Have you ever been welcomed into the new year with a dozen credit card bills from Christmas… and not enough money to pay them all? And you’re stuck wondering how to do Christmas cheap (or if it’s even possible).
Maybe you want to do Christmas cheaper this year, but you hate when people call you cheap. Inside you’ll learn how to do Christmas cheap without being cheap.
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When you look over the bills piling up after Christmas, you don’t even remember making half of the purchases… you were kind of in a “Christmas-frenzy” buying everything and anything you needed without giving your finances so much as a backward glance.
And then January rolls around and all those credit card companies expect to be paid. And you’re left regretting the decision you made to go “all out” this Christmas.
In fact, you’re probably wishing that you had chosen to do a simpler Christmas… a frugal Christmas.
So you’ve made up your mind that this year is going to be different – this year you don’t want to be faced with dozens of credit card bills after Christmas.
It’s going to be hard, but it is very possible and VERY rewarding. Okay, so, you’re going to lower the number of credit card bills you have after Christmas… why don’t we take it one step further. How about this year you aren’t faced with ANY credit card bills after Christmas (gasp!).
It IS possible to have a completely debt-free Christmas, and still give people awesome gifts, host a marvelous Christmas dinner, and have a beautifully decorated house.
However, it won’t happen at the snap of your fingers – it requires a bit of extra planning and time, but when Christmas is over and you have NO bills to pay, you’ll be jumping for joy.
How to do Christmas cheap
Saying you’re going to “do Christmas cheap this year” might leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It just doesn’t sound right. You could say, “how to do Christmas on a budget” or, “how to have a debt free Christmas” but what it really comes down to is you, learning how to have a cheap Christmas.
You’re not doing this because YOU are cheap. You’re doing this because you’ve become smart with your finances and you’re not going to continue throwing your money around willy-nilly.
(If you want to learn how to avoid debt all through the year – not just during Christmas – this will show you how.)
People who don’t want to get lost in the deep debt-hole all like the idea of having a frugal Christmas, but very few people are actually willing to put in the work.
Are you willing to do the work?
If you are, you’re already over halfway to learning how to do Christmas cheap.
Knowing what to do? That’s only 5% of the battle. Actually doing it is 95%.
How to have a frugal Christmas
Learning how to be frugal at Christmas is the easy part – but actually putting what you learn into practice… that’s the hard part. If you’re willing to get serious and do the work, you’ll be amazed by the change you see in your finances – even in such a short period of time.
(If you want to continue to see these changes, this will teach you how to keep the debt-free trend going.)
Start planning a year in advance
I’m sure you’ve heard people tell you to start planning your Christmas and buying Christmas gifts a couple months before December… but a year?!
Yep. If you can be organized enough to start the Christmas planning at the end of December/beginning of January – a year in advance – you will be able to scoop up some stellar deals on gifts, Christmas decorations, and anything else Christmas-y you need.
Since Christmas is probably right around the corner by the time you’re reading this and you’re looking for some tips to do Christmas cheap NOW (don’t worry – the following tips will help you save money on Christmas even now), you may not be able to use this money-saving tip this year, but you can make a mental note of it to use for next year.
Set a Christmas budget + use cash
Setting a Christmas budget is one the single-handedly most important step of having a cheap Christmas. (My husband and I struggled to stick to any kind of budget until we read this + followed the steps.)
When you create your Christmas budget, take note of how much money you have in your bank account. Then, decide how much of the money you have that you want to spend on Christmas this year.
This is all the money you will spend on presents, food, decorations, clothing, and anything else you’ll be buying for Christmas.
Then, go to the bank and take that amount out in cash.
That’s right, this Christmas you’re leaving the plastic cards at home and paying for everything in cash.
Even if you don’t use a cash budget all the time (very few people do), using a strictly-cash budget for everything Christmas is a fail-proof way to ensure you don’t spend one cent more than you can afford on Christmas.
