Christmas is “supposed” to be a time filled with stress, family fun, good food, and making memories. But when your goal is to celebrate Christmas on a tight budget, the weeks leading up to Christmas can take a serious toll on your household budget.
Fortunately with a little advance planning and some cost-cutting strategies, you can celebrate Christmas on a tight budget.
Every year, the Christmas season is accompanied by news reports about how expensive the holidays have become. Over the past few decades, the phenomenon of Black Friday — and, more recently, Cyber Monday — has caused holiday spending to skyrocket.
According to a Gallup poll, the average American spent about $900 on gifts alone in 2018. The average total holiday spending per person was a little over $1,000. Overall, Americans spent $720 billion over the Christmas season.
It’s probably no surprise, then, that Christmas is by far the most expensive holiday of the year.
And when you consider that Thanksgiving comes immediately before Christmas, it’s easy to see how these two holidays can throw your budget off track for weeks or even months.
Inexpensive ways to make holidays special.
If you’re looking to celebrate Christmas on a tight budget, the best time to start prepping is immediately after Christmas. Holiday decor may take up a great deal of retail space, but it has a relatively short shelf life.
Once the season ends, stores move quickly to swap out seasonal items for spring merchandise.
While you might not feel like shopping for Christmas items a day or two after the holiday concludes, after-Christmas sales offer numerous opportunities to save big.
You can save hundreds of dollars on next year’s gifts, toys, clothing, and decor by doing your shopping a year in advance.
The best way to budget for Christmas is by starting as early as possible. Ideally, you should start budgeting in January. This way, you have more time to save.
Start by tallying up how much you spent on gifts last Christmas, then figure out how much money you need to put aside to save that much for this Christmas.
Because you’ll need some time to shop, let’s assume you’ll save through the end of October, so you can begin your shopping in early November. Using that plan, and assuming you started in January, you’ll have 40 weeks to save.
For example, if you spent $1,000 on gifts this year, you’ll need to save $25 each week to have $1,000 by the end of October. If you spent $500, you’ll only need to put aside $12.50 each week.
Some banks have “Christmas Clubs” or other types of savings accounts that let you deposit small amounts into a special account each week. Alternatively, you can put your weekly or monthly savings into an envelope.
Just make sure you’re disciplined enough to keep that money separate from the rest of your budget.
- Christmas comes with a lot of expenses. Work parties, family dinners, and neighborhood celebrations can stretch your budget in a variety of ways. Here are tips for saving across the board.
- For the average person, gifts are the biggest expense when it comes to Christmas. However, you don’t have to spend a lot to give a gift someone will treasure and enjoy.
- Are you a crafting pro? Skilled with a needle and thread? Browse Pinterest to find seasonal crafts that can double as gifts. As a bonus, making your own gifts is a fun project to keep the kids entertained over holiday break.
- If you’re short on funds, why not offer your time instead? Offer to clean a relative’s home from top to bottom, or volunteer free babysitting services to friends who need a date night. You might be surprised how many people appreciate the gesture.
- Baked goods make wonderful, easy, and affordable Christmas gifts. You can purchase inexpensive tins or plastic containers at the dollar store, then fill them with an assortment of homemade treats.
Add a colorful bow and a gift tag, and you’ve got a thoughtful and delicious Christmas gift.
- While you might want to give everyone in your life a special holiday gift, shopping for every coworker, relative, and neighbor can get expensive. Instead of giving individual gifts, propose a Secret Santa exchange.
Secret Santa exchanges work well in the workplace and even in big families. Instead of each person buying a gift for everyone else, have each person draw someone else’s name from a hat.
Set a reasonable spending limit for a gift, such as $25. That way, you only need to purchase or make one present rather than buying for everyone on your list.
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spends about $215 on non-gift items — things like decorations, food, and greeting cards — each Christmas. If you’re willing to get creative, you can save big on holiday decor.
- This may not be practical right now, but retailers need to clear out holiday stock after Christmas, which means they typically mark down seasonal items by as much as 90 percent.
You can stock up on bulbs, ornaments, lights, and even artificial Christmas trees by shopping post-holiday sales.
- Many craft stores offer free or affordable DIY holiday decor classes around the holidays. You can also find hundreds of free tutorials online.
