Now, in a perfect world, you start your Christmas fund on January 1st by dividing up how much you wish to spend on Christmas into twelve and then stashing that amount into a fund you don’t touch until the Christmas season arrives.
But this is far from a perfect world. Unexpected bills come up, earnings go down, we find ourselves in a financial bind, and usually, one of the first parts of the budget to stop getting funded is the Christmas fund. Not only does it stop getting funded, but what we did manage to save gets used to pay daily bills.
If that is where you are at–don’t despair! You are not too late to finance the Christmas fund in a way that will create a Christmas to remember.
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My Family’s Story
Many Christmases ago, I pulled off Christmas for almost nothing. Our family had made a big move that summer, resulting in several significant expenses. Plus, my husband was starting a new job as a Registered Nurse for the first time, earning an entry-level wage. I wasn’t working as we had just added a new baby to our family that June.
We had some medical bills come up and after praying about it, I knew God wanted me to pay them with what little I had saved for Christmas. There I was in mid-November with not a nickel saved for Christmas.
Yet, come Christmas day, each of our three 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 eyeing. We had a very simple Christmas meal. The day’s highlight 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.
If you don’t have the hope of overtime filling in the gaps for you, you can still pull off a Christmas to remember on a super tight budget. Especially since now you have more possibilities to save and earn available to you than I did those many years ago, thanks to the explosion of the internet.
How To Plan A Christmas To Remember On A Super Tight Budget: The Series
The series primarily covers Christmas gift-giving since it tends to be the most expensive aspect of Christmas for most, but I have written about how to save money on other parts of your Christmas budget and you can read those by going to my Thrifty Christmas Tips page and scrolling to the topic you are interested in.
Week One: Introduction & Our Story (you are here)
Learn how to use point reward programs, cash back sites, receipt apps, and more to earn as many gift cards as possible before December 24th. These programs offer hundreds of different gift cards as cash out options, allowing you to buy what you need for the big day whether it be gifts, food, ribbon, wrapping paper, or bows (read the post here).
Need a gift for your nieces and nephews? I know where you can get them a book that will cost you zero out of pocket. Need multiple items for various gift exchanges? I have a few low-cost ideas for those too (see my ideas here).
Who really needs a gift from you this holiday season? How many gifts do the kids really need? Do you and your spouse have to exchange gifts this year? Tough financial years require tough decisions to stay or keep you out of further credit card debt (I guide you through these tough decisions here).
Your home is full of potential gifts in the making. Learn how to find those items in this post.
There is a lot more extra money lying around your house than you may think. I show you how to take a top-to-bottom home inventory that will end in a pile of items for you to resell. I will then give you tips on how to sell those items for top dollar (get going on your reselling adventures by reading this).
Now is the perfect time to create a side hustle out of your love for making crafts. Or perhaps your talent is sniffing out fantastic thrift stores full of items you could resell for some extra cash (find tips for getting started here).
You don’t have to spend money on an elf on the shelf and time crafting the perfect setup for him each day to create a memorable Christmas. Nor do you need to get up early on Black Friday to grab that 50% off set of matching pajamas for your entire family. Unless you can afford them and want to do that.
If not, here is a list of 25 inexpensive (some are free) Christmas traditions you can create for your family.
No need to make a shopping list for groceries the week your family does this challenge. You might be able to avoid that chore for weeks, depending on just how creative you can get with eating up items in your panty so that you can put what you save on groceries toward your holiday shopping fund (here are my tips to help you pull this off successfully for as long as possible).
You won’t have to pay retail again once you view this list of places where you can find discount codes, coupons, and awesome sale listings. I also share my secrets of how to stack deal upon deal upon deal.
This list of Christmas-themed swap-it parties goes well beyond the classic Christmas cookies exchange.
From hot chocolate mixes to coupons for a delicious dish made by you, this post is packed with ideas for Christmas presents that can be found in your kitchen.
If the list of people you want to bless with a gift is longer than the garland wrapped around the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, consider giving acts of service in meaningful ways–no printer and tacky coupon books full of back rubs you will never give.
Christmas happens every year; learn how to grow your income all year long so that you do have enough wiggle room to create and keep a Christmas fund.
Top Ten Frugal Christmas Hacks
For those who want the cheat sheet version of the series, here are my top ten money-saving tips for the Christmas season. I recommend reading the series though, as it goes much more in-depth and has numerous tips that are not mentioned in this top ten list.
1. Use these browser extensions for immediate savings
The following companies offer browser extensions that apply promo codes with just a few clicks. There is no waiting around to receive cash back (although some offer that too).
