We know—it feels a little early to start talking about Christmas. Heck, it’s still pumpkin spice season after all and you’re trying to enjoy the fall decorations you just put up. We get it. You aren’t exactly ready to bust out the eggnog and hear carolers singing at your front door. But hear us out! While it might be too early to hang the mistletoe, it’s never too early to save money for Christmas.
When to Start Saving Money for Christmas
Now . . . yeah, like right now. The sooner you start saving up for Christmas, the better (and less brutal) it will be. Too many people wait until December to buy gifts. With no money saved up, they turn to credit cards in a panic and end up paying for Christmas until April of the next year. Not good.
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There’s no reason to put yourself through that kind of stress. Just take some time to think ahead and you can avoid that mess. The best way to do it? Start saving in January, put aside a little money each month, and you’ll be golden come December! But if you’re just now starting to save money for Christmas, don’t worry. There’s still plenty of time to save up a stash of cash between now and then.
So, ready or not, start playing your favorite Bing Crosby Christmas tune and curl up with a good cup of peppermint hot cocoa—we’re about to show you 15 easy ways to save money for Christmas. And the best part is, you can still use these tips year-round! Keep in mind, these are all just estimates. Depending on your specific situation, you could save a little less or a lot more!
15 Easy Ways to Save Money for Christmas
1. Cut out cable.
Okay, it might sound a little extreme, but if you’ve already been thinking about cutting the cable cord, now’s the time to do it. The average cost people spend on TV is about $217 per month.1 Wow! So, if you ditch cable now, you could save more than $400 over the next two months.
And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s 2021! That means you don’t need cable to watch television anyway. Between Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Roku, Apple TV, Sling, antennas and skinny cable bundles, there are plenty of ways (almost too many) to watch your favorite shows without that crazy cable bill.
2. Buy generic brands.
If you’re an avid fan of a certain cereal, snack or yogurt brand, see if you can give the generic brand a try for a little while. Small tweaks like these can really make a difference when it comes to hitting your Christmas savings goal.
If you go completely generic for just 10 meals over the course of two months, you could cut more than $50 from your grocery bill! Even if you aren’t ready to buy all generic all the time, just buying generic staple items like milk, juice, spices, flour, sugar and produce can help you save a bundle. The small changes really add up!
3. Pack your own lunch.
It’s time to embrace the office microwave and say hello to the leftover life! If your go-to lunch plan is hitting up the drive-thru for an $8 meal, you’re wasting $40 a week right there. And while it might not seem like a big wad of cash for just one week, that adds up to $160 a month (and $320 over two months)! Take the cheaper route and swap that out for bringing leftovers from home. Your wallet is sure to thank you. Save those calories for Christmastime treats, folks.
4. Use cold water (and less of it).
Here’s a secret: You can wash your clothes in cold water and they’ll still get clean. Shocking, we know. Two of the best ways to cut back on the energy your home eats up is by using a cooler water temperature and less water. So just changing the temperature setting on your washer could cut each load’s energy use in half!2
Let’s say your monthly water bill runs about $100. If you go hardcore for just two months and cut your water usage in half, you could save around $100—and that’s not as tough to do as it sounds. Cut everyone’s shower time in half and turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth.
5. Unplug electronics.
Did you know that just having a power cord plugged into the wall uses up energy? Yep. It’s called phantom energy, and Americans waste about $100 each year on it.3 That’s like being charged for nothing! No thanks. Instead, go on an unplugging spree to make sure you’re not surging through precious dollars.
Make a habit to unplug things like your laptop charger, phone charger, toaster and even coffee maker when they aren’t in use. When it comes to big things like your TV, DVD/Blu-Ray player, or sound system, it can get annoying to unplug every single device. And who can even reach those tucked-away plugs anyway? The solution: Plug it all into a power strip so you can easily unplug everything in one fell swoop.
But don’t worry about unplugging major appliances like your washing machine. They tend to pack a heavy punch of high voltage. We want you to save a bundle without electrocuting yourself.
6. Sell stuff with apps.
Believe it or not, selling all that extra stuff you have laying around can really add up. You probably won’t get a ton of money for Christmas this way, but you might be pleasantly surprised by how much cash you’ll rake in just for getting rid of things you don’t need.
