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save money on Christmas

Easy Ideas for How to Save Money on Christmas!

There’s no denying that Christmas can be a real budget buster! Fortunately, there are many things that you can do if you are looking for tips on how to save money on Christmas! In this article I am going to share some of my favorite ideas for how to plan and have a frugal Christmas.

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The great news is that even when you are trying to have a more frugal Christmas, you can still have a wonderful Christmas with your family and other loved ones! Just because you decide to spend less money doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy wonderful traditioins and time with family and give meaningful gifts and make delicious Christmas meals.

You just have to be intentional and do some planning, and you can have a wonderful Christmas, even if it is a Christmas on a budget!

Heads up! Also be sure to check out this related article for ways to make more money for Christmas! That way, you can spend more money on Christmas, guilt free!

***Pro Saving Tip! Use the free Christmas planning printables just below to help you plan a frugal but awesome Christmas!***

Why Look for Ways to Save Money on Christmas? (Why Plan a More Frugal Christmas?)

I love Christmas as much as the next guy or gal—really! But the spending on Christmas these days is just over the top sometimes! It’s one day of the year! Granted, it’s a very important day of the year. If you’re Christian like me, it’s one of the very most important days of the year. But it’s not primarily because of the tinsel and shiny baubles and toys and gadgets and all the stuff.

The average American family spent about $970 on Christmas last year. That’s about $700 more than we spent on Christmas for all of our gift giving. And that’s not because we’re scrooges, but because we do realize that Christmas is just one day a year and we want to save our money for things that we love even more than a bunch of gifts on Christmas. (Don’t worry; our kids already have plenty of stuff and tons of toys. They’re not deprived! 😊)

What we would rather do is spend more money on meaningful experiences like fun family vacations and less money on stuff that might just collect dust in a toy box, for example.

Most families have credit card and car and other debt, and if you can save some money and still have a wonderful Christmas (you can!), then you won’t add any more debt to an already strained budget.

So read on to learn some of my best ideas for how to save money and still have a great Christmas!

And be sure to also check out these related articles!

Simple Tips for How to Save (Tons of!) Money on Christmas

Here are some simple things we do—that you can do too!—to save money on Christmas or have a more frugal Christmas but still have a wonderful holiday season with your family and loved ones.

1. Start with a great plan.

Like with virtually everything else in life, you will have a better Christmas, a more joyful, intentional, peaceful, and all around more successful Christmas, if you start with a plan.

And when it comes to Christmas, there are a lot of aspects you can plan: the activities, the meals, the decorations, the visiting, the service, and of course, the shopping and gifts!

***Pro tip: Be sure to grab the free Christmas plannting printables just above to help you plan the best Christmas ever!*** ☝️

Create a Christmas Shopping Plan

One of the most important ways to save money at Christmas is to create a reasonable Christmas spending plan (aka, make a Christmas budget).

For most people, the biggest Christmas expense is gift giving, so start planning there by deciding what is reasonable to spend on gifts for the different people in your family.

Decide What Is Reasonable for Your Family This Year

Of course, what is reasonable to spend for Christmas varies widely from family to family. For us, a family with three young kiddos, we’ve decided that $50 per person for Christmas gift spending in our immediate family is what is reasonable.

I know of a couple of other families who have chosen that number as well, and I know of some families who have chosen more than that. And I think many (perhaps most?) families don’t really budget for Christmas at all, and instead they just try to mitigate the damage and brace themselves the credit card payments that will come in January.

For other gift giving outside of your immediate family, decide a reasonable spending amount for that, as well. Ways that you can save money on gifts for others is to exchange names instead of giving gifts to everyone (I really recommend this one), do a white elephant gift exchange instead of a traditional gift exchange, give homemade gifts, give gift baskets like fruit baskets, and so on.

Check out this related articles with awesome ideas for budget-friendly Christmas gifts: 20+ Awesome Ideas for Christmas Gifts for $10 or Less!

***Pro tip: Grab the free Christmas budget printable above ☝️ (and other awesome free Christmas planning printables!) to help you stay on budget and plan an awesome, joyful, and stress-free Christmas this year!***

And if you want even more help with budgeting in general (like ways to slash your monthly expenses to find money to save!), then be sure to also grab the free printables below!

