If you want to make sure that you have an all-cash Christmas this year, but your budget is tight, the tips I am about to share with you are going to be a lifesaver! Learn how to make a Christmas budget you can stick to–no matter how small.
How To Make A Christmas Budget You Can Stick To–No Matter How Small
(Links in this post are affiliate links. I will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking those links. See my disclosure page for more information)
1. Write Down Every Expense
Christmas expenses are a lot more than just purchasing Christmas gifts. Here is a list of possible Christmas expenses that you may have to include in your Christmas budget.
- Family photo for the annual Christmas card (printing cost and photographer cost if you hire one)
- Family outfits for the Christmas card photo
- Family outfits for any Christmas events (parties, class or church plays, etc.)
- Annual get together costs (staff parties, extended family parties, etc.)
- Extra groceries (Christmas baking, Christmas dinner, potlucks with friends and family, cookie exchanges, etc.)
- Decorations (Candy canes for the tree, new wreath, Christmas light replacements, advent calendars, etc.)
- Christmas outings (plays, movies, concerts, annual lights show, etc.)
- Extra vehicle gas (trip to grandma’s, more driving due to an increased amount of get-togethers during Christmas season)
- Time off work (are you taking any extra days off work that are not paid for?)
- Animal boarding or pet sitting fees (while you spend Christmas at the in-laws who are allergic to your pup)
- Plants (the annual Christmas poinsettia, Christmas cactus, holly, mistletoe, etc.)
- Gifts for immediate family
- Gifts for extended family
- Gifts for friends
- Gifts for co-workers
- Gifts for events (gift exchanges at staff parties etc.)
- Gifts for important workers in your life (teachers, nurses, church workers, etc.)
- Giving to those in need in your community and beyond
You don’t have to include all the above in your Christmas budget, just what applies to your family. This list is to help trigger your brain into remembering all the costs related to the Christmas season so that nothing comes as a surprise to you and therefore doesn’t blow your budget.
Write down all the expenses that apply to you and your family over the Christmas season and give them each a dollar amount that is realistic. Now comes the scary part for most people, add up all the expenses you listed above and write down the total.
2. Figure Out How Much Money You Have
Where can you come up with money for the Christmas budget? In a moment I will discuss ways to pad the Christmas account, but right now write down what money you know you can come up with between now and a few days before Christmas.
3. Subtract Your Expenses From The Money You Have
Now comes the moment of truth–subtract your Christmas expenses from the money you either think you can set aside for Christmas or that you already have set aside. If you ended up with a positive number at the end, great job! If not, read on and I will share how you can balance that budget by lowering your Christmas expenses in some areas and increasing the amount of money you can set aside for your Christmas fund.
If Your Christmas Expenses Are Higher Than Your Christmas Money
1. What Can You Cut?
For some of you, all you are going to have to do is cut a few things down or out and the budget will be balanced. For others, this means you are going to have to make several rounds of cuts until you get things to balance. Those in the second group: I feel your pain, trimming costs at Christmas is hard, but it is possible to create a memorable Christmas on an extremely tight budget without going into debt.
2. What Can You Save Money On?
Making several rounds of budget cuts to balance things out can be difficult, but cuts can be decreased by saving money in some areas. Here a few of my best tips to save money on Christmas expenses.
Free with points offers can be excellent gifts for bookworms
- Free Books:My Reader Rewards club offers free with points fiction and non-fiction Christian books for all ages that would make excellent gifts for bookworms. It isn’t hard to earn enough points for a free book and those free books include free shipping to your home. Books do take up to 8 weeks to be delivered to your home so make sure to order well in advance of Christmas. Go here to sign up with my referral link and start your account with 25 points.
- Free Magazines: It doesn’t take long to earn enough points for a magazine subscription using Recycle Bank. Plus they let you fill out the name and address of the person you want to send it to. Points are mainly earned at Recycle Bank by learning about environmentally friendly practices and answering questions about what you learned. Go here to sign up for Recycle Bank
Free samples can make great stocking stuffers or gift basket fillers
Here are a few places to get them or find free samples:
- PinchMe–-Offers a Sample Tuesday once a month where you can receive a box of up to four samples depending if you qualify for the samples that month. Make sure to fill out your profile.