By making your own holiday decorations, you can create a color scheme that complements your home and personal style.
How can you save on Christmas food?
The seemingly endless round of holiday parties, get-togethers, and cocktail hours can be a drain on your budget. Drinks, food, and decorations can present you with last-minute expenses that stretch your budget.
While most people think of gifts as the biggest holiday expense, food can put a considerable dent in your budget. Here are three tips for making your seasonal dollar stretch farther.
- Potluck dinners can be fun and economical. If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, offer to prepare the main dish and then ask each guest to bring their favorite side.
You’ll get an exciting variety of dishes and save money while you’re at it.
- Many grocery stores offer deep discounts on things like turkey, ham, baking supplies around the holidays. Shop your store’s sales and plan your holiday meals around items you can purchase at a discount.
- If you are thinking of making seafood for dinner, opt for frozen seafood because it is cheaper than fresh version.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are the busiest travel days of the entire year.
According to AAA, over 93 million people hit the roads or take to the skies between Christmas and New Year’s, and another 44 million travel on Thanksgiving weekend.
Travel costs are predicted to increase by 3 percent in 2019. Whether you fly, drive, or take a train, traveling over the holidays can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Whether you drive or fly, you can still celebrate Christmas on a tight budget and afford to travel during the holidays . Here are three tips to keep in mind:
- While a direct flight might be more appealing than dealing with the hassle of a layover, flying straight from Point A to Point B might be more expensive than an indirect route.
Before you book a flight, compare airlines and ticket prices to see if you can save by taking an indirect route. You can sometimes save even more by designing your own route.
For example, it might be cheaper to fly into a major hub and then hop a regional airline for a quick flight to your destination.
- Save by shipping gifts to your destination rather than packing them in your luggage. You’ll save money on baggage fees, as well as reduce the headaches of worrying about your gifts making it to your destination in one piece.
- These days, most major airlines charge a fee for checked luggage. You can usually avoid these fees by restricting your bags to a carry-on. Pack basic, versatile pieces you can mix and match to create different outfits.
Many people take vacations or have time off during the holiday season. While it’s great to spend extra time with your loved ones, seasonal activities can be pricey. Here are five Christmas activities the whole family will enjoy even on a tight budget.
- For most kids these days, Christmas caroling is something they see on television and in old movies.
Why not revive the tradition by spreading holiday cheer in your own neighborhood? Bundle up and go door to door with a group of friends or family members.
- Volunteering at a soup kitchen, retirement community, or shelter is an excellent way to teach your kids about gratitude and kindness.
By helping the less fortunate over the holidays, you help your budget as well as those in need.
- Take your family to visit chronically and terminally sick children at the hospital. The children are stuck in hospitals during holiday season need a Christmas some cheer, joy and laughter and some presents.
Not to mention, It is a meaningful gesture, makes you appreciate whatever you have.
- Does your community have an abundance of Christmas lights? Put some hot cocoa in a thermos and hop in the car, then take a drive to view all the lights.
Check your local news or civic websites for a list of places or neighborhoods known for showcasing Christmas lights.
- With so many classic holiday movies out there, a movie night is a fun and affordable way to snuggle up and enjoy some quality family time. Pop some popcorn, build up the fire, and sip hot chocolate as you take in the show.
How can I make extra money before Christmas?
When your Christmas buying list is long, you may be tempted to finance gifts by putting them on a credit card.
However, this can lead to serious financial trouble down the road. If you can’t pay your balance in full, you’ll end up paying interest on your purchases.
If you’re concerned about holiday expenses, taking on a side gig can be a great way to ease your stress while bringing in additional income. Here are some ideas to keep in mind.
What jobs are seasonal?
Need a temporary, part-time gig? Seasonal work offers the perfect opportunity to earn extra money without worrying about a long-term commitment.
In 2018, American businesses hired 700,000 seasonal workers — the most since 2015. If you’re interested in seasonal work, retailers are a sure bet for finding employment.
According to a CBS News report, Target hired 120,000 seasonal employees in 2018. Other retailers also took on extra staff. Kohl’s hired 90,000 temp workers in 2018, and Macy’s hired 80,000 seasonal employees.