2. Make a Christmas shopping list.

Another important way to plan for Christmas and to save money on Christmas is to make a Christmas shopping list. Like I mentioned briefly above, as with everything else in life, you will achieve the best results if you are intentional and you make a plan—so plan to be intentional with your Christmas spending. Like Santa, make your list, and check it twice. 🎅🏻

After you figure out how much money you can reasonably afford to spend on Christmas, figure out the number of people you need to buy gifts for and how much you will spend on each person, and write it all out. And then stick to your Christmas budget.

***Tip: The free Christmas planning printables above ^ include a Christmas gift list, so be sure to grab yours!***

3. Focus on traditions and family time more than on gifts and other things that cost (a lot of) money.

Another way to save money at Christmas is to focus on fun and frugal Christmas traditions.

There are so many fun Christmas traditions that you can do for cheap or for free! For example, you can bake Christmas cookies and take them to your loved ones or neighbors, go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood, make fudge or Christmas candy, make gingerbread houses, do simple Christmas crafts, make Christmas cards to give to loved ones, read favorite Christmas stories, do the 12 Days of Christmas for a family, and so much more!

You could also watch your favorite Christmas movies as a family, listen to Christmas music, sing Christmas songs, and so on.

If you currently don’t have any wonderful Christmas traditions that you love and that don’t cost a lot of money, this is a great time to start some!

4. Find fun things to do at Christmastime that don’t cost a lot of money (or any money!).

Similar to the item above, you can find tons of things to do during the holiday season that don’t cost a lot of money (many of them are even free!).

For ideas, check out this big list of fun winter activities that you can do for cheap or for free: 61 Free and Cheap Winter Activities for Kids

5. Set reasonable expectations with extended family and friends.

To save money on Christmas, also set realistic expectations with family and friends.

For example, don’t be afraid to talk with your extended family about what is reasonable for you to spend each year given your overall budget and financial situation. If you are in debt, consider keeping your Christmas spending minimal so that the money can instead be used to help free you from debt.

With our extended family, we no longer buy gifts for each person, since our families are growing. We exchange names and set a spending amount, and we spend that much on the family whose name we chose. For the last couple of years the amount has been $60, and that has worked well to be able to get a few gifts for the families with kiddos or one nicer gift for siblings who aren’t married or who are married with no children.

And for friends, we don’t really exchange gifts. What we do with some of them is get together for a nice potluck Christmas dinner or for a movie night. It’s spending time with the people I love that I appreciate even more than a thoughtful gift.


6. Consider giving baked goods as inexpensive Christmas gifts.

Another great way to save money on Christmas is to give home-baked treats as gifts. I don’t know about you, but I love to bake during the holidays. There’s just something about Christmas and baking that feel like they go hand in hand!

It might be partly because I don’t like to go outside much during the winter (I would hibernate all winter like a bear if I could!), but I think it’s also that it just helps our home to feel warm and cozy—and smell amazing! There are so many fun treats to make, and it’s great to also give them away so that we don’t eat them all ourselves. #sweetsgostraighttomyhips

7. Keep it simple, sweetie!

One of the best ways for saving money at Christmas (and life in general) is to keep things simpler! 😊

A lot of times we make things a lot more complicated than they need to be. We make them a bigger production than they need to be.

How often do you buy a gift for your children, and they have just as much (or maybe more) fun playing with the box or the packaging as they do playing with the gift?

Buy simple, durable gifts like wood blocks, plastic building blocks, balls, wooden train sets, tool sets, kitchen sets, and so on, and you can’t go wrong!

8. Follow the four-gift (or five-gift) rule.

This is a very simple guideline to help keep Christmas focused on family time and experiences rather than all.the.stuff.

For this easy Christmas gift-giving tradition, you can keep things simple and really affordable by buying just four or five gifts for each child or person. There are different versions of it, but perhaps my favorite is this one:

  1. Something they want
  2. Something they need
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to read
  5. An experience (such as a family activity)

The fifth thing could also be a homemade gift, a gift from a sibling, a used gift, a gag gift, a white elephant gift—there are a lot of fun options here!

The point is just to keep the potentional craziness of Christmas gift buying in check.

This has a lot of benefits. It helps children to be grateful for  appreciate more what they get and what they have. It helps you to stay on budget (of course! :)) It helps keep your children’s rooms (and your home) from getting overstuffed with toys and stuff. It helps to keep expectations realistic. If you are Christian, it helps keep the focus of Christmas on Christ.