- DailyGoodieBox–I have yet to get a box full of samples from DailyGoodie box, but I have seen pictures of them from those who have and wow! Worth signing up to see if you get one.
- Money Saving Mom–Money Saving Mom is not an exclusive freebie sight, but it does list a fair amount of great high-quality free samples.
- Freebies4Mom – Freebies4Mom was the first blog I used to find out about free samples. It lists a large variety.
Low-cost gifts can be found through these sources
Sometimes companies offering free item codes require you to pay shipping costs. Other times companies will provide you with store credit that you can use towards your first purchase, but it might not be enough to cover both the cost of the item and the shipping. Here are some examples of what I mean…
- Shutterfly: Shutterfly offers free codes for their photo products all the time–here is how I find out about them. You do, however, have to pay shipping fees. Still, most gifts would end up under $10.
- ThredUp: $10 off your first order when you use my referral link here. Look in the New With Tags section for giftable items. You will need to pay shipping fees, but again it is possible to get an excellent gift for very little spent.
Save the most money by stacking discounts when you can
Here is an example of how I stack savings. My children all love Old Navy jeans. When they need new ones, I first go to Cardpool and purchase a discounted gift card for Old Navy for just under the amount I think I am going to spend; generally this saves me between 10 and 15 percent. I start reading the emails Old Navy sends me until I see a good sale on jeans. At that point I click over to Old Navy and when I am at the site, I make sure to click the Rakuten browser button so that I get cash back on my purchases. I make sure I get free shipping by ordering jeans for all three of my kids at once.
Discounted gift card + sale + cash back = triple thrifty savings stack. Sometimes you can make it a quadruple thrifty stack if you can also add in a discount code found at a site like Retail Me Not.
If shopping in store, you can still stack savings by getting a discounted gift card, waiting for a sale, applying a printable coupon, and checking Shopkick to see if you can get a few kicks that you can use towards a gift card for entering the store or scanning things while you are there (or both). Depending on the store you might also be able to use Ibotta or FetchRewards (use code RE9FU when you sign up and get 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt) or both (both offer gift card redemptions). For fun and eventually a gift card, upload your receipt to Receipt Hog (use the code YECT1667 when you sign up for free spins) and earn a few coins or spins (that randomly give you points) and watch your pig get happy.
So now that you know the power of the thrifty stack, here are sites to help you do it successfully
Printable Coupon Sites
Often at Christmas time, you can find high-value coupons on toys, board games, or items that would make great stocking stuffers when combined with sales at places like Target or Meijer.
Discounted Gift Cards
If there is either an online store or a brick and sticks store where you know you are going to spend the bulk of your Christmas money at check Cardpool to see if you can grab a discount gift card before you shop. They offer both physical gift cards that are mailed out to you for free (which you could give as a gift card or use to buy gifts) and e-gift cards that you can print and apply to online or in-store purchases. There are other discounted gift card sites out there, but Carpool is the site my family uses.
You save anywhere from 2% to 25% depending on the store you want the gift card for. That might not sound like much, but every bit adds up to significantly, lowering your Christmas budget.
Cash Back Sites
The cash back sites listed here will earn you money back on your purchases, but you do have to be patient. It sometimes takes weeks to receive your cash back, and most have a cash back threshold that must be met for you to get your money. Think of this as after Christmas money instead of cash for Christmas.
Rakuten–large selection of stores, handy web browser button, great high-value days.
Top Cashback–no minimum cash out threshold, meaning you can cash out as soon as you receive your payout.
MyPoints–a point rewards program with an excellent cash back area and you can cash out with as little as 480 points.
Online Stores For Incredible Deals–No Coupon Required
Pretty much everybody knows what stores in their town offer great low price items, but what people sometimes don’t understand is where they can find deals online. Here are a few of my favorite online stores for great deals on items that would make excellent gifts.
- Jane–offers sales on fashion, home decor, personalized items and more.
- Groopdealz–offers sales on fashion, home decor, personalized items and more.
- Zulily–if you have a name brand lover on you list, Zulily is a great place to find them the fashion and decor items they love at incredible discounts.
Online Stores With Great Coupon Deals
Sometimes sites will give out discount codes frequently that can lead to great deals on giftable items. Here are two of my favorites.