Gone are the days of taking your gear to a consignment shop or praying your garage sale is a hit. Now you can snap a picture of the item, post it in an app, and sit back and wait for someone to make an offer. It’s as easy as that! Sell your used treasures on sites like OfferUp, Poshmark, decluttr, letgo and Facebook Marketplace. Of course, you can always have a good, old-fashioned garage sale too. No one’s stopping you.
7. Pause your gym membership.
Think back to last year . . . you had every intention of going to the gym. But once the holiday madness started to kick in—how many times did you really go? Plus, if your gym still has restrictions thanks to COVID-19, you might not be using that membership much now anyway. Let’s say your gym membership costs $50 a month. If you can pause your membership for eight weeks, that’s an extra $100 toward your Christmas savings!
That doesn’t mean you have to forgo your fitness though. While the weather is still nice, take advantage of walking or jogging outdoors in the evenings after work, or team up with a coworker to walk during your lunch break. If you live in a part of the country where kids are playing sports again, use their practice time to take a walk around the building or field.
Is staying indoors more your thing? YouTube workouts make it easy to stay fit for free. If you’re an avid yogi but can’t bear the high price of going to a yoga studio, check out Yoga With Adrienne. Is high intensity interval training (HIIT) action more your thing? Try FitnessBlender and Tone It Up. Your bulked-up Christmas savings will thank you!
8. Drop the subscriptions.
Save up to $400
Subscription services are everywhere. If you aren’t careful, those things will $12.95 you into a hole. If you drop some of the more expensive subscriptions like your meal kit delivery service, you could save some serious cash right there!
Meals kits can set you back around $50 a week for three meals for two people. Sure, you think you’re being somewhat frugal. But that still adds up. If you put it on hold for the next two months and buy basic staples to make multiple meals (hello, beans and rice), you could save around $400! It’s time to get your cheap meal ideas from Pinterest or your favorite blogger.
Maybe you’re a book nerd and opted in for Audible to get through your books on the go. It’s handy, sure—but if you pause your membership for two months, you’ll have $30 to add to your Christmas budget. In the meantime, you can download Libby or OverDrive and get free e-books that you can read right from your tablet or phone. Or give the books a break and dive into the wonderful world of podcasts instead.
You can live off of basic meals and podcasts for a mere eight weeks—trust us. You probably won’t miss those subscriptions too much anyway. After all, it’s only temporary. You can sign back up in the new year if you really miss them. Or let them go for good and enjoy the savings all year long.
9. Use cash back apps.
Disclaimer: Don’t expect to make 1,000 bucks using these apps. But after two months, cash back reward apps like Ibotta, Rakuten and Receipt Hog can start to add up.
So, how does it all work? It’s simple. Apps like these offer you rewards or points for doing certain things. Sometimes that’s buying bananas and almond milk or spending $20 at a popular store. The amount of points (aka cash) you get from each transaction depends on what you’re doing. But you can usually expect to earn anywhere from 25 cents to $3 in reward points for things you do.
Keep in mind, most of these apps make you hit a $5 or $10 minimum before you can cash out your rewards. And make sure you aren’t buying things you don’t need just to collect the points (talk about not helpful). But if you can get cash for things you buy or do every day, you’ll have $20 more to your name in no time!
10. Don’t run the air conditioning or heat (when you can).
Temperatures can be pretty mild in the fall (depending on where you live)—so why not take advantage of it? On those nice days, see if you can get by without running the air conditioning or heat. If you have a programmable thermostat, adjust it so the AC or heat only runs when you’re actually there. Your house doesn’t have to be the perfect temperature when no one is home to enjoy it!
While you’re at it, keep the blinds closed during the day. Sure, you might feel like a vampire blocking out any shred of light creeping in—but the payoff could be worth it. About 76% of sunlight that hits standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.4 If you still want some natural light (and we don’t blame you), open the curtains or blinds that don’t let direct sunlight in.
11. Change your cell phone plan.
You didn’t hear this from us, but there are more cell phone providers out there than just the top three you’ve always known about. You can get coverage that’s just as good for far less money too. If you want a quick way to save money for Christmas, it’s worth taking a look around at the other cell providers out there. Research which carriers offer coverage in your area and start comparing their plans to the one you have. If you aren’t ready to switch providers just yet, try cutting back on the minutes or data package you already have.
