If you want to boost your holiday budget, a huge part of it is just cutting back your spending. Way too many people think it takes big bucks to have memorable Christmas fun. They’ll splurge on gifts, travel, food and festivities and then shrug it off by saying, “Ah, well, it’s Christmas.”
What it really is, though, is a recipe for heartache come January. The better option? Go for a cheaper celebration that helps you keep more cash in your pocket. Is that even possible? You bet! Here are some of our favorite ways to get the most out of your holiday budget this Christmas.
20 Ways to Give Your Holiday Budget a Boost
1. Try the four-gift rule.
If you’re trying to cut back on the gift giving, try the four-gift rule: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. It’s simple and practical (and pretty dang budget friendly). If you’re not sure what they might need—ask!
2. Deliver packages.
This year, more people will be shopping online instead of going anywhere in person. And that means it’s all hands on deck to deliver those Christmas packages. You can pick up a part-time gig at UPS or FedEx, or if you need something with flexible hours, try Amazon Flex. You can set your own schedule, deliver Amazon packages, and make $18–25 an hour while doing it!1 Wouldn’t your holiday budget like that? We’ll go out on a limb here and say that’s more than shopping mall Santas are making this year . . .
3. Set a holiday spending goal.
Before you head out to buy that peppermint-scented candle or new addition to your snow village collection, be sure to make a budget first. Santa makes a list and checks it twice, and you should do the same thing with your holiday budget. It’s the best way to make sure you don’t go overboard.
Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!
Haven’t made your budget yet? It’s not too late! Get your Christmas spending on track with our free app, EveryDollar.
4. Look for sales throughout the year.
If your regular monthly budget can swing it, try grabbing gifts throughout the year when they go on sale. Budget $20 or so for it each month, and if you see something, great! If not, roll that money over to the next month. You’ll have your Christmas shopping done way ahead of time.
5. Take a seasonal retail job.
Stores are always looking for seasonal employees to help them handle the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing, but a seasonal retail job is a great way to boost your income and pad that holiday budget. The average retail worker makes over $12 an hour.2 And Christmas music filling your ears during your shift? Well, that’s just an extra bonus. Plus, stores are known for dishing out an employee discount, which can help cut the costs of Christmas gifts for you. Win-win!
6. Buy useful stocking stuffers.
Most people load up stockings with a lot of—how do we say this—junk. We’re talking toys that cost too much for just being tiny pieces of plastic, generic candy, and random bath sets with scents nobody likes. See? Junk. So don’t go that route. Instead, buy useful everyday things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, markers, crayons and soaps. Your kids need this stuff anyway, so why not tackle two birds with one stone by slipping it in their stocking? You’re slick like that.
7. Make DIY gifts or buy secondhand.
Skip the store-bought stuff and explore your creative side by making your own DIY gifts. Buying supplies in bulk will save you a ton of money and help you scratch off everyone on your list fast.
Another way to do Christmas on the cheap without busting out the glue gun? Have yourself a merry little secondhand Christmas. Make a rule that all gifts have to come from thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales or Craigslist. You never know what you might get!
8. Reuse decorations.
You’d be surprised by how much money people drop on things like Christmas trees, tinsel, lights, stockings, ornaments, garland, tree skirts, table runners, holly, figurines, wreaths . . . and a partridge in a pear tree. Believe it or not, your decorations don’t need to rival Santa’s workshop for you to have a good Christmas.
Here’s a not-so-secret Christmas budgeting trick: Use the decorations you already have! You’re allowed to do that, you know (no one remembers anyway). Just buy a few pieces and mix the old with the new. Maybe that’s updated stockings to spruce up the mantle, a few knickknacks from the dollar store, or even that inflatable reindeer for the front lawn. The kids popped the one from last year, didn’t they?
9. Start a side hustle.
These days, you can do almost anything to make a little extra income—drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver groceries for Shipt or InstaCart, or become a tasker at TaskRabbit to help someone assemble their new furniture. Take advantage of the gig economy we live in and make some extra cash!
Are pets more your thing than people? Take a stab at pet sitting. A lot of folks travel during the holidays and want to make sure their pets get TLC while they’re gone. If you love animals, give Rover or PetSitter a shot.
Got a knack for baking and cooking? Christmas is the perfect time to cash in on it. Sell baked treats or start your own meal preparation business for people who don’t have time to spend in the kitchen. If there’s one thing people will pay for, it’s food!
10. Save up for Christmas all year long.
Need more money in your holiday budget? Then make sure you’re saving up throughout the entire year. You can go the banking route and start a separate Christmas savings account. Just move over a little bit from each paycheck (or have it auto-draft) to the account all year long. By the time Christmas comes around, you’ll be set.
Or you can be more hands on and use the good old-fashioned Christmas envelope system. Just slip a $20 bill in the envelope each week and see what you have to work with come December. Don’t forget, every little bit helps too. Yep, even gathering up loose change can give your holiday budget a big boost. And just think, the sooner you hit your savings goal, the sooner you can start buying presents!