- DaySpring–I love Dayspring mugs with inspirational sayings or scripture printed on them and when you can grab them on clearance on a free shipping day, they become low priced gifts that coffee, cocoa, and tea lovers will love.
- Cents Of Style–Cents of Style offers a different deal code almost every day that would be a good gift for a fashion lover on your list.
To find out about all these sales make sure to sign up for the email list of these stores during the Christmas shopping season. You can always unsubscribe after the Christmas season if you find the number of emails they send to be overwhelming. Another great place to find out about deals from these stores and more is MoneySavingMom.com
Cut out the trimmings so you can spend more on the main expenses
Ask the family to write down a list of their top three favorite things about the Christmas season. Chances are a lot of what you thought were well loved annual traditions didn’t make the list. Save money by either eliminating those things out of the Christmas budget or at least cutting back what you spend on them.
Do you need the Christmas poinsettia? Could you skip the snail mail Christmas cards and photos and opt for emailing a digital holiday card (DaySpring has some great free, pre-made ones) and e-letter that includes a family selfie or one taken for free by a friend? Cut the price of filling stockings by sticking to items under $1. Can you save money on co-workers’ gifts by DIYing and mass producing (example: make a few batches of my simple chocolate fudge and place it in red solo cups, wrap in saran wrap and tie with fancy ribbon)?
For more money saving ideas, including a list of my favorite places to shop for inexpensive gifts, sign up for my free Thrifty Ninja Christmas Shopping email course (you have to sign-up for my email list to get it).
Now that you have taken some time to learn about ways you can spend less on Christmas, rework your Christmas budget to reflect what you learned. If the budget is still higher than what you are going to be able to set aside for it, then read on, I have some money earning ideas for you that will suit any skill set and time restraint.
3. What Could You Do To Earn More Money Between Now And Christmas?
The simplest way I know to earn a lump sum of money in a hurry is to go through your home from top to bottom and place all the items in good condition in one area and then resell them. Here is a handy, free printable guideline list that can help you with that process by helping you gather as much as possible to sell (you will need to sign up for my email newsletter to receive it).
I have an entire page devoted to links to articles that can help you resell your items. The easiest method for most people is to spend a Saturday taking photographs and listing the items on Facebook Marketplace. Here are my tips for sellers in Facebook buy & sell groups. Craigslist is another great option for selling large items, but it does not seem to be as popular as it once was.
How much money you bring in and how fast you bring it in depends largely on what you have to sell, but taking the time to prepare your items for reselling properly does help items sell quicker and for more money–here are my tips on how to do that.
If you are creative, you can take things that you have in surplus and change them into things others would be willing to buy. This works exceptionally well during the holiday season as people are looking for unique gifts. You can sell your items by having an open house or signing up for a local craft fair (preferably one with good traffic, but a lower table fee). Years ago when I had more time on my hands for knitting, I would sell my surplus dishcloths using this simple method, which always worked well for me.
The key with this way of making money is not to spend much on supplies, try as much as possible to use what you already have supplies for.
Point Programs And Survey Companies
If you are willing to do a bit of multi-tasking during your evening TV watching time to earn some Christmas shopping money, point programs and survey companies are a good option for you.
Way back when my kids were all 7 and under (my eldest is 22 now) I used to make $50 a month in gift cards spending two or three hours a week on these types of programs. If you estimate that I worked about 10 hours a month, that is about $5 an hour for my efforts. Not much, but considering I could do it whenever I wanted from wherever I wanted it is pretty good.
That was over 15 years ago though, and now there are many more of these types of programs out there. I have readers reporting income of $100 a month working these programs.
Here is a list of 15 programs you can join and try. I have tried out each program I recommend as I want to make sure that they work. However, these types of companies change how you can earn points frequently so my recommendation is to spend at least 15 minutes or so exploring each website of the programs you sign up for so that you know all the ways to earn points and can pick the point earning actions that work best for you.
I recommend that you join several companies and stick to the fast earning point actions in each. Overall I find this typically leads to more monthly earning than sticking to only working in one program.
You can cash out for gift cards to buy gifts or you can use them as gifts. Here are a few creative ideas for giving a digital gift card as a gift.
If you forced me to pick a top three list for both point reward programs and surveys here are the ones I would choose:
Points Reward Programs
- Swagbucks–Offers over 20 ways to earn and some of those ways are for things you are probably doing already.
