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Personal Finance And Holidays: Saving Money And How To Have A Budget Friendly Christmas

Updated on September 27, 2011


Holidays and commercialism seem to go hand in hand. It's very easy to lose your perspective on the season and become just one other Christmas fanatic who spends way more than they can afford and buys gifts without even knowing why they're buying them.

The result of all this holiday frenzy is that you can end up paying off Christmas debt for the next year before you even know what hit you.

You vowed that you would not do it again this year but here you are again, looking at credit card debt that needs to be paid off, only to end up next year facing the same scenario. Why?

Because we all seem to have a propensity to spend more than we can afford, especially at the holidays.

It's estimated that 70% of people buying for Christmas do not have a budget. To have a budget friendly Christmas though, one has to actually have a budget!

Let's look at some budget friendly ideas to make your Christmas not only a happy one but a financially happy one as well!

For more ideas on how to have a budget-friendly holiday season, join me for my interview on Flora Brown's Internet radio program Color Yourself Happy - Budget Friendly Gift Ideas Make Sense.



Make a budget and start early. Start right after Christmas on your list for next year. Estimate how many gifts or dollars you will need to spend per person. Then divide that number by 11 or 12 depending on when you want the money available to spend.

Open a savings account named HOLIDAYS if you want but start setting it aside now. For more returns on your money, open an on-line savings account. You'll end up with roughly 5-6 times the amount of interest by next year that you would get from the local bank!


Think about this year's holidays and if you find them lacking, resolve to never let it happen again! In theory, the holidays should be about love and spending time together. Too often, it gets replaced by buying expensive gifts that we can't afford or buying things we think someone wants. In reality they may have been happier just spending time with us!

Analyzing why you spend the way you do at the holidays can only help give you a clearer picture of how you might want to rethink your spending habits in general.....but especially at the holidays.



Wish listing is really a good idea for everyone just because it keeps things in perspective. It takes the worry out of "Will he or she like this?" or "Is it really what they wanted?" An appropriate wish list for anyone should include high to low ticket items because it's an unfair assumption to include just high priced things on the list. You never know what someone's financial climate is at that moment and great expectations often lead to major disappointments.

As well, it's not fair to "assume" someone owes us a big gift. If they're trying to cut back on expenses or just don't feel like spending that much money that year, it's all good!

Having a wish list brings everyone around to a point where they know they can probably afford something on that list. From high to low, you'll find something that will really make someone happy.

A great place to post up a wish list for anyone who has a computer is You can list anything and everything you'd like for the holidays. Again, be realistic! A horse probably is kinda outside the lines though you never know!



Think outside the traditional holiday box and plan ahead. If you've decided next year might be a great time to go on vacation instead of having a traditional Christmas, get everyone on-board right away. Don't spring it on them in November and then expect everyone to be of the same mindset.

Planning a year ahead can be a fun thing....even 6 months ahead. It needs to be a joint decision, not a one-person choice. If you're planning on involving friends or extended family, definitely let everyone decide if that's something that they can do and want to do. Then decide on a location and start planning.

Or if it's a reunion of sorts either here or there, do the same and everyone start planning for time off, activities, transportation, etc.


there are many ways to save money and at the holidays, people get a little tangled up about that. They don't mind buying a used book or CD for themselves, but they think it somehow reflects badly on them to buy one for someone else.

There are perfectly lovely almost brand new books and CD's on Would you be offended if the book someone bought you wasn't perfectly brand spanking new? I'll bet you might not even be able to tell! I wouldn't be upset at all because I could probably have two books instead of one!

Specify on wish lists if you prefer or don't mind slightly used this or that....or use words like "vintage." Even say specifically that you don't mind recycling and regifting.

If someone bought you a gift and it was on sale, would you whisper about how cheap they are? Certainly not! But why do we think that we're somehow going to be looked down on if WE buy a gift on sale? Isn't that what being budget minded is all about ? Getting more for less?


The holidays can just flat out be overwhelming sometimes. There is too much to do and too little time to do it....and often too little money. What is with all the "must do's?" We've forgotten I think that the season is supposed to be about love, sharing, caring and spending quality time with each other.

Here are some tips on how to have a happy holiday but keep it within reason:

  • Send Christmas e-cards, Christmas postcards, or get cards made at Costco (14.99 for 50 with envelopes and 4 calendars). Use digital pictures and share a bit of yourself.
  • Trim down the list for teacher gifts, hairdressers, neighbors and friends.
  • Give something of yourself like homemade cinnamon rolls, a basket of teas and coffees or homemade candies.
  • Give DIY gifts such as homemade soaps (see the video), flavored vinegars, coffee mixes
  • Consider giving less expensive gift cards for coffees, books or video rentals. You'll keep the prices down and also you'll know exactly how much you spent!
  • Do a potluck dinner for Christmas or New Year's. It cuts your costs way down. Always make it BYOB to really save money.
  • Have a gift exchange or a Secret Santa. Everyone's responsible for ONE gift rather than many.
  • Do this with family and instead of buying multiple cheaper gifts, everyone buy one for a certain dollar amount and get a quality gift...yet everyone is still saving money.



In short, there are many things we all can do to have a budget friendly Christmas while still remembering what the season is all about. 

In fact, we can apply these principles to other holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. 

Sometimes less is definitely more.  Giving something someone can definitely use or that they really want is the most important part of giving. 

Even giving the gift of time, a homemade dinner for two.....or a gift of yourself such as a full day of housecleaning is a tremendous gift.  It might be just the thing for someone who doesn't have much or is going through a bad time. 

Buying them a service or a flashy gift might tip their scale of pride so giving them the gift of "you" can turn embarrassing to cherishing. 

Plan ahead and even scout out sales during the year.  If you know someone is into certain things, try and pick items up a few months ahead of time. 

Or just buy gift cards here and there....set them aside for your Christmas stash. You can't go wrong with gift cards because that way, you can never go over your limit!

With a little ingenuity, we can all save at Christmas and along the way hopefully get back to the true meaning of the season in terms of giving and caring.

If you have more tips and tricks on how to keep the holidays budget friendly, please leave me your comments below!


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