Top 5 Ways to do the Holidays on a Budget

1. Make a list with a price limit.

Getting gifts is the same as grocery shopping, make a list or else you’ll end up spending too much or forget what you already bought.

Make a list of every person you definitely will give a gift to. Parents. Spouse. Kids. Nieces + nephews. My kids’ teachers. Don’t forget the price limit.

Add up all your price limits. Is that okay for your budget?

Write a couple gift ideas for each. When you buy, check their name off + write down what you bought. I prefer to do all my shopping at one time + one place (Walmart or Target).

If there’s something special like the Amish store or Bath & Body Works, I plan for that too.


2. Stay home.

I don’t mean skip your family get-togethers, although this year I’ve asked my parents to travel to us (we live 2 + 1/2 hours away).

We can’t afford unnecessary spending, so all those cute craft fairs and holiday open houses, I’ve had to resist the urge to even go. Trust me, I’ve wanted to. I love crafts. I love homemade soaps. But I’ve just stayed home.

There’s an awesome concert in Kansas City coming up, but I know if we just stay home we’ll save money.

Of course some day I hope we can enjoy the extras “things,” but it’s just not wise for our wallet this year.


3. Wait 3 days before you buy.

I’m talking about big purchases. You want it? Wait 3 days and see if you still want it.

I’ve really been wanting a Christmas tree this year, but our budget says no. Sure, I could swipe my credit card and get a fancy one.

So I set a budget and started looking for used ones online. I found a beautiful one a lady was selling in my town for $50 with all the decorations.

I really really wanted it. I waited 3 days. And it was already sold.

When I thought about it, why get something that sits out for 4 weeks, and spends 48 weeks in storage?

I had given up on the idea.

I decided to take the kids to Lowe’s just to “window shop” the trees and to have something to do on a Saturday morning.

We were in the outdoor center and I was looking at the 2 foot real trees that were 50% off because those were in my price range [insert laughing-crying face].

I was wondering if buying a tiny real tree for $9 was a wise decision, when the sales associate asked if I needed help.

I just asked her which trees were 50% off and she told me about how someone that morning had asked for a 6 foot real tree to be freshly cut. They never came by to pick it up, and it was being discounted down to $8.

I bought it and at the register she pulled out a tree stand she said they had given away for free on Black Friday. She told me she couldn’t give me one for free, but could charge me one penny if that was okay.

One penny.

I almost started crying and I should have hugged her.

Even though my budget was tight, and I’ve been restraining myself on things I “want,” I still got it and for just using the cash in my wallet.

Anyways, waiting can pay off, save you money, or prevent you from an impulse buy.


4. Don’t covet thy neighbor.

Your budget is not your friend’s budget. Your budget is not your family member’s budget.

Another family might be giving each other Apple watches, $100 bills, and miniature ponies, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

Your kid doesn’t have to have the monkey toy that clips to your wrist. I don’t need a name brand fill-in-the-blank.

Honestly, I’d just like to sleep in for 2 mornings, get 2 meals cooked for me, and drink some cocoa while watching a Christmas movie. Let’s see if he reads this.

Be content. Be realistic. Appreciate what you have. Don’t live this holiday wishing you had what they had.

It’s okay to unfollow someone for 30 days (or just put your phone down) if you know you’ll be battling jealousy when you see their Christmas morning photos. Wow, I just said that.

Last year I took a crisp 20 dollar bill into the dollar store and bought 10 items each for my kids. On Christmas morning, they each unwrapped 10 gifts- their favorite things. Bubbles, fruit snacks, candy, hot wheels, baby dolls, stickers, art supplies. We had a blast.

I’m going to do the same exact thing this year (for my now 1 and 3-year-old.)

By the time I don’t have to pay for diapers or daycare, my budget should allow for a nicer toy.

Take joy in the simple. Spend quality time with people not things.


5. Spend time, not money.

Don’t spend every weekend leading up to Christmas shopping. Stay home, clean out your closets and go donate it.

Spend time with your family, not just on Christmas Eve.

Even with gifts, you can put more time than money into them.

I’ve got a nephew who recently moved out on his own. [I’m assuming he doesn’t read this.] I plan on making him simple-one-person recipe cards because he’s now cooking for himself.

I could still buy him a pot or pan, but the main gift is the recipe cards.

Make a gift basket- bags of popcorn, candy, and a family DVD. It’s something they can do, make a memory, and can be under $10.

For small gifts for everyone, we usually do the instant print 4×6 family photo as a Christmas card.

In recent years, I’ve just given the older nieces + nephews money, but let my kids “decorate” the envelopes. I saved time (and probably extra dollars) from shopping and I also got to spend quality time with my kids while we decorated homemade wrapping paper and envelopes.


Whatever your budget is, be realistic. Don’t put everything on your credit card just because you have to “live up to” what you did last year or what other people can give. Enjoy the holidays without hurting your family’s finances.

Check out my $8.01 tree!

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2 thoughts on “Top 5 Ways to do the Holidays on a Budget

  1. Cindy Toje says:

    Holly,
    I am your mom’s friend Cindy. I always look forward to see what you have to say–always entertaining. I wish I knew you were looking for Christmas items. I have boxes of ornaments, lights and more. Keep me in mind, I would happy to give you anything you can use.Your mom and I have a lunch date set up soon, if the weather is good. Blessings, Cindy

    Liked by 1 person

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