- InstaGC–Offers instant cash outs starting at as low as $1 e-gift cards for 100 points.
- MyPoints–Offers great cash back rates and easy to earn click-through email points.
- Prize Rebel–Has more ways to earn points than just filling out surveys.
- Branded Surveys–They have a daily poll that is 5 points and takes just seconds to do.
- SurveyJunkie–Offers a wide variety of surveys and usually, you earn at least a few points if you don’t qualify for a survey.
However, there are many more programs like these–be sure to visit my point rewards page for a full listing and how-to posts for each program.
Use These Apps When You Shop
I talked about a few of these in the stack the savings area, but I wanted to mention them here as you don’t see your savings until you earn enough for a gift card.
The ones I have chosen to share can be used at a wide variety of stores and offer reasonably quick redemption turnarounds (meaning you are not waiting around forever for the gift card you earn). Except for Ibotta, which has a $20 minimum cash out, these apps offer low cash out levels, meaning it won’t take long to earn a gift card.
- Ibotta–Has offers for many more places than just the grocery store. Offers available for both in-store and online.
- FetchRewards–Use my code RE9FU at sign up for a bonus. Cash outs start at 3,000 points for a $3 gift card.
- Shopkick–Many ways to earn that don’t require you buying a thing, such as watching short video clips, walk-in credits and scan credits. Gift card cash outs start at 500 kicks for a $2 e-gift card.
These three ways to earn money are quick ways to earn, but they are not the only ways to earn money for Christmas. If you are reading this article months before Christmas, read this article on ways anyone can earn more cash regardless of their talents.
One Last Way To Pad The Christmas Account
Use this book to help you hold a spending freeze as long as possible to divert as much money as possible to your Christmas account.
4. How Much Do You Think You Could Earn?
What you can earn depends on how long you have before Christmas, how much time you have to devote to making money for the Christmas budget and what you plan to do to earn money. I suggest you take a few minutes to do these three things listed below–and be realistic.
- Set a goal
- Make a written plan
- Create a timeline
What You Need To Do After Christmas To Make Sure Next Christmas Rocks!
I can’t write a Christmas budget post without mentioning that good money management means learning from our mistakes and planning for expenses far in advance. Christmas happens every year and therefore you should create a plan for the next one soon after this Christmas is over.
1. Total Up What You Spent
If you followed through and kept to your Christmas budget, totaling up what you spent should be reasonably straightforward. If not, then do your best to make a good estimation. Dig receipts out of your purse and look at online bank statements to get a good idea of what you spent.
2. Perform A Christmas Audit
Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers:
- Do you feel like expenses were too tight in some areas? Which ones?
- Do you feel like certain gifts were not appreciated? I do this by seeing which ones are still under the tree on December 26th–unwrapped, but untouched.
- Did you miss out on an event due to lack of cash that you want to do next year?
- Did you do spend money on an event you wish you had skipped?
3. Make A Preliminary Budget For Next Year
Using what you spent and your answers to the questions asked in point 2 in this section, create a preliminary budget for next Christmas.
4. Decided How You Are Going To Save The Money You Need
Ideally, you will be able to divide your Christmas budget into 12 and save that amount each month. However, I realize that not every family can add one more monthly expense to their already tight budgets and if that is your family, I recommend getting creative about how to regularly fund Christmas. Perhaps you can work at the point reward programs listed above every month, putting every single penny earned towards Christmas. Or you can hold an annual yard sale, followed by a Facebook marketplace blitz, then an eBay listing weekend and put all those funds into a Christmas account.
5. Make Your After Christmas Clearance Sale List
Did you create a line for Christmas wrapping supplies and decorations? If so, see which ones you can grab at 50% off or more during Holiday clearance sales. See my post about what to buy during Christmas Clearance sales to see what other areas of your budget you can save money in by buying the items you need at these sales.
Where To Find A Book Load Of Ideas For Saving Money On Christmas
I liked this book on saving money over the Christmas season so much that I have read it twice. I rarely read a book twice!
3 More Christmas Posts That Will Help You Keep Christmas All Cash This Year:
- How To Plan A Christmas To Remember On A Super Tight Budget
- 100 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Christmas
- Inexpensive Stocking Stuffer Ideas For The Entire Family
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