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How To Celebrate Holidays And Stay Within Your Budget

Updated on September 1, 2012


Christmas and holidays in general have become more about spending, spending, spending and not having anything to show for it by the time they're over except debt. 

It's estimated that 70% of Americans never budget for the holiday.  They just merely go out and start spending.  Is it any wonder we are so in debt?

There are many ways to save for the holidays and over the holidays without really feeling it. 

Most of these ways are really quite simple concepts that can turn your holidays from a money pit into a truly joyous event. 

Let's look at just some of the ways that you can save.



High cost of decorating. A lot of people think that in order to have a happy holiday, they have to have their home decked out to the 9's. With the continuing rise in costs of everything and the unemployment rate the worst in recent history, why?

Why not think outside the box and vow to keep decorating to a minimum or at the very least, go back to old-fashioned ways of decorating that don't cost a cent....or very few.

Think about the costs of a live Christmas tree year after year. While they are beautiful,,they can be a fire hazard and they can be a mess.

Instead, invest in a fake tree and save money. Over a couple of years max, you will have saved the same amount you would have paid for just a couple of live trees.....and you'll have it for years to come. No mess, no fuss....just put it together and plug it in.

You can find fake trees at garage sales or on super sale at the end of the season.

If you really want a live tree, think about getting a permit from your local forestry service. You can cut down a tree in our neck of the woods for $5. You can only go to certain areas in the woods but they provide you with a map for your $5. Now that's a deal!

Instead of buying all kinds of Christmas decorations to adorn the inside or outside of your house, consider natural things like tree boughs that have fallen. Go into the woods and collect pine cones and acorns.

Decorate tables, mantles and doors with beautiful natural swags or create a centerpiece for the table with tree boughs, some small candles and perhaps some Christmas balls. Simple is beautiful. Even a white plate with nuts and some candles can create a beautiful centerpiece.


Get back to basics. When you were a kid, did you ever string popcorn or make paper strands to wrap around the Christmas tree? You can still do that and give your tree an old fashioned look.

Look up craft projects on the Internet or look in holiday magazines. You can find all kinds of Christmas ornament ideas that you can make yourself. This also can involve your kids and your family.

It becomes more of what the holidays are supposed to be time and an enjoyable time of doing things together.

Pull the plug. Decorating the outside of your house doesn't have to be an extravaganza. Think of having less lights up as your contribution to a greener world. Instead, use your money to make a donation to a charity or give to a needy cause at the holidays.

Lighting up half the world at Christmastime with lights seems totally indulgent when we have so many people out of work or people all over the world going hungry.

It may seem like a small thing or a useless gesture to conserve, but I think every little bit helps.

Give the gift of your time. If you have friends or family going through a hard time financially, skip the idea of fancy presents and think of things like perhaps a gift card for the grocery store. Or if they might take offense at a gift like that, offer yourself. Offer to clean for them, cook for them, or even take them around town for job interviews or shopping.

Volunteer your family's time. Find local shelters or soup kitchens, even the humane society, and volunteer. Set up a caroling party or a pet visiting party and visit local nursing homes or children's wards at the hospital or care centers.

You can't imagine how much these folks appreciate someone taking the time to care about them and drop by for a visit.

Start your own food drive or clothing drive for the holidays. Gather whatever items you can including food, toys, new or slightly used clothing, blankets, books, etc.

When you've gotten all that you can together, donate them to a local group sponsoring one or more families and enjoy the great feeling it gives you to give something back.

Pick up an extra bag of dog kibble or cat food at your local store. Buy the largest ones that you can afford, and drop them off at the local animal shelter or the humane society.

Take your kids with you because it's a great feeling to participate in an act of kindness or an act of giving rather than receiving.



Gift giving. Always have friends or family that you're exchanging gifts with make out a wish list. While it may seem humdrum and not very "exciting", it actually is the best budget friendly way for the holidays. It's also the surest way of making sure you actually spend your money on things that people WANT.