9. Do your Christmas shopping online.

For another way to save money on Christmas, shop online. That way, you will know exactly how much you are spending so that you won’t overspend your Christmas budget. Not to mention it’s just easier and quicker (in terms of actual time spent shopping).  A couple of years ago, I had all of our Christmas shopping done by Cyber Monday, and I bought everything online. I did not even leave the house to buy any of it. It was awesome.

10. Plan simpler Christmas dinners and parties.

As I mentioned above, we like to have gatherings with family and friends during the holidays, but we don’t go overboard. You might want to save some money (and your sanity) this Christmas by scaling back a little yourself, especially if you routinely find yourself overcommitted or overextended during the holiday season.

The gatherings we have with family and friends are often potluck dinners, and they’re pretty informal and low key. But that doesn’t keep them from being fun! In fact, I think it makes them more fun, because there isn’t one person who has the responsibility of planning and paying for the whole thing. It allows for less stress and more fun!


11. Consider giving Christmas gifts just to the kids.

For another easy way to save money at Christmas, consider keeping the gift giving for the kids, whether in your immediate family or your extended family. In many cases, it’s the kiddos who have the most fun receiving gifts anyway.

For my husband and I, some years we get each other presents, and some years we don’t. It depends on if there’s anything that we really want at the time. When we do buy each other gifts, they’re generally pretty inexpensive, since we’re both savers (now; that was not always the case, at least for me :)) by nature.

12. Consider buying and gifting used toys and clothes to the kids (and yourselves).

Another way you can save a ton of money on Christmas shopping by giving used items. If you’ve been a parent of toddlers or young kids for longer than 10 minutes, you probably figured out that they’re pretty rough on their toys (and everything else).

So the way I see it, I don’t need to spend $20 on a toy that might only last a few days or weeks or months when I can buy it used and spend $2. Then I won’t feel as bad when it gets broken. (Though they still feel just as bad. :-\)

And young kids don’t even know when something is used or not—they can’t tell the difference. And even older kids, such as our soon to be six-year-old, don’t have to feel that new is better.  We have never taught our kids to think that way. If anything, our kiddos might grow up thinking that used is better (I hope they do!).

13. Learn to be content with what you already have.

You can also save a ton of money on Christmas when you are already truly content with what you already have.

Another reason that my husband and I don’t feel a need to go crazy buying stuff at Christmas is that we are already happy with what we have. We already have plenty of stuff—all of what we need and much of what we want. So there’s no reason that we have to buy more. (Hint: And there’s no reason that you have to, either. 😊)

Read this article to learn more about the amazing power of contentment.

14. Consider regifting to save money at Christmas.

You can also save money at Christmas by regifting. If we receive a wonderful gift from someone that we’re just not going to use (I assume that happens with some of you, too, with gifts from well-intentioned family and perhaps friends), we’re OK giving it to someone else who will appreciate it. Reduce, reuse, recycle. 😊

15. Consider opting out of the jolly big lie.

I know I may get some flack for what I am about to share, but please hear me out and think about the benefits of making this same decision for yourself before making a judgment about it.

When our first daughter was probably about a year old, I was talking to a few coworkers at our annual Christmas luncheon. Somehow we got talking about Santa, and I mentioned that I didn’t like the idea of lying to my kids and acting like Santa was real when he’s not. I’m not a perfect parent (I so wish I were better!), but I want my children to be able to trust that what I say is true to the very best of my knowledge. And even though it’s easy to brush off this lie of Santa being real as a fun cultural tradition, I just didn’t want to do it.

Perhaps the clincher that made me decide to not lie about Santa being real was that one of my coworkers we were talking with at that luncheon told me a little story about one of her friends growing up. When her friend got old enough that her parents told her that Santa wasn’t real, she asked, “Well, then is Jesus not real either?” That hit me hard.

Now, I don’t want to make it into a bigger deal than it is, but I want with all of my heart and soul to have my children grow up following Christ and trying their best to be like Him—and believing that they can put their complete trust and faith in Him. That’s one of the very most important hopes and goals I have in my life, is that my children will grow up to be faithful followers of Christ.

Having a simple, relatively inexpensive, somewhat lower key Christmas aligns with our financial values, and it also aligns with our values as Christians. I want Christ to be the center of our Christmas, and by not making such a big deal of the big red guy, it’s easier to not have Christ completely overshadowed by Santa.

