14 Unique Tips to Make Christmas More Affordable

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The holiday season can be expensive. Here are my top 14 tips for making Christmas more affordable and less of a stress on your back account. Saving money during the holidays can be done, with some careful planning, a good budget and those thoughtful gift ideas.

Please read: This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule or one of the many other end of year traditions , this can be an expensive time of the year.

Here are 14 things that we do in our family that greatly reduce the amount of money that we spend around Christmas time.

1 Save Money all Year Long

I know it probably isn’t much help right now, but you can get yourself ready for next year with some preparation now.

Set up a holidays account at your bank and an automatic payment in to it each pay day. We set aside $20 per week, which at Christmas means we have over $1000 sitting there to help with buying gifts and all the delicious holiday celebration food!

You can work out a rough Christmas budget, and allow for some added extras as well. Be sure to include Christmas dinner, Christmas presents, gift cards, and other Christmas spending.

If you also have annual travel to family or on vacation, then you may like to add more each week or month to help cover this as well.

Once you have worked out how much the holidays are expected to cost you, simply divide that by how many weeks you would like to save up for it.

So if you decide you need $2500 and you want it saved up over 11 months, then you need to be putting away between 220-230 a month, or about $55 per week. Be sure to put it into a place that you can’t accidentally spend it!

You can choose to set this up as a bonus saver, where you earn extra money each month that you add money in and don’t take any out. OR you may choose to offset it against your mortgage while you are saving.

2 Shrink your Gift List

How many of your extended family do you actually have to buy for? Would great Aunt Maude be just as happy with some home made fudge as she would a new bunch of toiletries that she won’t use, or a letter set that she will sit in her desk?

Most of your family will be happy with a simple card rather than a gift. Get a little ruthless. If you won’t see them on Christmas day, maybe a card will do.

Could you look at doing a secret Santa or ballot where everyone only has to buy for one person rather than everyone buying for everyone. This does need everyone’s approval, but it can be a fun alternative to buying something small for everyone.

This also saves a lot of stress over Christmas shopping, and I would rather have one quality, useful gift than a cheap Christmas gift that will break or be re-gifted.

As a family we do homemade gifts for our parents, buy for only one of my 3 siblings (it is shared around), and get something for under $20 for each of the children cousins.

Our own children get a small stocking of mostly treat food and hair ties/clips then their gifts from us are usually clothes, books and a practical something that they want – this year it is a sleeping bag each.

The extended family (if they are there on Christmas day) get homemade cookies or fudge, this is the perfect gift for people that have everything, or have limited storage space! My favorite are these Christmas cookie.

3 Go Homemade or Second Hand

Homemade gifts are often more satisfying to give, and people tend to appreciate them more.

Consumable gifts are also great, as it means you aren’t gifting someone a bunch of clutter to find a home for.

Very trendy items can be found at junk yards or second hand stores, or online.

Here are some Frugal Gift Ideas or Join the Handmade gift bootcamp.

One cheap Christmas gift idea is to make a peg apron, or a bag bag for holding shopping bags. Both are brilliant beginner sewing projects and are really useful gifts to receive.

4 Slim Down the Events

You do not have to go to everything. This is a very busy time, but it is also a very magical time. Slow down and try to enjoy it. Don’t waste the whole month running from one event to the next. Try having some fun at home activities instead!

Write down all the events and traditions that you usually get invited to. Look at the list carefully and remove any that you don’t really and truly love going to, anything that doesn’t fit in the budget and anything that is too close to another event.

Now compose a simple reply that says something like, “I am really sorry but we can’t make it to …. this year, maybe next time! Merry Christmas to you and your family, catch up soon, your name.”

5 Cheap Christmas Traditions

The best family traditions are about fun and connection, not about money! Check out these lovely family Christmas tradition ideas. Take a walk by the beach, or a drive to a mountain top. Play board games together, or a sport on the lawn.

Family time does not have to be expensive and removing the most expensive ones from your plans will reduce your stress as well as save you money. It is OK to change, and make new traditions that suit you and your family better.

6 Make your advent calendar activity based

Children don’t need pricey chocolate calendars. Use each day an opportunity to do something fun together. Try some of the family tradition ideas above, or these ides here.

Join in with friends and organize your advent activities together, we do this and the kids love celebrating the Christmas Countdown with their friends and cousins.

7 Be Organized

There are somethings that come on special leading up to Christmas, that then become very expensive just before the big day. In our city it is strawberries, but other things like chocolate and cream often does it too.

Buy your non perishable celebration food over the month or so before the holidays as they come on special. However, only buy things you know you will use otherwise it will actually not save you money at all!

Some perishable foods can be stored longer by freezing or preserving them. Cream and most other dairy products will freeze well.

An affordable Christmas is an organized Christmas! Make lists, plan events and menus, make spreadsheets and generally get your type-A nerd on.

Holiday shopping can be done earlier in the year, but be sure to keep a list of what you have, the name of the family member, and where you have hidden it, so you don’t just buy them something else later in the middle of holiday excitement and chaos.

8 Host Pot-luck Meals

If you have others over for meals, ask them to bring a plate (of food). With the advent of Google docs, you can set up a spreadsheet with a menu and recipe links and share it with everyone coming. People can add their own names and dishes they are bringing and you can fill the gaps.

This ensures that you don’t end up with 20 plates of green beans and no desserts! (or in our case, the exact opposite).

9 Use Real Plates and Cutlery

Rather than buying and using paper or plastic plates and cutlery, try scrounging garage sales, junk shops and craigslist for secondhand real plates, cups and cutlery.

Alternatively, you can ask extended family to bring some. Once you have bought them, simply wash them and store them away for next year (or return them to the family that brought them).

10 Use a fake Christmas tree

I know that this is probably a contentious one, but a fake tree might cost you about 2-10 years worth of buying a real tree, depending on the quality of the fake tree and the price of a real one. If you can get free real trees, by all means continue, but a fake tree could last for a whole generation or two if carefully cared for.

11 Skip the Christmas lights

Christmas lights look amazing outside, but are really an added extra. If your Christmas budget doesn’t go that far this year, go for a walk and enjoy other peoples lights, for free.

If you really really must have Christmas lights, buy them at the boxing day sales where they are 50-75% off and store them away somewhere for next year. The wires these days are very thin, they do not last well in UV light for the whole year and will sometimes break in the wind.

So be sure to take them down and store them inside for the other 11 months of the year. The battery in the solar system will last longer not being used all year as well.

12 Cheap Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations can be used from year to year. Hunt around secondhand stores and garage sales for unwanted decorations and give them a new lease on life. Balls and baubles can be painted with some spray paint and restrung, stale popcorn can be threaded on to some string and greenery from the forest all make wonderful, festive decorations. Alternatively, dollar tree and other dollar store places will often have very cheap decorations.

13 Ditch the Christmas Cards

There is something lovely about getting mail that isn’t a bill, however, the cost of postage is continually going up, cards are expensive and they just go in the bin at the end of the season.

Maybe look at writing an individualized, heartfelt email to the people that you would usually send a card to. Some of it can be copy-and-paste so you don’t have to write the whole thing out each time, but there is no cost (other than your time) and no physical rubbish to throw out either.

14 Take a Stay-Cation or House Swap

If you are looking for places to go for your vacation and are worried about the price, try having a holiday at home. Put away the computers and your phone and experience your area like holiday makers.

OR see if you can house swap with friends or family.

RELATED POST: Top tips for traveling with kids

The holiday season does not have to be bank breaking. What do you do to save money over the holidays?




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