Plus, once the holidays are over, you won’t have a single credit card bill come your way, which will feel amazing.
Leave the plastic at home
I know we just talked about leaving your credit and debit cards at home and using JUST cash, but it’s so important that it’s worth noting again.
The reason why I want to bring it up again is because there are so many people who are yelling thinking, “but I get rewards when I use my credit card!” or “I pay it off at the end of every month,” or “it’s too inconvenient to go to the bank and take cash out”.
If you’re one of those people who thinks those thoughts or has made up some other kind of excuse as to why it’s a good idea for other people not to use their credit card for Christmas purchases, but why it’s totally fine if you do, think about this…
When you have cash – and only cash – to spend, you won’t spend a cent more than you have, and you’ll somehow manage to get everything you need with the amount of money you have, OR you’ll find a way to “make do” with what you have, even if you weren’t able to get everything.
But, as soon as you pack that “just in case” credit card along with you, it’s a lot easier to justify going over the budget you created because “it’s just $5 more dollars” or, “I need it, so I’ll just put it on credit”.
When in reality, if you can’t afford it, there is always a way to make do without it – or find it cheaper…
…and that’s what paying with cash forces you to do.
So, even if you still aren’t convinced, try doing this Christmas with all cash, and leave your credit cards at home (or have someone you trust hide them from you so you can’t give in and grab them before heading out shopping).
Stay out of the stores
If you can avoid shopping in stores and do most of your shopping online, you’ll be far less tempted to add random things to your cart.
Online shopping makes it much quicker and easier to log in, type the specific item you’re looking for into the search box, add it to your cart and walk away with that item and that item only in your cart.
The best way to get cheap prices and free shipping when shopping online is to use Amazon Prime for all your holiday purchases.
You can get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, and even if you don’t want to pay for it after the 30 days are up, you can order all your Christmas gifts and necessities on your free Amazon Prime account, then cancel the account once the 30 day trial is up and never have to pay a penny for it. (But you’ll get to take advantage of their free shipping and special discounted items.)
Stay away from sales
I know, I know. We’re trying to have a cheap Christmas here – so sales should be your friend.
However, if you buy something just because it’s on sale, when you didn’t have intentions of buying it at regular price, you’re not getting “a steal of a deal”, you’re wasting your money.
When you shop in a store and they have posters plastered everywhere that scream out “SALE!” “BUY ONE GET ONE HALF PRICE”, and so on, it’s a whole lot easier to end up at the checkout with an extra $50 worth of items that you didn’t intend on purchasing in the first place.
Those “sales” and promotions are a marketing tactic they use to get you to spend more money. Think about that – you see the posters plastered everywhere and assume that you’re getting a steal of a deal because something’s half price – however, those stores wouldn’t set out to lose money… and what they’re doing is getting you to buy more things than you intended to buy, to make money off of you.
Have a potluck-style Christmas dinner
If you’re in charge of hosting Christmas dinner this year, ask each family attending to bring either a salad, side dish, or dessert to dinner.
This way you can take care of the main portion of dinner and all your guests will bring an easy dish along with them, and just like that you have a very affordable Christmas dinner with enough food to feed a small army.
(And if you’re worried about offending people by asking them to bring a side dish, don’t be. They could bring something as simple as a garden salad that they picked up at the supermarket on their way over – it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive.)
Buy second-hand decorations
If you’re convinced that your house needs a Christmas-decoration overhaul, instead of buying everything new, go to second-hand stores and look on buy and sells to find Christmas decorations at steeply discounted prices.
This is the best way to get cheap Christmas decor that still looks good.
It will take more time than simply walking into a store and purchasing exactly what you want, but the money you end up saving will be well worth it.
(If you’re patient, you can even find some items that are still new and in their packaging for much cheaper than buying them from the store. Many people buy things expecting them to look one way, only for them to end up looking completely different, so they then go ahead and sell them on buy and sells for far less than they paid.)