- Honey–this one is my favorite. I recently saved $40 on one order! Go here to sign up.
- Capital One Shopping–I turn here next if Honey doesn’t find a code.
- Swagbucks–is my third choice since it has limited codes, but it does have some. Go here to sign up.
Here is a list of a few more web browser extensions you can use to save money.
2. Use sign-up bonuses and discounts to your advantage
You can find new member sign-up bonuses and discounts for many companies and services.
Here is one idea of how to turn a sign-up bonus into low-cost gifts. Use them to join subscription boxes and then use the items as gifts for people on your list, white elephant gifts, secret Santa gifts, stocking stuffers, etc. Sometimes you can double dip on the savings by using Rakuten (formerly ebates) to earn cash back. Go here to join Rakuten.
This can make the price per item much less than you would pay in-store. To avoid further costs after the initial discounted box, write a reminder to cancel the subscription once the first box of goodies is shipped.
3. Follow websites and email lists that share the best sales
I visit the site Money Saving Mom once a day to see if they have shared any sales for items on my list. I visit the site more often on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime days.
I am a member of BeFrugal not for its cash back, but for its email newsletter that shares a round-up of high discount sales.
Jessica Turner of The Mom Creative has a deal-based newsletter she sends out regularly that my family has used to save money on numerous occasions.
If you don’t want these types of emails to tempt you all year long, unsubscribe when you are done with your holiday shopping and resubscribe a few weeks before the next time you need a gift.
4. Sign-up for email lists of the brands you want to buy from
Every year, at the beginning of November, I sign up for the email lists of companies who sell items on my children’s Christmas lists. Doing this gives me a heads-up on sales and discounts they are offering. Some are exclusive to email members only.
5. Make it yourself
I knit dishcloths to give as host gifts. Every one of us can use our hands and head to create something unique to give as gifts. Even if it is as simple as a batch of 3-minute microwave fudge.
6. Decrease the financial burden for you and your loved ones
Those from big families are often burdened with a massive list of people to buy gifts for. Chances are you are not the only one in the family struggling financially to buy all those gifts. Take the initiative to suggest drawing names this year.
The earlier you do this, the better so it might be too late if you read this in November, as there is always that one family member who started buying toys on December twenty-sixth for next year. If that is the case, do this tip now to save your family money next holiday season.
7. Secondhand is hip
Your eco-conscious friends and family, those who collect vintage items, and your own small children are not going to care that their gift is secondhand. However, your designer-wearing aunt might. So be picky about who you give secondhand items to and always pick things that are like new.
I tend to buy more secondhand Christmas decorations than I do gifts. However, be careful sometimes; a good sale at a department store can beat a thrift store price.
For new with tags thrifted clothing, try ThredUp. My referral code will save you $10 off your first purchase.
8. Think outside the box
Take a peek into the storage areas of your homes; what items do you seem to have an excess of? Search Pinterest for gift ideas using these items or others you know can purchase at a low cost.
9. Go digital
Consider sending digital gift cards to loved ones that live far away instead of spending money to mail a gift. Here are a few ways to add a personal touch to a digital gift card gift.
Instead of a physical photo card and/or Christmas newsletter sent by mail, do a digital version sent by email or social media. Add something to it that a snail mail card can’t by replacing the picture with a video of your entire family singing Christmas carols.
Can’t afford to travel this year? Zoom the family on the big day and open presents together virtually.
10. Keep It Simple
Simple and thrifty go hand in hand—host potluck holiday parties. Keep decorations to a minimum. Cook just one special holiday treat at a time, starting at Thanksgiving and going to New Year’s, instead of all at once and having to throw out stale cookies.
Throw a family Christmas movie night in your living room near the Christmas tree and serve popcorn and homemade lemonade. Stream a classic through a free movie app or borrow a DVD for free from your local library.
Bonus Tip: Reduce temptation
If you struggle with impulse shopping, write out a list of items you need to buy for Christmas from decorations to gifts to food items. Find which stores in your area offer free curb-side pick-up without inflating the price of their items and get your shopping done without stepping inside a store.
You can use web browser tools like Ibotta to save money on grocery items when you shop this way. Go here to sign up for Ibotta.
If you must shop in-store, consider taking out cash and leaving your debit and/or credit card at home.
When shopping online, keep the amount you have budgeted for gifts in sight at all times. Review your list and your cart before completing the checkout process; if extras have made their way into your cart, delete those items.
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