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Holiday Budgeting: 11 Ways to Save on Christmas Expenses

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According to The Conference Board Holiday Spending Survey, Americans plan to spend an average of $985 on holiday-related items this year. That's a significant chunk of change! But, with a little thoughtful planning and smarter shopping, you and your family can enjoy a memorable Christmas without overspending. Here are the top 11 ways to save money this holiday season while still creating a festive and joyful atmosphere.

Calculate Your Budget early and Stick to It

The key to successful budgeting for Christmas is to plan ahead. Determine how much you can comfortably spend without straining your finances, and create a detailed budget for the holiday season. This budget should include gift budgets (for each child, friend, and family member), decorative budget, travel expenses, and food. Stick to your budget diligently to avoid overspending.

Watch Out for Retail Marketing

Are your mailbox and email inbox filling up with 'amazing' retail deals and coupons yet? The holiday season is the most trying time for our wallets, but do your best to resist discounts and sales. Most times, these deals aren't as good as they seem. You're better off not spending the money at all.

Consider a Fake Tree

While nothing beats the look and smell of a real Christmas tree, they can be expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of decorations, water, and disposal. Consider getting a high-quality artificial tree that can be reused for years to come. Over time, this can be a more cost-effective choice and reduce the environmental impact. Plus, many fake trees come with lights attached, so no more tangled string lights!

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DIY Decorations

Embrace your creative side and make your own Christmas decorations. Homemade ornaments, wreaths, and garlands can be budget-friendly and more meaningful. Involve your family in crafting personalized decorations that will bring a unique and heartfelt touch to your holiday decor. Check out these 75 DIY Christmas Decorations for inspiration.

Set a Secret Santa gift Exchange Budget

One of the most effective ways to control gift expenses is to do a Secret Santa gift exchange with your family or friends. Plus, it's fun! This involves each participant drawing a name and buying a gift for that person only (but don't tell anyone; it's a secret!). To ensure budget-friendliness, establish a clear and reasonable spending limit for the gifts.

Potluck Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner can be one of the most expensive parts of the holiday season. Consider hosting a potluck dinner or asking guests to contribute their favorite Christmas dishes. This way, the cooking responsibilities are shared, and you'll have a variety of delicious dishes without breaking the bank.

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Thrift Store Finds and Borrowing

If you're hosting a Christmas gathering, you may need extra glassware, dishes, or cooking utensils. Thrift stores can be a goldmine for budget-friendly tableware and kitchen items. Alternatively, consider borrowing items from friends, family, or neighbors, saving you money and storage space!

Don't Throw Out Those Receipts

Wondering if your family member is a size medium or large? Keep those online and printed receipts just in case something doesn't fit. If you order from Amazon, in many cities, they have accessible drop-off locations to make returning items as easy as possible. You don't want to waste your money if you order something that's broken, defective, or simply not what you paid for. 

Practical Gift Giving

If your children are older, consider giving them practical gifts that can be useful year-round. This might include clothing, supplies, or experiences like tickets to a local event or a membership to a museum. Practical gifts can be both thoughtful and cost-effective. Some more practical gifts include:

  • Piggy bank
  • Wallet
  • Books/Kindle
  • Kid-sized chair/bean bag
  • Jewelry box
  • Art supplies (there are plenty of low-cost art kits)
  • Journal/diary
  • Charging cables
  • Sports equipment (basketball, soccer ball, yard games)
  • Kid's binoculars and magnifying glass


Price Comparison

Don't make impulse purchases when shopping for gifts or holiday essentials. Instead, take the time to compare prices at different stores, both online and in person. You can also use price comparison apps and websites to find the best deals (Google Shopping is a great resource!) Remember that a bit of research can mean huge savings.

Send E-Cards Instead of Paying for Traditional Postage

Traditional holiday cards and postage can add up, especially if you're sending them to a large list of people. Consider sending e-cards instead, which are not only eco-friendly but also cost-effective. Many websites offer beautiful, customizable e-card templates that can be shared with your loved ones with just a few clicks.

Remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in the love and togetherness you share with family and friends, not the price tag of your gifts or decorations. With these budgeting tips, you can celebrate the season while staying financially responsible.

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