I know what you are thinking, “Is it really possible to pull of Christmas on a zero budget?” Yes, you can–if you are willing to put in some hard work and be very creative. You also have to be willing to keep Christmas simple.
Many Christmases ago I pulled off Christmas for almost nothing. Our family had taken a big move that summer and it resulted in several expenses. Plus, my husband was starting off a new job as a Registered Nurse for the first time and therefore was earning an entry-level wage. We had some medical bills come up and after praying over it I knew God wanted me to pay them with what little I had saved for Christmas. There I was mid-November with not a nickel saved for Christmas.
Yet, come Christmas day, each of our 3 children had a gift from us, a gift from Santa, and a stocking. My husband got a small gift from me and he gave me a few pieces of a Dollar Tree Christmas Village I had been eying. We had a very simple Christmas meal. The highlight of the day was the beautiful Christmas tree we got just in time for the big day for free.
How did I do it? I got very creative and thought outside the box, and at the very last minute my husband got called in for an afternoon of overtime work and that paycheck arrived the day before Christmas. It helped pay for a few items I had not yet gotten, which is why I said I pulled it off for almost nothing.
If you don’t have the hope of overtime filling in the gaps for you, you can still pull off a great Christmas on a zero budget, especially since 12 years later you have more possibilities available to you than I did, thanks to the growing internet.
10 Ways To Celebrate Christmas On A Zero Budget
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1. Go through your home from top to bottom
Christmas for zero requires you doing some inventory. What do you have that you no longer use that can be sold? Could you sell those jeans you no longer fit in for enough money to fill the kids’ stockings? What items do you have around the home that could become gifts? Could that tablecloth you never use become doll clothes?
Go from room to room looking through every nook and cranny, taking stock of everything you already own and try to see it with new, creative eyes.
2. Find a local Facebook Buy and Sell Group
In most areas November is a little late to have a yard sale, but nowadays you can have a yard sale any day you want with a Facebook Buy and Sell group. You can sell items big and small in these groups.
3. Start Working Point Reward Programs And Apps That Have Low Payout Minimums
Point Programs With Low Cash Out Levels
Point Programs That Offer Books And Magazines As Payment
Various Money Or Gift Card Earning Apps With Low Cash Out Thresholds
- Fetch Rewards Use my referral code RE9FU at sign up and receive 1500 points when you complete 1 receipt.
Now is not the time to spend hours on surveys for a company that doesn’t pay out until you reach $30. Instead, work at programs like Swagbucks where gift cards in general start at 500 Swagbucks for a $5 card. Visit my post on 10 simple ways to earn gift cards using Swagbucks to get started.
If you have a magazine lover in your family join Recycle Bank and do their environmentally-friendly themed point-earning tasks. Magazines subscriptions start at 160 points. There are some activities that come out worth 150 points so it won’t take long to earn enough for a magazine subscription for a loved one. There is a wide variety of magazines–including those for fitness lovers, home decor lovers, celebrity news lovers, and more.
If you want to surprise a book lover young or old with a new book, then join My Reader Rewards Club and follow the instructions in my article on My Reader Rewards club (was once called Tyndale rewards) to earn enough points on your first day as a member to purchase a book. Books do take a few weeks to be delivered; plan accordingly.
You have to buy groceries so why not get rewarded for doing so with gift cards from FetchRewards and CoinOut. FetchRewards is an app used for grocery shopping that has a low $3 cash-out option. I reached it with just 2 items in 2 shopping trips) Use my referral code RE9FUat sign up and receive 1500 points when you complete 1 receipt). With the app CointOut, I have earned anywhere from .01 to .07 cents for the receipts I have uploaded, and they take almost all receipts not just grocery receipts.
4. Trade Books, Clothing, & Toys For Store Credit
Books I no longer needed was something I found on my inventory walk through those 12 Christmases ago. I took them to a local secondhand bookstore and got a credit that I used to pick out like new board books for my toddler to put in his stocking. You could also try children’s consignment stores that pay cash upfront (they often give you more if you will take store credit), and usually they have like new toys you could give as gifts to your youngsters.
5. Hold An “Eat What You Have” Week
For one week skip the grocery store and get really creative making meals out of food already in your cupboards and use the savings to buy gifts. I used mine to buy the ingredients needed for Christmas baking and Christmas dinner that tight financial year.
6. Wait Until The Last Minute For Amazing Deals
That Christmas 12 years ago was the first time I have waited to finish my shopping until Christmas Eve. When I knew we had no money saved for Christmas, I had made a list and had prioritized it and was doing well at getting the most important items. The two things I was missing though were a tree and Santa gifts.
We were making do with a 2-foot artificial tree I found in the attic. It had been left by the previous owner of our home and was very Charlie Brown like but it worked. I was racking my brain for free Santa gift materials around our home when my husband got the afternoon hours of overtime and we figured out that money would arrive Christmas Eve.
With the money in our account early that morning I sent my husband out with a list and told him, “Santa gifts first and if there’s money leftover buy a tree.” He got the gifts and thought we had enough leftover for a small, real tree. When he got to the tree seller’s place the guy was shocked we didn’t have a tree yet and pointed out that he had already gotten his ready for trash pick-up, but he allowed my husband to pick one out for free.
You can imagine my face when he came home with a huge tree and if I remember right he spent the money we saved on some 50% off tree decorations to decorate it.
7. Sign Up For Samples As Soon As You Can
Right around Thanksgiving, it seems like companies go crazy with free sample sign-ups. Money Saving Mom is my favorite place to find out about them. The site has a weekly round-up list of them, but I prefer checking the site daily for new ones. Free samples can make great stocking stuffers or gift basket fillers.
Another great source of samples is PINCHme. Go and create an account and then you will be ready to sign-up for samples during their next monthly PINCHme Tuesdays event. Each month you can receive up to 4 samples of various products to try.
8. Search Pinterest For Ideas
- Presents you can make out of old jeans
- Presents you can make out of t-shirts
- Presents you can make out of old sweaters
If Pinterest had been available the year I created Christmas out of next to nothing, my brain would have hurt less. Use the Pinterest search bar to enter whatever materials you seem to have in surplus and watch amazing remake and repurpose ideas come up.
9. Watch Out For Coupons That Lead To Free Items
. For several years in a row, I bought my children chocolate for their stocking for pennies by using the Hallmark $5 Off a $5 Purchase coupons that were available to print online and also found in free magazines I enjoy. CVS and Walgreens Black Friday sales are also a great place to get free items by stacking deals with coupons. My coupon tips resource page has a list of printable coupon sites and coupon apps where you can find coupons that might lead to free items.
Here is a list of a few popular printable coupon sites:
10. Give handmade Coupons
If you want to include friends in your giving, but all 9 ideas above leave you too short to make it to them, here is an idea: give out handmade coupons. Give babysitting to the couple you know never gets out. Give a coupon of “I will help you plant your flower garden this spring,” to the brown thumb friend who needs someone to be there to guide them in purchasing the right plants and getting them in the ground in the place they will grow. Give your hubby a few coupons too, for back rubs and…(be creative 🙂 ). Oh, and if you think handmade coupons are a little tacky here is a great free alternative.
A Christmas day filled with simple gifts and good food can be created even if you have zero saved right now and little hopes of an overtime check coming your way. It only takes out of the box thinking and a can-do attitude.
More Thrifty Christmas Articles…
- 25 Christmas Traditions For Families On Tight Budgets
- How To Plan A Christmas To Remember On A Super Tight Budget
- The Christmas On A Zero Budget Free mini eBook & Printable Plan
For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.
All my Thrifty Christmas Tips in one convenient resource page.