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Preparing for Christmas When Money is Tight

Updated on October 29, 2008

Christmas has become a very commercialized holiday. There are decorations, a tree, and presents to buy. With all these items there to eat up your money you may wonder if you can have a good holiday with limited stress. Truth of the matter is that you can have a good Christmas on a budget!  

Decorating the House

Most people enjoy the bright colors, lights, and fun decorations of Christmas. If you have a large collection of Christmas decorations then there is no need to feel the pinch in your decorating. However, if you are just starting it out it may seem a bit dull without all the decorations and the stores may seem to be calling you to buy lots of items for your home. Here are some tips for saving money while decorating your house:

  • Make up a few paper snowflakes. You can have fun designing them. If you have kids, this is definitely something they can do. Place them in the windows, use clear contact paper to make them stiff and hang them from the ceiling.  
  • Shop the dollar store. Here you can pick up bright colored garland, a package of Christmas bulbs, inexpensive wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows for affordable prices.  
  • Use the garland and bulbs to decorate all through your home. Use at least some of the wrapping paper to wrap all of the pictures on your wall, add bright ribbon and bows and hang them back on the wall for bright festive looks.
  • For a Christmas tree you can do one of the following depending on your budget and your location. If you live in an area where a real tree can be purchased for a small amount, go ahead and get a real tree. If you live in an area where Christmas trees are expensive, go for a small inexpensive fake tree. If this is still too costly (which it may be for some budgets and locations) then pick up a package of construction paper and make your own tree to hang on the wall. You can decorate it and put your presents under it!  
  • When decorating your tree you can use strung popcorn, cereal, construction paper ornaments, other handmade ornaments, and candy canes for a wide range of inexpensive options. These things can even be carefully attached to your construction paper tree!
  • If you already have candles you can use them around the house for great light and awesome decorations.  

Christmas Dinner on a Budget

Before Thanksgiving a wide range of holiday foods go on sale. You can start your shopping early and save lots of money on your Christmas dinner while still having a lot of the classic favorites.

  • Start shopping early.  
  • Use the ads so you always buy items that are on sale. Start with frozen foods, canned, and boxed foods that will stay good.  
  • Shop a wide range of stores so that everything you buy is on sale.  
  • Use coupons from the ads as well as online coupons for the most savings possible.  

Hosting Christmas Dinner or Parties on a Budget

Hosting a Christmas dinner or a Party on a budget may seem impossible, but you can do it. It doesn't have to be the end to the rest of your Christmas celebrations either.

  • Borrow items that you need in order to throw a good party. This could be serving dishes, glassware, silverware, linens, and table clothes. Keep a list of the item and who owns it. Make sure everyone gets their items back in a timely manner. Most people will be happy to lend you the items you need and as long as you get their stuff back in a timely manner they will also be willing to lend you their stuff again.  
  • Ask people to bring a dish. Whether you are doing a party or a dinner you can have your friends and family bring items to the celebration. You can either have it be pot luck style where they bring their favorite item or you can make up a menu and discuss which item(s) they want to bring.  
  • Make sure you shop the ads and your coupons to save on any of the items that you will be purchasing!  

Gift Giving

While it is true that decorating and eating can be expensive, most people spend the most holiday money on gifts. This can often be dangerous and there is a large group of people who go into debt to do so. Of course it doesn't have to be that way! There are lots of different options for a fun, exciting, and tight budgeted celebration.  

Make a List and Check it Twice

While it is nice to give gifts for everyone you know, when money is tight it just shouldn't be done. You should make a list of your priorities. Then check your list and see if there is a way to trim it farther so that you aren't spending money you don't have. Here are a few tips for cutting your list back.

  • Don't give gifts to those who don't give gifts to you. It may sound greedy, but in reality it is an evaluation of the relationship. If you don't have a two way relationship when it comes to gifts, then you should send a card or make a phone call.  
  • Make your list in order from the most important to the least important. Assign a price tag for each gift and then trim the amount and the people at the bottom to save money.  
  • If you have a large group that is used to giving each other gifts, talk with everyone to see if they would be willing to do a drawing. That way you can draw one or two names and everyone gets a gift without the financial burden of buying each person a gift.  
  • It is also a good idea to put a price limit on gifts for people within a group. That way everyone knows what is acceptable. You may find that a lot of people are happy to give and receive gifts that cost less because they too are facing financial issues.  

Gifts You Can Make

If you have a lot of talents you might be able to make a lot of different items to save money by giving gifts. However, some don't have that luxury and an all knowing supply of ideas. But there are lots of creative gifts that you can give your friends and family that anyone can make!

  • Chocolate spoons.
  • Coffee Lover's Cup.
  • Chocolate Lover's Cup.
  • Cappuccino Cup.  
  • Chia Tea Cup.
  • Chocolate Covered Pretzels.  
  • Bath Teas.  
  • Bath Salts.  
  • Cookies or Cookie Mix.  
  • Caramel Corn.  

The ideas are truly endless. For more information on making your own gifts see Gifts Anyone Can Make.  

Other Ways to Save on Gifts

If you don't have the skills, time, or desires to make your own gifts, there are still ways to save while giving good gifts.

  • Make sure you hit the sales. Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is the biggest day of sales all year. You can buy online or in the store and save lots of money on your gifts.  
  • Shop second hand. Whether you have a local second hand store, Goodwill, or even garage sales and newspaper ads you can often find second hand items that are in great shape for great prices.  
  • Re-gift. Some people get a lot of items that just don't fit them. If they fit someone else (really fit them) then you can give them and they will make a great gift. Make sure they aren't the person who gave it to you in the first place.  
  • Go through your home. A lot of us have bought a lot of things that we don't use, don't like anymore, or don't need anymore. All of these things can make great gifts for others.

For more ideas and details on how to save money on giving gifts check out How to Prepare for Christmas on a Budget.  

Changing Your Family's Focus

A lot of money can be saved if you focus on different aspects of Christmas rather then how many gifts everyone is getting. Often times Christmas becomes materialistic and it is easy to loose focus on family, friends, and religious beliefs (if you have any). However your can connect back into a more meaningful Christmas with less gifts and more substance. Here are some ideas:

  • Go for a family walk in your neighborhood to check out the lights.  
  • Go Christmas caroling.  
  • Volunteer at a shelter, food pantry, soup kitchen, or the hospital to bring cheer to those who are less fortunate then your family.  
  • Watch holiday movies together.  
  • Discuss the things you are thankful for that have happened over the last year.  

Christmas is about more then how much money you spend on it. It isn't right to go into debt for it and it is best if you work hard to make it a happy, exciting, and stress free time. You don't have to spend all your money to have a festive looking home, a festive dinner, a party, or to give gifts to those that you love. Have a happy holiday.  


Submit a Comment

  • profile image 

    10 years ago from San Francisco, CA USA

    I was working on this exact hub myself . . . and yet most of the ideas you have are one's I hadn't thought of (like decorating the house).

    One idea you didn't mention: Create some sort of game around the gift giving. One year my extended family of nine decided we would give each other ugly coffee mugs. The rules were that you couldn't spend more than $10 on one mug, or $50 for all eight. It took like two hours to open all the mugs, between people laughing and telling stories about how we acquired them. A wonderful Christmas, for cheap. Hmm . . . maybe I should write a hub on this after all.

    Anyway, great thinking on your ideas!


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