And here’s a bonus tip: Turn off the cellular service for some of your apps, especially the ones that constantly run in the background (they drain your data without you even knowing it). This eats up your data package for no reason and could land you in hot water with costly data overages.
12. Make coffee at home.
Do you treat yourself to a fancy latte every Friday morning? That might not seem like much, but it still sets you back about $5 each week. Just think: If you could cut the coffee habit and stash away $5 a week for eight weeks, you’d end up with $40 right there!
We’re not asking you to cut out coffee completely—we’re not heartless. But guess what? You can make your favorite drink at home. Look up copycat recipes to follow (they’re all over the internet). A lot of them surprisingly taste better than the “real deal” at the coffee shop. Enjoy your morning coffee while smiling at that extra $5 bill still hanging out in your wallet!
If you can’t bring yourself to stop your coffee trips completely but still want to pay less, here are a few Starbucks hacks you can try.
13. Look for deals early.
The early bird gets the worm—and the deal too. There are plenty of end-of-summer, back-to-school and economy-stimulating sales going on these days, so keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you might find after a little digging. Be on the lookout for stocking stuffers, end-of-season clothing and deals on those more expensive items like electronics.
Another good reason to get your shopping done earlier this year? Shipping time. It’s no secret that a lot of people are shopping online these days (and even more thanks to the pandemic). Online holiday sales in 2020 were up 24%.5 And things will probably be like that again this year. With the virus still out there, more people than ever will be doing their Christmas shopping online, and that means you’ll have to wait longer for it to arrive at your front door. So don’t wait till the last minute to tackle your Christmas shopping—you don’t want to pay for expedited shipping.
14. Have a DIY Christmas.
Hop onto Pinterest or Instagram to get some ideas for crafts that you can give as DIY Christmas gifts. Searching for them now gives you plenty of time to buy the materials and put the effort into creating something that has just the right touch. Even better, you have time to start over in case your first attempt looks more like a Halloween decoration than a Christmas gift—it happens to the best of us.
15. Use your “under budget” money.
Save $75 (or way more)
An easy (and sneaky) way to save money for Christmas is to use your "under budget" cash. When you come in under budget on monthly expenses like groceries or clothing, take the difference and stash it away in your Christmas savings. That $10 here and $15 there can add up in a flash. Plus, it gives you one more reason to look for bargains and check for a better deal in your daily life—like, oh, say insurance. Are you shelling out too much each month? Have one of our endorsed local providers check your insurance rates and you could save $700! That’s enough to cover plenty of Christmas shopping.
Make Sure You’re Actually Saving Your Savings
It’s super easy to say you’re going to save money for Christmas and then not actually put aside what you’ve saved. Whoops. Instead of letting your money get lost in your bank account (and then spent), be intentional about cashing it out or transferring it over to a separate Christmas savings account. It’s a great way to be extra disciplined about putting aside that money and not touching it. Check with your bank about opening a side savings account for all your Christmas needs.
How to Budget for Christmas
Take a look at how much you spent on Christmas last year to get an idea of where you might want to land this year. Where can you cut back? Once you’ve given it some thought, come up with a Christmas budget grand total for this year. Now divide it by the number of months or weeks left until Christmas (ugh, nothing bums out the Christmas spirit like math—we know). The number you end up with is how much you need to set aside each month or week for Christmas. In December, your Christmas savings will be set and you can enjoy the season instead of feeling pinched for extra money.
Let’s say your budget for Christmas is $700. If you started saving in January, then you’d only have to put away about $58 each month to hit that goal. But if you haven’t saved anything at this point, you’ve only got two months left if you want to hit your goal by December. That means you need to save $350 each month (or $87.50 a week). It might sound tough, but you can do it! And these tips will help get you there fast.
Save Money for Christmas Now
Sorry for hitting you with all the Christmas cheer before you even had a chance to taste your first pumpkin spice latte of the year. We’ll now return you back to your regularly scheduled autumn programming. But remember, Christmas will be here before you know it, so don’t let it sneak up on you. Start saving for Christmas now.
Our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, makes it easy to keep track of your savings so you can pay cash for Christmas. All you have to do is set up your Christmas budget line and you’re good to go. Bring on the holiday cheer!