Welcome to the most expensive time of year! If you are looking to have a debt free Christmas, you’ve come to the right place.
Christmas is a time for giving, but unfortunately our financial situation doesn’t remain consistent over the years, which can affect our holiday spending. It can be both challenging and frustrating to reach the holidays and realize that you simply can’t afford to give or contribute as much as you would like. This is especially so if you are inherently generous.
The most important thing to remember is that there is no shame in taking a financial break if you need (or simply want) to. The holidays are expensive AF and if you need to scale back, do so!
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Lucky for all of us, there are loads of ways you can save money over the holidays. It can be hard to recover from the debt that can come with Christmas, so why fall into it to begin with? Here are 20+ ways you can be more frugal!
1. Create a budget (and stick to it).
If you want to save money at Christmas, you really do need to think economically. Creating a budget allows you to plan. Planning helps you stay organized. Staying organized keeps you from overspending.
If you don’t have it, don’t spend it!
That’s a motto I try to live by and I advise you to do the same. I know, I know… not spending what you don’t have is easier said than done because of credit cards and the freedom they allow us. But at the end of the day, borrowed money is debt, and the goals here is to have a debt free Christmas. Budgeting allows you to map out how much you are going to spend on your gift giving and other holiday expenses. Once you determine how much you are going to spend on each person you are gifting, don’t spend more!
2. Plan your shopping around big sales.
Retailers tend to have numerous sales over the holiday season, but the big days to save are during flash sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On these days, you can honestly save hundreds of dollars on your holiday shopping. You can easily find out what special offers stores will have in advance of the sales, so you can plan out what you are going to buy and when. Save big ticket items for these days, too.
3. Clip coupons from the circulars! Or ask at checkout.
They are printed for a reason! There is a strange stigma when it comes to couponing which I don’t understand because they are TOTALLY worth taking the time for. If you are going to shop and there is a 20% off coupon in the circulars for the ex
act store you are going to, why wouldn’t you cut it out and use it? *Insert confused, chin scratching emoji*
One (kind of) cheesy thing I have admittedly done if I don’t have a coupon is ask the cashier if they have one they can scan for me, because I “forgot” mine at home. Believe it or not, there have been numerous times when they have pulled one out and done exactly that without even batting an eye. Certain stores almost always have a sale going on, so you can often count on a simple request before paying.
4. When shopping online, ALWAYS search for coupons before placing your order.
I can honestly say that never complete my online checkout without doing a quick search to see if there are any codes floating around the internet. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get a code that works, but if you land on an unexpected discount, it’s worth the search! Small or large, all savings are welcome! Websites like RetailMeNot, Coupons and Groupon often have legitimate codes.
Simply type something like ‘nike coupon code’ in Google, check the search results for the most reliable websites and test out the codes they offer based on how other users have rated them.
5. Don’t succumb to the pressure.
The holidays bring a lot of pressure with them. One of the best ways to stay true to your debt free Christmas plans is to ignore the pressure. Don’t try to keep up, one-up or impress. You shouldn’t feel ashamed if you must spend less than you normally would. And definitely feel no guilt when (not if) your peers show off their many gifts and/or high-priced items that they have purchased or received. Do what you can do. It is enough.
6. Take surveys at home for extra cash.
The holidays are busy and the last thing you want to do is leave the house more than you have to – especially in the name of earning extra money. One of our favorite ways to earn money online is by taking surveys. It’s the most immediate way to make money from home, and it’s crazy easy… all you have to do is share your opinion! No experience or money required, just some free time and your brain.
Our favorite (and the most trusted) websites to take surveys are Survey Junkie, Swagbucks, American Consumer Opinion, Vindale Research and Inbox Dollars. They are all free to join and if given a chance, can earn you $300+/month! We would recommend joining as many companies as you can to increase your chances of qualifying for more surveys!
Looking for more? Get a more extensive list of survey sites that pay cash and rewards here.
