According to The American Research Group, the average American household will spend $929 on Christmas presents this year.
I am completely shocked by this number! No wonder so many people go into debt during the holidays! If $929 is the average just for gifts, many families will have to put these purchases on credit just to keep up with the Joneses. Or rather, the Jones’s Santa Claus.
We honestly can’t afford to spend $929 this Christmas. And we certainly can’t afford the inflated final cost with interest if we were to put Christmas on credit.
So instead, we have set a strict Christmas budget of only $250. This includes gifts, cookies and special recipes, decor, cards, canned food donations for the church—everything related to Christmas!
How did we say “heck no” to the astronomically high average spending? Well, we created a cash-only budget and used these 6 tips to save money and make the most of every purchase.
1. Scoff tradition
When I was a kid, we “had” to get our picture taken with Santa every year. We would get dressed up in fussy and itchy clothes, wait in line with other screaming kids, and seriously overpay (it is now $30+ !) for a picture of us with the big man in the red suit.
Not this year! We are saving our cash and avoiding the mall Santa madness. There is so much more that I would rather spend $30 on than a picture of my kid crying on a stranger’s lap.
In fact, we aren’t going to do Santa at all with our kids. There are a lot of reasons to skip Santa, including that it saves money by ditching the pressure to overspend on your kid’s whole Christmas list.
2. Say no to stockings
Not only will parents have to provide presents under the tree, but we have to fill a stocking with smaller toys and candy as well? Seriously?
This is another Christmas tradition that is just overspending for tradition’s sake. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but stocking stuffers really do add up, even if just a few dollars at a time. This is a great thing to cut because no one really remembers what is in the stockings anyway, and it saves you a boatload of cash.
If you want to keep the tradition but not spend a dime, have you kids fill their stockings with old toys that another child would love to receive for Christmas, then donate them to a local charity.
3. Rethink Christmas Cards
Christmas cards can really add up. Not only do you have to buy the cards and envelopes (which run anywhere from $12 for 25 cute cards on Amazon to $30 or more for 15 custom picture cards), but you have to get a postage stamp for each.
This is something that you can save money on if you are planning to see most of your family for Christmas anyway.
However, these cards can be a relatively inexpensive way to show you are thinking about someone this Christmas without going whole hog and getting them an actual gift. I realize that this is a glaringly frugal way to do Christmas, but if you are truly on a tight budget, your friends and family will understand.
Don’t just do Christmas cards because it is tradition, take time to really think about if it is worth it to send them at all, or use them as a stand-in for a more expensive gift on frugal years.
4. Simplify Your Decor
Lighting up your house like the Griswolds’ isn’t budget friendly. Not only do you have to get all the lights, outdoor timers, and extension chords but you will inevitably have to make a mad dash to the store to get something you forgot or found out doesn’t work anymore.
Oh, and did I mention the power bill?
You can really save a lot in your Christmas budget by simplifying your decor.
How simple is up to you. When you think about decorating for Christmas, what is the first thing that comes to your head? For me, it is a Christmas tree and a wonderful smell in the house. So, it makes sense to only invest in a tree and maybe a candle or other home fragrance.
I wouldn’t really notice if all the bells and whistles weren’t part of my Christmas plan this year, and chances are, my kid won’t either. Save the money and drive through the neighborhood to look at other people’s lights!
5. Shop smart at the grocery store
Food is a big part of the holidays for my family. We have a nice big dinner on Christmas, and everyone brings a seasonal dish to contribute. These pot lucks are a great way to spread out the work and the financial burden of the meal, and I love them!
I still expect to be paying a little bit extra on groceries during the holidays. It is nice to have wine, eggnog and rum in the house during the holidays—but instead of going spend crazy, I take the time to find the best deals for all our little extras.
Every grocery store near where I live releases a weekly sales flier, and the deals are incredible around the holidays. It is really important to pick these up “shop the flier” for your Christmas treats. For more on how to work these fliers into your meal planning, check out How to Meal Plan on a Tight Budget.
I also use Ibotta a lot during the holidays to earn cash back on groceries (yep, real cash from a free app). This year, the cash back I earn shopping for our Christmas dinner will be going toward a bottle of wine for mommy (Sssh, don’t tell.) If you use my link to sign up, you will be on my team and you will earn an extra $10 when you redeem your first rebate! Free money!
6. Be very careful at the mall
I know we all have to venture out to the mall and stores to do our Christmas shopping. However, watch your step. It is important to make a budget and a list and stick to it while you are shopping so that you won’t waste any money. I highly recommend making a pact with yourself to only use cash—this helps a lot!
The mall is a particularly dangerous place for would-be frugal shoppers during the holidays. There are so many sales and tricks to get you in the store and spending money you did not intend on spending. They are really good at it. For a lot more information on what is up the retailers’ sleeves, check out Retail Gimmicks You Need to Stop Falling For.
Christmas is a really difficult time to stick to a tight budget for many families because so much is expected of us—gifts, food, cards, and keeping with tradition. However, it is possible to stick to a budget during the holidays when you carefully curate the traditions you want to practice, simplify your decorations, and shop smart at the grocery store and the mall. Here’s to a New Year without Christmas debt! Cheers!