up with is too high/not reasonable, then it is time to start removing expenses and/or lowering the budget per item. Keep doing this until the amount you plan to spend it much more reasonable for your personal situation. 

Tips for having Christmas on a Budget

Now that you have your budget set, it is time to start spending the budget. BUT you want to do so wisely. Make that budget stretch as far as it can go! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you managed to do everything on your list AND had money leftover? You could throw that extra money towards paying off your debt or into savings for the next year.

So here are some ideas on how to stretch your Christmas budget so that it goes even farther.

Shop the Sales

The holiday season is FULL of stores having sales. Take advantage of the lower prices on items! Try not to pay full price for an item if you can help it.

When it gets to be the end of October, I start scouring the internet for the Black Friday ads. I am looking for good deals on gifts for my children and husband. Last year I knew that I wanted to get Mr Dentist a PS4 (which is a SUPER expensive gift). But, because I scoured the ads, I was able to get a Black Friday deal from Kohls. The PS4 was on sale (for $199.99) AND ordering it during the Black Friday sale allowed me to collect $60 in Kohls cash, which I then used to buy some other gifts at Kohls. So the PS4 ended up being $140 which is a far cry from the normal $300 price tag!

Shop at Discount Stores

Another great tip is to shop at discount stores like Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls. These stores fill up with awesome gift ideas for a discounted price during the holidays. 

We were able to find several science kit options for our science loving (then) 8 year old. And they were only $10 a piece! You can bet I will be going back this year to see what else we can find for a good deal for our kiddos.

Get Creative

If your budget is pretty tight, it may be time to start thinking outside the box a bit. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and maybe be a little crafty.

When we were first out of dental school, our budget was SUPER tight for Christmas. I did a lot of handmade gifts that year. I sewed pajama pants, made super hero capes for my kids, and made them a teepee–all with low cost fabric.

Another gift I did that year was to create a set of handmade greeting cards for my mother-in-law. She loved them and they were very inexpensive to make, since I already had most of the supplies.

Pinterest is your best friend for creative gift ideas… use it!

Consider the 4 gift rule

When it comes to limiting how much you spend during Christmas, it can be hard to do the same with gifts for your kids. I definitely know the draw of wanting to give them so much to make sure they have an amazing Christmas. 

But, kids don’t need a ton of stuff to have a happy Christmas (really, they don’t). To help keep your Christmas expenses within your budget, consider using the 4 gift rule.

The 4 gift rule says that each person gets a total of 4 gifts: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great way to keep Christmas expenses low, to not go overboard on gifts, but to still have a nice Christmas.

Plan for Memories, Not Things

To be honest, often the best Christmas memories come from activities you do as a family, not what gift you got under the tree.

So maybe you focus your Christmas budget on creating memories–whether those memories cost money or not. 

The biggest thing to remember is that Christmas is a special time to spend with family, friends and create memories that last a lifetime. 


Note: some links in this post contain affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase, at no cost to you. Click here for our full disclosure

Find Extra Money for your Christmas Budget

Now, ideally, you would figure out how much you think you are going to need for Christmas, divide that by how many months are left until Christmas, and then save that amount each month. This way you would have your Christmas budget money ready to go when it is time to start spending.

BUT life doesn’t always work that way, and you might need some extra money RIGHT NOW to make your Christmas budget work. So, here are some ideas for making some quick cash to help you have a great Christmas on a budget.


If you aren’t using Ibotta, it is possible you are missing out on some FREE money. 

Ibotta is a free cash back app on your phone. Anytime you go shopping, you can scan the receipt into the app. The app will then match what you purchased with any deals going on right now, and give you cash back for your purchases.

I use this primarily for my grocery shopping trips. It honestly only takes a couple of seconds to do and I already have earned money back that can be used towards Christmas!

I highly suggest getting yourself set up with an Ibotta account and start earning money back on your everyday purchases.

Sign up for your FREE Ibotta Account here

Fetch Rewards

I also use the app Fetch Rewards. This app also has you scan in your receipts. But, instead of giving you points, each receipt earns you points. As these points add up, you can exchange them for gift cards to big retailers.

I started using Fetch a few months ago with the specific purpose of getting points for gift cards for Christmas. It is so fast and easy to do!

Sign up for your own Fetch account here.


Just for taking surveys, playing games, or searching on the internet, you can earn swagbucks, which can be redeemed for gift cards.

In fact, people who create a new account with Swagbucks earn an immediate $10 bonus! 

Sign up for your free Swagbucks account here.

Take Surveys Online

If you have some extra time, why not spend it doing some surveys online? Surveys can be a great way to earn some quick cash for the holidays. Whatever money you earn can be paid out to your in gift cards. Use these as gifts themselves, or to be spent purchasing gifts.

I recommend the survey site Survey Junkie. Surveys do take time, but can be done while watching TV or with a few spare minutes.

Sign up for Survey Junkie here

Sell your Gently Used items

This is also a great time to go through the house and find clothes, toys, home decor etc that you aren’t using anymore. Put this items up for sale on facebook, craigslist or may be even ebay. This is a great way to make some quick cash you can use in your christmas budget.

Final Thoughts for Christmas on a Budget

Christmas does not have to be a super expensive event that sends you into more consumer debt year after year. Taking the time to set a budget for your holidays, and sticking to that budget, will be a huge help in lowering the financial stress of the holiday season.

So I encourage you to take the time to make a holiday budget. Earn some extra money if your need to, but make this Christmas season one that doesn’t follow you into next summer.

What is a way that you make your Christmas budget work for you? Let me know in the comments!

Christmas on a Budget

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