Frugal Living Tips: Holidays On A Budget

It’s coming up on the most (sarcastically said) wonderful time of the year, which means to those of us over the age of 20, stress, stress and more stress. It’s not that I don’t love the holidays — I do — it’s that they bring about unwanted, and frankly, unnecessary stressors into my life, especially now that I’m living on my own as a freelancer who is currently struggling to purchase a gallon of milk for her kids. I cannot fathom how I’m going to make the holidays work this year; just that I have to. Which is why I’m going to have to adhere to my own frugal living tips about doing the holidays on a budget.

1) Holidays on a Budget: Taking a Hard Look At The Numbers. I’m not a numbers person; I’m a people person, so learning to budget in the first place has been a bit tricky for me to manage. I know, I know, by 32, I should have this figured out, have a home, a plan, and milk in my fridge. Alas, I do not. Which isn’t the end of the world. But when you’re trying to do the holidays on a budget, it’s extremely important that you make a list of people you want to buy things for and how much you can (safely) spend on them.

2) Holidays on a Budget: Christmas Lists. I know, I know, most people don’t bother putting together a Christmas list after the age of twelve, but if you’re going to be parting with your money to buy a present, at least make sure it’s something the person you’re gifting wants. Ask for a list of several items, so it can still be a surprise!

3) Holidays on a Budget: Don’t Succumb To Temptation. One of the easiest ways to blow your holiday budget is to see a fabulous deal and buy it without even considering what you plan to do with it. Certainly a great deal makes me happy in the pants, but sticking to my budget is far better.

4) Holidays on a Budget: Consider Secret Santa. If you have a large family (which I do not), it may be easiest to say, “eff that” to buying presents for each person in your family and coordinate a Secret Santa approach so that you only have to spring for one gift rather than fifty.

5) Holidays on a Budget: Kids. Now, kids are kinda particular about the things they’ll play with (or, I should say, MINE are, because they’re stubborn like their Mama), which means that I have to pinpoint the precise toy they want, make sure it’s something all three can get into, and search out deals.

6) Holidays on a Budget: Crowd-Sourcing. While it may seem odd, more and more people are using social media these days, which makes me do the happy dance. It’s easy to ask Facebook or Twitter where they can score a deal on a particular item, because chances are, someone in your network KNOWS and can point you in the right direction.

7) Holidays on a Budget: Scour Sale Racks. The holiday season is all about stores trying to dump old product just in time for the new releases in the new year, which means that half the things you see are marked down, which can make sale shopping both easier and harder. My suggestion is to start at the back of the store (Target = my boyfriend) and see what deals you can find allllll the way in the back where they repackage and resell returned items.

8) Holidays on a Budget: Go Halvsies. If a family member really wants something that costs more than you can spend, see if you can go in on the present with a couple of other family members. That way, everyone’s happy and you’re still doing holidays on a budget.

9) Holidays on a Budget: Regift. I know that the whole “regifting” thing is rife with controversy, but I like to consider regifting as a means to recycle the items I have that I no longer need. I’d much rather they find a home where they will be loved instead of throwing them away. So take a peek at the things you own but don’t need, then see if any of them would work as a present for the holidays. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and tell the person that it’s a regift of something you don’t need.

10) Holidays on a Budget: Make What You Can. I’m about as far from “crafty” as one can be and still have two thumbs, so making things for people isn’t really my way of doing things. But this year, I may have to, so stay tuned for some ideas (or write up one for me and we can share it with everyone! Email becky.harks@gmail.com) for things you can make for the holidays that don’t suck.

11) Holidays on a Budget: Dire Straits. If you’re genuinely struggling to make ends meet, don’t be ashamed of telling your loved ones that you’re simply not going to be able to afford to do much for the holidays. It may make you feel humiliated, but I assure you that having your electricity turned off by the city because you decided to do some shopping ANYWAY is much much worse.

12) Holidays on a Budget: Scour Budget Websites. Even if you never buy anything from these sites, it’s often worth a gander just to see what’s out there and the prices you can expect. I’ve included several of my favorites below:




Shoe dazzle is a lot of fun to peek around to get ideas from. Whether or not you buy their shoes, they do have the pulse on the hottest (and most affordable) shoes for the season.



Amazon Local is always a good place to keep your eyes peeled for local deals and give you some ideas for holiday gifts.



Most of the stuff on this site is under twenty dollars, which means you can score some very unique things for people on your holiday lists. Since the site is always updating its merchandise and offering oodles of money off items, it’s really easy to discover new and awesome gifts.

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How do YOU do holidays on a budget? Any tips and tricks for those of us who need the help?
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10 thoughts on “Frugal Living Tips: Holidays On A Budget

  1. I’ve diacovered that there are a bunch of people who have finally worked up the nerve to say “stop it, damnit. I can’t afford to buy all the thing for all the people, and neither can you. Let’s not buy each other presents this year. Let’s have a party. I’ll bring ham, you bring cake,”. The economy is shitty, and people ahave been living with a shitty economy long enough now that it’s getting ok to say “I can’t afford this shit”. I’m buying gifts for Sunshine and Mollie, and that’s it. I’ve used some of these tips for my gift-buying, and I have spent about half what I did last year, yet I’ve gotten better gifts for them.

    • That’s a really clever thing to do. See, I *love* buying gifts more than I love, um, glitter. I love nothing more than to lavish presents on people. It makes sense NOT to do that this year, but at the same time, I’d miss it.

  2. My family actually likes homemade presents best… so I make a lot of mine.

    How about “sand art” cookies? Get a mason jar, and layer in the dry ingredients, and add a nice tag with the baking instructions. Works really well if you are known for a certain baked good.

    Do you have a crafty friend that owes you a favour? See if they would be willing to do the work, if you provide the materials (I’m thinking knitting, stuff like that). Failing that check out church bazzars/craft sales to see what handmade items you can find on the cheap. I know very few people who would say no to a pair of hand knit mitts or a hat.

  3. It’s not exactly on the cheap, but I start my Xmas shopping for the kids in the summer. I think I spend just as much, but since I spread it out it’s not quite as devastating to our bank account.

    • So long as you can spread the cash out, I think that’s wise. My problem is, I get something and IMMEDIATELY want to give it to whomever it’s intended for. I get a little excited. HOLD ME.

  4. QVC has an easy pay option that allows you to buy the product, receive the product, but pay for the product over the course of a few months. I don’t think they do it for all of their items but it is how we were able to replace our 14 year old TV when it died unexpectedly and at a financially inconvenient moment last fall.

    My husband and I don’t buy each other Christmas gifts. I married into a large family. There are routinely 15-17 gifts to be bought every year and so there is just not enough money to go around so we don’t do gifts for each other.

  5. The boyfriend and I made a deal a few years ago that our gifts must fit into our stockings and couldn’t be over $20. Maybe this could be a fun new tradition to start with the kiddos. Set out stockings or baskets and give lots of tiny things (also, tiny things take up less space in your new home!). They’ll get the joy of unwrapping ALL THE THINGS, you’ll get a kick out of their excitement, and you could do it all for CHEAP. The Dollar stores have all kinds of kid friendly stuff, if you look.

    As for me? I’m broke as a joke so I’m hand-making as many gifts as possible on my list. I’m doing cards for many people instead. Written words can mean the world to someone, and stamps haven’t *quite* gotten too expensive.

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