7. Don’t shy away from second-hand gifts.
Especially if they are gently used. Think about how fast kids grow, both mentally and physically. Seems like they only fit into the clothes you buy for 6 months before they need to be replaced. Also seems like they lose interest in toys faster than they change their underwear! Your 5-year-old won’t notice (or frankly, care) if you give her a tricycle that your friend’s daughter used for a year before she outgrew it. Nor will she notice if you shopped at a second-hand store! You will spend a fraction of the cost.
8. Shop with Ebates.
With Ebates, you can get up to 40% cash back at over 2,500 stores. How does that work? Well, stores pay Ebates a commission for sending you their way, so Ebates shares that commission with you as Cash Back.
Ebates has existed for years and is super popular with shoppers for obvious reasons. If you are already planning to shop online, and Ebates lists the store that you were going to shop at, why not get a percent of your spend back?
Sign up for Ebates here and get $10 just for making a purchase!!
9. Suggest a gift exchange for the adults.
There comes a time in life when we just stop needing. When we want something, we go out and buy it rather than waiting for someone to possibly get it for us as a gift. Eventually, we settle for the same old generic gifts each year that the person on the receiving end probably doesn’t want or need (candles, yet another pair of comfy socks, etc.). Rather than going with the usual, suggest a gift exchange for the adults in your life, where each person only buys for one other. You set a cap on spend and just like that, you’re saving a ton of money.
10. Shop wholesale.
Gifts aren’t the only expensive thing about the holidays! Think about all the parties we throw and attend between Thanksgiving and the New Year. That’s a LOT of holiday events. That’s a LOT of food and beverages! My family is pretty big and if we aren’t hosting, we always bring a few edible contributions. There are a lot of mouths to feed so this tends to amount to a lot of groceries.
We like to shop at wholesalers like Costco and BJs when we need to buy a lot of food or alcohol because they come in bulk quantities and at lower costs than regular groceries.
11. Start a side hustle.
Picking up a side gig or two – whether year-round or just around the holidays – is a great way to earn some extra cash to soften the blow. There are tons of ways to earn extra money in your spare time, it’s just a matter of wanting it enough to make the time! We started a blog when we realized that we needed more cash flow; it’s an awesome way to earn more around the holidays, and in the long run.
12. Credit card reward points.
Credit card companies that pay you back for the money you spend are where it’s at! For example, my Chase Rewards card gives me points for every dollar I spend, which can be used in a number of ways, including cash/credits. I currently have over 16,000 points which equates to over $500 that can be used on Amazon. That’s money that doesn’t need to come out of my checking account, which can be considered saved money. Hello holiday shopping.
13. Track all your expenses.
You made a budget, now it’s time to keep track of what you are spending. One of the best ways to catch yourself before you fall into debt is to write down every transaction you make – even the little ones. Around the holidays, you should be keeping track of:
- Food and beverage
- Wrapping paper and other supplies
- Additional transportation costs (lots of holiday traveling!)
- Experiences (concerts, plays, ticketed parties, etc.)
Throughout the year, I like to keep a monthly spreadsheet that documents how much I am spending and on what category. This helps keep me aware of where my money is going and if I am spending too much on particular items.
If this type of expense tracker would be of interest to you, let me know in the comments below and I would be happy to share it online!
14. Give photos.
The beautiful thing about giving framed photos as gifts is that you can guarantee they don’t already have it, and that it will be appreciated. You can give someone a scarf and wonder if they’ve ever worn it, or even like it. Or you can give a framed photograph that will sit on your loved one’s shelf and be looked at with appreciation for years to come. Photos are awesome ideas for parents and grandparents!
15. Keep an eye on your email for sales.
You know how stores somehow manage to get and keep your email address, no matter how often you try to unsubscribe? And then they continue to blow you up with email after email for years to come? Well, this comes in handy around the holidays. Your “Promotions” and even Spam folder will be a gold mine over the holidays, filled with email notifications about special sales happening throughout the end of the year. Why shop today when you KNOW there will be a 40% off sale tomorrow?
