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Celebrating Christmas without going broke

Christmas is the number one holiday where most people tend to overspend. Whether it be on gifts for others, holiday feasts, decorations or travel costs – let’s face it, Christmas can be downright expensive. Which is why there are so many grumpy shoppers in the stores each year, I suppose.

Of course, you don’t have to act like Grumpy Cat when you think about Christmas. With just a bit of planning and preparation, you can enjoy your Christmas holiday without spending a ton of cash.

Celebrating Christmas without going broke

Celebrating Christmas Without Going Broke

Set a Christmas budget

You knew this one was coming, right? If you want to keep your spending in check, it’s absolutely essential to set up some type of budget for Christmas.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It just needs to be written down, somewhere that you will see it every day, to keep you focused.

To start, list all of the categories your budget includes. Some examples:

  • Gifts
  • Gift Wrap
  • Postage & Supplies
  • Decorations
  • Holiday Meals
  • Holiday Travel
  • Christmas Cards
  • Holiday Clothing
  • Christmas Tree

Next to each category, write down your spending limit. Add everything up, and that is your total Christmas spending limit. You cannot, under any circumstances, spend more than this amount. If you haven’t started saving money for your Christmas budget, start now. It’s never too late!

Simplify holiday decorations

Christmas Decorations

I know that many people find Christmas decorations to be one of the best parts of this holiday, but you don’t need to completely cover every square inch of your home with decorations. Not only can this be costly, but it’s also a pain to put everything away once the holiday is over.

Allow yourself to scale back on Christmas decor. Don’t feel bad if your house isn’t as decked out as your neighbor’s.

Another important thing to remember about holiday decorations is that you should only keep what you truly love and what you physically have room to store. Personally, I limit myself to 3 large totes for Christmas items (not including our wreath, which has a bin of its own), which includes lights, tree ornaments, garlands, tree skirts, mini trees, and other decorations.

Limiting myself to these 3 bins ensures that I don’t buy more decorations that I can physically fit into the space I have available.

Shop ahead

Shopping for Christmas items (gifts, decor, clothing, etc.) shouldn’t start at the beginning of December, it should start at the end of December – after Christmas. That’s right, you should start shopping for Christmas right after Christmas has ended – this is the time to get the best deals on all holiday items.

Shop as early as you possibly can for next Christmas. I always go out shopping (or shop online) on Boxing Day, and pick up gifts that I can put away for next year (not just for Christmas, but for birthdays, too!). Also, the day after Christmas means 50% off (or more) holiday decorations at most stores, so if you need a few items for decorating, this is the time to pick them up!

It’s never to early to start shopping for Christmas. The earlier you shop, the more money you are likely to save.

Limit gift-giving

Opening Christmas gifts

You don’t have to be Scrooge, but limiting the number of gifts you have to buy will, of course, lower your out-of-pocket Christmas expenses. This doesn’t mean that you have to only purchase cheap (in terms of quality) gifts, but instead, be more mindful of the true meaning of Christmas.

For me (someone that is not religious), Christmas is about family – about spending time with those I love the most. Christmas is not about gifts.

So – I don’t give elaborate Christmas presents. My husband and I don’t give each other gifts (we only do that for birthdays and anniversaries), so our gift budget is spent on the kids, our parents, and our siblings – but the gifts are small and thoughtful, instead of extravagant.

Give homemade gifts

Christmas Cookies Gift

I love giving and receiving homemade gifts – at any time of the year! They’re thoughtful, they’re inexpensive, and most people like to receive them (thankfully all of my family does!).

Here are some homemade gift ideas that won’t break the bank:

Have a potluck dinner

If you’re having Christmas dinner at your home this year, make it a potluck dinner. Not only will this save you a tremendous amount of money, but it will also save you a ton of time – time that you should be spending with your family, anyway!

A few weeks before dinner, let all of your guests know which items you will be providing and which items are needed. Each guest can then bring a dish of their own to contribute to a yummy Christmas feast.

Serve dinner on paper plates and try to dirty as few dishes as possible so you don’t have to spend much time in the kitchen cleaning up when everyone goes home!

Celebrating Christmas really doesn’t need to cost a fortune. With just a bit of planning and thinking ahead, you can spend quality time with family, without worrying about how you’re going to pay for everything.

Set a budget, simplify holiday decorations, shop ahead, limit gift-giving, give homemade gifts, and have a potluck dinner. That’s it! Do these things and you’ll be able to enjoy Christmas without anxiety (or debt!).

How do you celebrate Christmas without spending lots of money?


  1. Kathryn

    I realize it’s a little late for this year, but as a thought here’s what we do. Here in Canada the government stops taking your CPP and EI deductions around June/July. Since we didn’t have that money anyways for 6 months, we put it away in a separate account for Xmas and holidays. One year the money paid for emergency tires! We still keep a budget, but this helps us NOT use credit.

    • Barb

      Great idea Kathryn.

  2. Jen

    My husband and I love Christmas and giving but we also don’t want to use credit. We save a small amount of cash each week, starting in January. By the time October comes we have all of our Christmas money and we start shopping when we see sales etc. By the end of November we are done shopping and have all of December to enjoy with our kids getting ready by wrapping, baking cookies etc.

  3. Susan

    I always buy my christmas wrap bows, tags on boxing day for the next year. I also buy my 4 nieces a beautiful christmas ornament each year. Of course I buy them after Christmas for 75% off for the next year’s gift. this allows me to buy the $40 + ornaments for a price in my budget.

    As for paper plates for Christmas dinner. Sorry I can’t bring myself to do that. I have expensive China that sits in the cupboard collecting dust so I feel like I have to bring it out at least a few times a year, plus I like the look of a nicely decorated table and I don’t have to shell out further money.

    Now New Year’s day chinese food feast, I am paper plates all they way. and buy holiday themed ones on clearance the year before.

    I always set aside a budget and stick with it. Especially for the family we sponsor. My parents and my husband and I put in $150 per couple and we buy everything… dinner, clothes, toys and gifts, stockings and extra food. It is amazing what you can get for $300 if you shop wisely.

  4. Barb

    I make really small whipped shortbread cookies for Christmas and give those as gifts to people who I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to buy a gift for. It’s amazing how they all look forward to them each year.

  5. xzu

    I make many of my Christmas needs using things I already have around the house, free found objects, and dollar store purchases. You can find a plethora of ideas for homemade Christmas decorations, cards, wrapping, foodstuffs, gifts etc. all over the internet. Pininterest, in particular, is a great fountain of inspiration. I also sign up for emails from places like and design blogs so that inspiration for these things is sent directly to my inbox. By creating your own Christmas goods, you not only save a whole lotta coin, you also put a lot of thought and heart into your Christmas and I find that helps both me and my loved ones to appreciate this special time a little more.

  6. Carmen

    Or use loyalty cards and save up the points and then use them during december! But don’t forget if you plan to spurge on some new electronic as a present to yourself or to replace something around the house pay using your credit card with extended warranty. The rep will try to sell you extended warranty but you don’t need it since your credit provider will offer you that instead. That’s what I do. I recently bought a new hairdryer on sale and used my credit card as it offers an extra year of warranty.

    We don’t exactly buy new xmas cards, still have plenty from the years before. Christmas tree, don’t exactly need. bought a plastic one and we can reuse it every year. Gift wrap, you can save on it by buying non holiday specific giftwrap and you can use it year around.

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