Before we know it Christmas will be here, and with Christmas comes the overwhelming pressure to spend, spend, spend. (Ever tried Christmas shopping on a budget before and failed miserably? Me too. Here’s how you can win at shopping on a budget without sacrificing the quality of gifts you buy.)

But, what if you’re stuck on a budget? What if you can’t afford to spend, spend, spend… What then? 

If you’re looking for ways to enjoy Christmas without feeling the pain of it in your bank account, here are some simple tips for Christmas shopping on a budget. 


People have gone from buying genuine gifts to buying the most expensive thing they can find because the world has somehow warped our minds into thinking that the more we spend on someone, the more we care about them.

Which is completely bogus. 

Think about it – 

Someone that you deeply care about wouldn’t want you to go broke anymore than they would want to lose their friendship with you. So why do we think that we need to buy expensive, elaborate gifts for them (and go broke doing so)?

When we buy these expensive gifts for all the people we care about, we start racking up the debt, which sends us on a fast-track towards going completely and utterly broke. 

(I know it sounds dramatic – but think about it… rich people didn’t get rich by spending all their money and going into debt every Christmas. However, broke people stay broke because they keep spending more than they have.)

Why can’t we buy people something that we can AFFORD, something that we thought long and hard about because we wanted to find the perfect gift that reflects their personality, rather than something that cost us $1,000? 

How to have a frugal Christmas

Before we jump into the how, let’s address one thing…

A frugal Christmas does not = a bad Christmas.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You might find that this year’s frugal Christmas is actually the best Christmas yet because instead of going broke, you got to get the people you love gifts that are meaningful, instead of expensive, which means you won’t start the new year with a dozen credit card bills and no money to pay them. 


Having a frugal Christmas isn’t rocket science – it’s really just about being smart and intentional with your finances and get back to your roots. (If you’re interested, I use this as a guide to get & stay out of debt. The things he teaches are lifechanging.)

Are you ready to learn the answer to the question, “how can I save money on Christmas presents?”… learn how below. 🙂 


Christmas shopping on a budget – how to save money on Christmas gifts

If you’re ready to get serious about staying out of debt this Christmas and getting cheap but thoughtful Christmas gifts for family and friends, read below to learn the 10 steps to take to get inexpensive gifts – or cheap Christmas gifts – without the actual gifts being cheap. 

  1. Set a Christmas gift budget

The best way to get cheap but thoughtful Christmas gifts for your friends and family is to set a Christmas gift budget. This is the amount of money that you are going to spend on every single Christmas gift you buy this year. All of them.

This doesn’t mean you’re going to say, “I’ll spend $100 on Jimmy’s gift, $50 on Rose’s gift, $75 on Charlotte’s gift…” 

No, don’t divvy the money up over all the people you’re shopping for just yet.

First, you’re going to sit down and you’re going to think realllllly long and hard about how much money you have saved up, and how much of that money you’re going to spend on Christmas gifts this year.

(How much money you have saved up is very important because this year you are not pulling out that credit card. This year, you’re trying something completely different.)

If you’ve always bought gifts with credit cards in past years and have no idea how much you need for gifts, the average adult spends approximately $885 on Christmas gifts a year. 

Some people will spend much less, while others tend to spend more. 

The point is – you should challenge yourself to set your Christmas gift budget below the $885 threshold.

Some of you may be thinking that’s way more than you’d ever spend – then great, set a limit far below $885. However, if you normally spend more than that, challenge yourself to spend less this year.

That’s step one – getting your Christmas gift budget in place. 

(Need a good monthly budget? This will help you create one as well as teach you how to get out of debt & stay completely debt-free.)

  1. Decide how much you’ll spend on each person

You don’t want to spend 75% of your Christmas budget on one person without realizing it, only to find out that the other 25% now needs to be divvied up between 10 different people.

…that’s certainly a mistake you want to avoid.

So, before you even step foot in that Christmas-clad store, grab your Christmas gift budget, then write down on a new piece of paper each person’s name that you are buying gifts for. 

Include everyone from family members who will receive gifts from you to friends who you’ll buy gifts for and co-workers, if any. 

Now, you can either divide your whole Christmas budget up by the number of people you’re buying gifts for, or you can decide for each person personally how much you’ll spend on them. (Typically your spouse will get a more expensive gift than your co-worker, but you call the shots.)

  1. Take the money out

Now that you know how much money you have to spend on Christmas gifts this year, you can head down to the bank and withdraw that amount from your bank account. 