Or, get crafty and make some cheap DIY Christmas decor to hang around your home. Pinterest has a never-ending list of ideas for adorable and easy homemade Christmas decorations.
Get good-quality cheap Christmas gifts
You don’t want to buy your loved ones “cheap” gifts, but you can buy them good-quality gifts at a cheaper price.
Get cheap Christmas gifts by first, planning what you will get each person, then looking through flyers to find the items at discounted prices.
(Never go to the store without knowing what you’re getting. When you go browsing around hoping that something will “jump out at you” and you’ll know that’s the gift, there’s a good chance dozens of things will “jump out at you” and you’ll end up buying far more than you would have if you would have gone knowing what you wanted.)
Another way is to make your own cheap and easy Christmas gifts.
You don’t even have to be crafty to do this – but if you are, you’ll have a much wider range of options of things to make.
Here are a few homemade Christmas gift ideas you could make, depending on your skills:
- Cookies in a jar – Get a nice glass mason jar (keep in mind that your regular old jar won’t work for this. You’ll need this kind of jar.),then fill it with the ingredients needed to make a delicious batch of cookies, then attach the baking instructions to the jar with a ribbon. Here’s a good cookies-in-a-jar recipe.
- Body scrub – These body scrubs are easy to mix together and are the perfect gift for a woman who deserves some pampering. Here’s a list of easy homemade body scrubs to make. These adorable glass jars would work perfect to put the scrub into.
- Sew an envelope pillow cover – These are fairly easy to sew and the perfect gift for someone who wants to spruce up their home. Stuff these inside your homemade pillow cover and you have a quick, easy, cheap gift.
- Cup cozy – If you know your way around a ball of yarn, this crochet cup cozy is the perfect gift for the coffee-lover in your family.
- DIY birdhouse – If you know how to hammer two pieces of wood together, here are 53 different DIY birdhouse plans (many of them are beginner friendly).
- Coasters – Coasters are the perfect gift, because you can never have too many of them (kind of like coffee mugs). Learn how to make DIY photo coasters.
Shop at the dollar store
Whether you’re looking for some small Christmas decorations, stockings, crafting supplies, card making supplies, or any other Christmas needs, always check the dollar store before going to other stores.
While it’s true that dollar stores can have poor-quality products, you may be surprised by the number of products that they have that are actually considerably better quality than you would expect.
Ditch the cards
It pains to me see people spend upwards of $50 on something that literally gets throw in the trash.
Now, if you have mounds of money sitting around just begging to be used up, then it’s not a problem. However, if you’re reading this post on how to do Christmas cheap, I’m going to guess that that’s not the case.
So, try something different this year – rather than spending $50 on Christmas cards, make a list of the people you would normally send cards to and set a day aside to give each person a call and wish them a Merry Christmas over the phone, rather than on a card.
(Or, if they live close enough, try to stop by their house with a plate of homemade cookies.)
On the other hand, if you are completely set on sending cards, try making your own.
Ditch the materialistic Christmas
If you and your family are on a strict budget, consider spending less money on gifts for everyone this year, and more time as a family. Have family movie nights, find free activities to go to as a family, do crafts together, bake together, go walking together.
Have each member of the family write down something they want to do together as a family on a piece of paper (but it has to be something cheap or free), then pool all the ideas together in a decent-sized glass jar and once a week (or several times a week, you choose), pick a piece of paper out of the jar and do that activity together as a family.
Spending time together as a family is a much better way to make fond memories that your kids will look back on one day, rather than simply buying them expensive toys that they’ll get sick of in a month or two.
Do you have a tip or two that you use every year to save money on Christmas? I’d love to hear from you – feel free to share them below and help someone else save a bit more money and have a frugal Christmas.
Related articles you may be interested in:
How to Give Amazing Christmas Gifts on a Budget
8 Holiday Cleaning Tips to Keep Your House Spotless
How to Have a Debt-Free Christmas This Year
14 Ways to do Christmas on a Budget