Speaking of email lists, if you are interested in learning more about how to save money, make money and live a more financially independent life, feel free to sign up for my newsletter below! I swear, we won’t be annoying like the aforementioned companies!
16. Go in on a group gift.
Guess what? You’re probably not the only person looking to save money this Christmas. One of my favorite ways to soften the blow to my wallet is to share the cost of a gift with someone else. If you are going to go in on a joint gift, just make sure the split doesn’t amount to more than what you would have spent on an individual gift. Just because there are two (or more) of you buying doesn’t mean the gift needs to be super extravagant. Agree on what you can each afford to contribute, add it up, and that’s the joint budget for your gift. If what you decide to buy is less than that total, even better!
For example, say you decide that your per person budget is $50, but you could always afford to save more. You find a gift that is $90 and perfect for your mom. But $90 is well over what you can personally spend on one person. Your sister is also looking to save some money so you ask her to go in on it with you, thus making your holiday spend for mom $45 each… or, $5 less than you had planned. Perfect!
17. See if your retailer will match lower prices.
With Amazon’s enormous presence, many large retailers have begun to compete by matching prices. These stores guarantee that if you find a lower advertised price on an identical item, they will either match or beat the price. Stores like this include Best Buy (Electronic purchases are HUGE over the holidays), Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, and others. Just be sure to bring your proof of purchase and that it falls within the specified period (typically within 14-30 days of purchase)!
18. Shop in advance for the following year.
This is something I tell myself I am going to do Every. Single. Year. And I RARELY follow my plan. Purchasing your gifts throughout the year as you find them makes so much sense. See something you know your brother would love in July? Buy it and save it for the holidays. Not only will buying ahead of time help your spending during November and December, but it will also ease your mind to know that some of your shopping is already complete! AKA, less stress.
19. Get creative and make your own gifts.
There really is something to be said for handmade gifts. They are more personal, they come from the heart, and they are 100% unique to any other item you could have given! Handmade gifts are an excellent way to save money at Christmas because you can likely purchase the supplies you need at low cost. You may even have items that you can re-purpose around the house!
20. Head to the outlets.
I love me some outlet shopping from time to time! Outlets can be a total nightmare over the holidays, in terms of crowds, lines and traffic. But if you are looking to save some cash and don’t have something specific in mind, they are a good place to browse deals. However, as The Penny Hoarder so eloquently explains, outlets aren’t always the better place to shop. Some brands price their outlet items lower than their mall items because they aren’t made to the same standard. If quality isn’t an issue to you, do you boo boo. But if it is, and you are shopping for an awesome deal, just be sure to pay close attention to what you are buying. You just have to have the patience to dig!
21. Don’t buy anything for yourself.
Gahhh, but those holiday deals are so tempting! I know! It’s painful to turn a blind eye when you see a deal that you can’t imagine passing up, but you’ve got to! You spend money on yourself to some degree all year long. Keep that in mind. You probably didn’t include yourself in that meticulous Christmas budget. Keep that in mind as well. The holidays are about giving, not taking. Remind yourself of that as you pretend you didn’t see the ridiculous deal on that designer purse you’ve been eyeballing for the last six months.
22. Don’t wait until the last minute if you are shopping online.
The longer you put off your holiday shopping, the more you will have to spend on shipping! If you are a big slacker around the holidays, it’s time to start planning and ordering so you can save on shipping costs, especially if you are ordering larger items. The heavier it is and the longer it takes to produce, the more time it will take to arrive at your doorstep. Sure, Amazon Prime has two-day free shipping, but you can’t get everything on Amazon!
23. Shop after the holidays.
Everyone knows that you can get some of the best deals AFTER the holidays have passed. Just like how you can get a bonkers amount of cheap Halloween and Valentine’s Day candy after they have passed. Discounts on discounts on discounts. If you need to space out your spending, give an IOU and shop when the prices drop!
There is no denying that the end of the year is far more expensive than the rest, but the holidays don’t have to be as hard on your pocket as you think. Implement these money saving tactics if you want to have a debt free Christmas – you will thank yourself in the New Year!