JCPenney brought in 18,000 seasonal workers over the holidays, and craft supply chain Michael’s added 15,000 temp employees to its staff over the holidays.
Become a freelance writer with no experience
Are you good at writing? Do you dabble in graphic design for friends? Love making custom artwork for your home? You could put these skills to work as a side hustle — all from the comfort of home.
In recent years, the gig economy has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, one-third of all U.S. workers are now part of it. According to Forbes, 57 million Americans work in some kind of non-traditional employment arrangement.
This includes jobs like driving for Uber, offering freelance writing services, on Fiverr and selling custom arts and crafts on Etsy.
There are dozens of sites that let you set up a profile, upload examples of your work, and start accepting clients and projects.
You might even decide to make your side job your main career. You do not need a degree but it is an added advantage. Many freelancers charge between $120-150 for a 1000-1500 word article.
If you have decent writing skills and enjoy learning about random facts, you could earn easy money writing for Listverse. As the name indicates, the site publishes lists about anything and everything.
Lists are user-generated, and the submission process is easy. Just pick a topic you’d like to write about, put together a list, and submit. If Listverse likes your list, the site will pay you $100 through PayPal. No strings attached.
Below are a few other websites that pay people to write.
Wow Women on Writing: $50-100.
Strong Whispers: $50 – $150.
College Humour: $25 – $150.
Cracked.com: $100 – $200.
Watch Culture: $25 – $500.
Sitepoint: Visit Link for Pricing.
How do you become a mystery shopper?
Love shopping? Now you can get paid for it. Sites like Bestmark offer mystery shopping assignments to people who are willing to visit a store and report back on their experience.
If you work with Bestmark, you can accept up to nine assignments per month. While you might have to shell out a small amount of money up front to make a purchase inside a store, Bestmark reimburses all expenses.
Depending on the company some mystery shoppers make between $5 – 25 per assignment.
When you are looking for secret shopping jobs, keep in mind that mystery shopping is way more than “getting paid to shop.” This is a real job, and it is work. Treat it as a job, and you will have a much better chance of being successful.
Check out this website for more mystery shopper jobs. Beware of scams out there. Learn more about how companies and stores recruit mystery shoppers.
Can you make money delivering groceries?
For many people, grocery shopping is an unpleasant but necessary chore. Others are simply pressed for time, and find it difficult to make room in their schedule for a grocery run.
This is where someone in search of a side gig can make a decent supplemental income. Sites like Instacart connect users with shoppers who handle all the shopping and delivery.
Sort of like a curbside shopping service and Uber Eats delivery all in one. As an Instacart shopper/driver, you can browse available jobs and select the ones that appeal to you.
How much money can you make as a pet sitter?
If your schedule is too packed to allow for a seasonal job, you can still make extra money by offering pet sitting services.
The busy holiday travel season means that many people need someone to keep an eye on their pets while they’re away.
Sign up to offer pet sitting services at Rover.com. According to the site, pet sitters who are willing to watch pets in their own homes overnight can earn up to $1,000 a month.
What can I rent out to make money?
If you live in a large city or near a popular tourist destination, earning extra cash can be as simple as posting a spare room for rent on Airbnb.
The peer-to-peer hospitality site has become a popular alternative to hotels — so much so that it was worth $20 billion in 2018.
However you need to inform your mortgage lender before you rent out your property. This is done not to violate the mortgage terms. Your mortgage lender will issue you with a consent for lease.
What can I sell online to make money?
Got an old sewing machine you never use? Or what about that bread machine that’s never been out of the box?
Whether it’s clothing, kitchen appliances, or electronics, most people have extra items they don’t use or don’t need. Instead of sitting in your basement, these items can put money in your pocket.
Before the internet, the only places to sell unwanted stuff were garage sales and consignment shops. Today, however, you can earn extra money selling online.
Check out eBay for easy and convenient ways to list your item for sale. In this post, we talk about how to set up an ebay store. You can also sell your items on Facebook Marketplace.
The holiday season can be costly, but you can still celebrate Christmas on a tight budget. If you’re committed to planning ahead ( there is still time) you can cross numerous holiday expenses off your list.