11. Draw names for gifts.
Instead of getting sucked into buying a gift for every family member, every friend and every co-worker—draw names instead. Set a price limit and have fun buying one gift for one person. Your budget will love you for it.
12. Bake together.
Everyone loves Christmas treats. But you don’t have to spend a small fortune on Instagram-worthy desserts from that expensive bakery on Main Street. Instead, make your own! It’s easy to whip up some peppermint bark, fudge or sugar cookies. Spend an afternoon baking and decorating the goodies while listening to your favorite Christmas songs. It’s a great way to get yourself into the Yuletide spirit.
13. Have a Christmas movie marathon.
Skip dropping $100 at the movie theater on tickets, candy, and that extra-large tub of popcorn. Who wants to be in a socially distanced theater when you could be curled up on your own couch, anyway? From It’s a Wonderful Life to Elf, there are tons of Christmas movies you can stream online or borrow from the library. Pull out the cozy blankets, pair those yummy cookies with some hot chocolate, and gather the family for a merry movie marathon.
14. Volunteer in your community.
If you want to truly experience the magic of the season, give back to those who could use a living example of the true meaning of Christmas. This year, folks have been hit hard. You can volunteer to serve at a soup kitchen, sing Christmas carols at a nursing home, or fill a shoebox to give to a child. Get the focus off of your own wants and focus on those truly in need. There’s no better feeling.
15. Take the stress out of Christmas meals.
Are you hosting Christmas dinner this year? Plan out your recipes (and food budget) way ahead of time. You can take some of the burden off of yourself by having everyone bring a dish to share at the big Christmas meal (if they’re not afraid of potlucks this year).
This will save you a ton of money and a lot of hassle, plus your guests will get a chance to show off their favorite recipes and family traditions. Everyone wants to brag about their grandma’s famous lemon meringue pie recipe after all.
16. Lower the utility costs.
Christmastime means more visitors at your house—which means more use of your water, electricity, gas and heat. Brace yourself for higher bills thanks to more showers, lights left on, and extra dishwasher loads. Ask your guests to help you keep costs down by only running the dishwasher once it’s full, using paper plates or utensils, and switching the lights off when they leave a room.
Lower temperatures outside mean higher heating bills too. Keep your wallet from getting burned by upping the amount you normally budget for utilities. You’ll be prepared for the higher bills, plus you’ll get a nice little Christmas treat if it ends up costing less than what you planned!
17. Make cheap Christmas cards.
You didn’t really want to do the whole Christmas card thing. But then you got one in the mail from your cousin, and seeing her newborn in a Santa hat reminded you how much your own kids have grown. The next thing you know, you’ve gone down the rabbit trail of searching for the best family photo poses—oh, with matching outfits, of course.
First of all, it’s okay not to send out a Christmas card. Nobody says you have to do it. But if you do, skip the photographer and just find a nice family photo from the year. If you had a big life event (wedding, baby, new house), use a photo from that. You can make cards using apps like CVS Photo or Shutterfly, and sometimes they even have promos for 10–15 free cards. All you have to do is pay shipping. Boom!
18. Keep your Christmas lighting display in check.
Don’t keep up with the Joneses’ lighting display—aka the Christmas spectacle on your neighbor’s front lawn. It’s like the North Pole over there with a new lighted inflatable popping up every day. Just because the neighbors go all out with lights and decorations doesn’t mean you need to match them. If you don’t want 90% of your paycheck going toward your electric bill, don’t go all Clark Griswold with your lighting display.
We’re not saying you should have zero lights decked out on your house—just keep it in check. Use timers to control how long your lights are on. Remember, for every minute they’re on, dollar bills are floating out of your pocket like fluffy snowflakes. That’s a lot of ho, ho, oh heck no right there.
19. Pick cheap Christmas activities.
Just because you’re cutting back, it doesn’t mean you have to be a Scrooge. Grab your sled and pack your eggnog. You can still have some Santa-sized fun while on an elf-sized budget.
Make up your own crazy Christmas carols, have a snowball fight (or use socks if you don’t have snow), go on a scavenger hunt, look at Christmas lights, make salt dough ornaments of your kid’s handprints, go to a tree lighting or parade, create your own Christmas play, or build a snowman. There are plenty of ways to spread Christmas cheer and make memorable family traditions without costing you an arm and a leg.
20. Buy gifts that matter.
Nope, we’re not talking about the iPhone 12 or a 500-pack of disposable masks here. We’re talking about real-deal life-change. Give gifts that really make a difference this Christmas. Our online store has plenty of options for everyone on your list. No matter where they are with their money goals, you can help play a part in their story.
So, get out there and make it a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons. Try some of these tips to make extra cash and cut corners to save money. You’ll be amazed at how a few small, intentional changes can impact your holiday budget with tidings of great joy!