Encourage highs to low but try and keep it realistic. As long as there are items on the list that anyone can afford.....that's the point....whether they're from $10 to $100.

If things are really tight or you can tell that other people on your list are having troubles making ends meet, let alone worrying about the holidays, narrow it down to a gift exchange.

Set a limit that everyone can handle, say $25. It's not about the money. it's about the spirit of giving. Having to only buy 1 gift is a huge savings when times are tough and your holiday budget just isn't there.

Suggest holidays on a smaller scale to family and friends.  Advocate instead enjoying each other's company.  Take days off if you can and go visit places together, go sledding or participate in things that don't cost a fortune. 

Treat yourselves to a holiday movie or a holiday show.  Let that be your gift to each other.  Emphasize the importance of being together and spending quality time. 

See how the holiday plays out for everyone as opposed to all the gift giving and all the hustle and bustle of the season.


Christmas dining. Take the time to make nutritious and delicious family meals.  Even make some extra things to give to neighbors and friends.  Embrace the idea of an old-fashioned or homey Christmas rather than a glitzy ritzy Christmas. 

The important thing is to concentrate on making enough to satisfy everyone and encourage people to pitch in and help out with meals.  Again, it's not about the things that you consume but rather about the enjoyment of family and friends. 

Encourage family and friends to potluck it if they aren't staying with you.  Having everyone participate is a great way to get everyone to share in the cost and also takes the burden off any one person's budget. 

You just might be surprised how much everyone enjoys a change of pace from time to time. 

Stock up on foods during the holiday season. Usually the best time to buy meats for the holidays is the week before Christmas. You can usually get 50% off on meats that you can enjoy for months to come.

Having a freezer really helps and if you can budget some extra money each year for the third week of December to buying meats, fish and poultry while they're on sale, do it!

Many other items are also on sale throughout the season starting around Thanksgiving and if they are nonperishable items, stock up on things you might need throughout the year as well.


Most of all, give of yourself, your time, and your "natural" resources.  

You'll see your holidays automatically turn out budget friendly but also environmentally friendly.  They'll also be people friendly as well without all the stress of trying to do too much in too short a time and with too little money! 

Life is short and giving of yourself can be one of the most rewarding gifts you can give.  It's also one of the loveliest gifts a person can ever receive. 

Wishing you a budget friendly, people friendly, stress-free holiday season!


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Washington

      Oh shoot, Dolores--but it was a good plan! Merry Christmas to you as well!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Merry Christmas Audrey! I had the best idea for saving money on Christmas trees while still enjoying a live cut tree. One year, I planted 3 evergreens, I forgot which kinds, but appropriate for the holiday. I read up on how to keep them trimmed, blah blah. 3 trees would not take up much room in the yard and I devised a system for adding a new one every other year or so. Of course, they all died. Oh well.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      I hear you, Simone...I have to keep myself from doing that myself during the winter months! Actually for me probably any months as I tend to get a little carried's that concept of cooking for an army and only a regiment shows up!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Great tips! I especially love your note on stocking up on foods - I tend to want to do that anyway when the weather gets colder... as though I am going into hibernation and have to pack up! It's so funny.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Hanna - I know - part of the contest mania for me I guess~!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I haven't recovered from the Christmas before last. Now you are talking about the next Superbly written hub.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Thanks so much, Sandy!

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Nice hub and great ideas.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Thanks Sally - I totally agree.

      Your idea is EXCELLENT and thanks so much for sharing it with us. It makes my hub that much better!

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 7 years ago

      Thanks for some great ideas! I especially love the section on Gift of Time. Doing for others is really what the season is all about. In my family, we have started a new tration. At Thanksgiving, every member writes his/her name on an index card and several gift items they would like to receive for Christmas. We put the names in a bowl, and each person selects one card. That is our secret Santa. Half of the fun is buying for "your" person, and the other half is trying to figure out whose name everyone has picked.