Yep – you read that right. You’re going to take all the money you’re using for Christmas gifts out in cash.

(This is why it was so important that you know how much money you have saved up, and how much of that you want to spend on gifts.)

You aren’t going to be pulling that credit or debit card out while your buying gifts this year – everything is going to be done in cash.

  1. Make a list

You have your cash and you know how much money you’re going to spend on each person this year. 

Now it’s time to brainstorm some gift ideas for each person on your list. 

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, meaning you have to buy that person what you write down on the list – right now you’re just brainstorming ideas. If you come across something while you’re shopping that would suit them better and is in the appropriate price range, you can get that for them instead.


  1. Divide the money into envelopes

Take your whole lump sum of money and divide it up into envelopes. On each envelope, write the person’s name that you are buying gifts for, then put the appropriate amount that you decided on earlier that you will spend on that person, into the envelope. 

This way you won’t accidentally spend some of Jimmy’s Christmas gift money while shopping for Julie’s gift. It just keeps things simpler.

  1. Leave the plastic at home

You’re ready to go shopping, and it’s time to part ways with the plastic and leave your credit and debit cards at home. Grab your cash envelopes and place them in your purse, then head off to whatever store you’re starting with to find the perfect gifts.

When you go shopping with just cash, you have no option but to only spend the amount that you actually have – which eliminates any chance of going into debt while shopping for Christmas gifts. 

(I know, I know. It feels hard and ridiculous right now, but when Christmas is over and you have NO credit card bills to pay, you’ll be so thankful you did your shopping this way.)

  1. Try to shop early

If possible, start shopping for Christmas gifts months in advance. 

You could even be so prepared that you start next year’s Christmas shopping this year right after Christmas… when everything is on clearance. Smart!

If you’re catching the bus late and Christmas is practically here already, then try to find the best deals you can, and make a note to start your Christmas shopping earlier next year. (Before stores have the chance to inflate their prices for the Christmas rush. The coffee mug you paid $15 for in December could have cost you only $7 in August.)

  1. Find sales online

If you find something you want to purchase from the store, quickly check online to see if there’s a better price available. 

If you shop through Rakuten you may be able to find a special discount code, as well as receive some cashback on your purchase which will bring the cost down. (You can also get a bonus $10 if you sign up through this link.)

Just be sure that if you buy online, you take however much money you spent online out of the cash envelope and put it back into your bank account immediately.

  1. Opt for a card-free Christmas

While Christmas cards are beautiful, it pains me to see people spending so much money just for it to get thrown away.

People will hold on to Christmas cards for a couple weeks, but not long after Christmas the cards will get discarded (or, worse yet, the people will feel guilty for throwing the cards away, so they’ll hold on to them year after year and start collecting piles of clutter that they feel guilty getting rid of).

The thought is kind, but I would much rather people save their money than purchase Christmas cards for myself.

So, rather than racking up your Christmas costs and purchasing several boxes of cards, either opt for a no-card Christmas or go to the dollar store and purchase some cardstock paper as well as these pens and make your own homemade Christmas cards.

  1. DIY

Before you roll your eyes (or go running for a piece of wood and hammer)… hear me out.

Making a DIY present won’t work for everyone, but if you have a particular skill, don’t be afraid to use it to make someone a thoughtful, homemade gift.

The amount of time you spend making a homemade gift far surpasses the price tag of a store-bought gift.

Maybe you have a niece who could use a cozy sweater and you’re good at knitting. Pick up a ball of yarn and get to work making her a unique and original gift.

Or, perhaps your mom has wanted a beautiful birdhouse and you just happen to know your way around a piece of wood and a hammer. 

Taking the time to make homemade gifts that people can use is so much more thoughtful than simply going to the store and buying the first thing you see.

But don’t worry if you don’t feel able to make a homemade gift, by using the 9 other tips found above you’ll be able to have a worry-free, debt-free Christmas while still getting everyone on your list something thoughtful.

These are some of the best tips for Christmas shopping on a budget that you’ll find; particularly because shopping in cash eliminates the temptation and ability to put yourself into debt.

You may not love shopping with cash, but when January rolls around and you have NO Christmas debt, you’ll be jumping for joy.

(You may even be so stoked that you decide to ditch the plastic cards altogether… which you can learn how to do here.)

Do you have some tips and tricks for how to save money on Christmas gifts hidden up your sleeve? I’d love to hear from you – feel free to share them and help other people with their Christmas shopping on a budget.

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