And it’s also easier to keep expectations realistic in order to save money on Christmas. When you teach your kids that there’s this magical guy who’s there to fulfill their every Christmas whim, it’s easier to get sucked into the trap of spending more than you should. (And if you’re using credit cards to pay for Christmas and you don’t pay them off that month, then you are spending more than you should.) But when your kids just grow up knowing that you are footing the bill for their gifts, then you can keep their Christmas wishes in check.

And that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with this Christmas tradition. We love Santa! He’s a jolly old fellow who brings joy to kids around the world. We read stories about him and watch movies about him and hang stockings and all that good stuff. We just don’t treat Santa like he is real—any more than we treat the Paw Patrol or Shimmer and Shine or Princess Sofia or Bob the Builder like they are real.

And I don’t know about you, but even though I love Christmas—I really, really do!—Christmas has just never been the same ever since that sunny afternoon (we lived in California at the time) when my dad took me for a drive and told me that Santa wasn’t real. Christmas has never been quite as magical—there was just something that was lost forever that day. (And I was I think 8 or 9, so it’s not like he was crushing my little heart at a super young age or anything. :)) But by not lying about Santa in the first place, my children will never have that letdown—that wonderful, magical bubble will never be burst.

I feel it’s so important for their long-term joy and contentment that our children learn that it is people and experiences that they should focus on and that really matter and that can bring real lasting happiness, not stuff.

Because of our very natures as humans, the value of stuff just doesn’t last most of the time. We get the newest smartphone, and then a year later (or less), there’s a better (more expensive) model out, and our cool phone just isn’t cool enough anymore. Same with video games, computers, cars, toys (the little people kind), boats—anything and everything.

It’s a true hedonic treadmill, where you can get caught up in continually buying more stuff—bigger and better and nicer and shinier stuff—in an endless effort to be happy. But because money is finite, you just can’t buy your way to happiness. Once the shine of the newest thing wears off, then you want something else, and then something else.

It just never stops, and it’s a way to be discontent and unsatisfied your whole life. What you have just isn’t good enough anymore. And that’s the perfect way to stay broke and never save and invest for the things that are so very important, like a comfortable retirement and your kids’ college educations. So let’s not get so caught up in all of that!

Now, all that being said, I know that many of you will have probably already told your children about Santa, and acted as if he were real. And so I don’t really expect you to then tell your children right away that actually, Santa isn’t real—unless what I say above just really resonates with you, and you want to (gently) let your children know the truth.

But if you want to continue to pretend that Santa is real, if you love the magic of the fairy tale Santa, then that is fine. You can still keep Christmas expectations reasonable and realistic by just saying that, like your family needs to live on a budget to meet all of their responsibilities, Santa has to live on a budget too in order to be able to give presents to all of the millions of children in the world who count on him.

So once your children are old enough to understand to some degree the concept of money, help them to know what gift requests to Santa are feasible given your family’s financial situation, and help guide them toward a reasonable Christmas wish list. To help build their young little characters, steer them to try and think of giving presents as well as receiving them and to not get too greedy in their gift requests.

Final Thoughts on How to Save Money on Christmas

The holiday season is such an amazing time—it’s one of my favorite times of the year. I feel it really is magical. But it’s not because of the gifts. It’s because of time spent with family, time spent doing fun traditions, and time spent focusing on the Savior. It’s because we can make fun memories and pass on fun traditions to our kids.

You can save money at Christmas if you will please divorce in your mind the holiday season and having to spend a bunch of money. I promise that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great holiday! Your kids will be just fine if they have a few meaningful gifts (or even just one, like one family I know does).

Or instead of gifts, you might give your family meaningful experiences, like going out to dinner or going on a cruise together or a volunteer vacation together. If you spent $500 less than you spent last year, you could put it toward your emergency fund or toward your children’s education savings accounts (ESAs). And then rather than having that much more stuff taking up space in your house, you could move your family one step closer to financial freedom.

Last year we spent about $250 for all of our Christmas gift giving. And yet the kids got a handful of (relatively inexpensive) gifts that they really enjoyed, and we got to focus on the Christmas traditions that really make the season bright for our family.

What do you do to save money on Christmas? What do you feel is a reasonable amount to spend? What do you think about opting out of the big, jolly lie? I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts, so please leave a comment below!

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