festive and frugal Christmas

How to Have a Festive and Frugal Christmas This Year

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While the holidays are a time for enjoying our families and reflecting on what we are grateful for, they are also one of the most financially stressing times of the year.

Most of us have suffered from the debt hangover after the holidays. You know, that awful feeling we have once the credit card statement shows up in January and we realize we went overboard AGAIN this year.

So how do you make Christmas enjoyable and affordable?

Here are some of my favorite tips for having a festive and frugal Christmas!

How to Have a Festive and Frugal Christmas | Money saving tips for a budget friendly Christmas

Festive and Frugal Christmas Fun

Free Pictures of the Kids With Santa

Taking your kids to the mall for pictures with Santa is a holiday tradition for many families. But it is also one that is so expensive!

But don’t worry, friend. You don’t have to pay to get a cute photo of the kids with Santa.

There are so many free options these days for getting those special pictures. Churches, local festivals or even businesses offer free pictures with Santa.

Each year, we take the kids to Bass Pro Shop and have their picture taken with Santa. You get one free photo that has a Bass Pro logo on it. They will also allow you to take pictures with your own camera (quickly of course because there often is a line). While you wait for you picture with Santa, there are lots of activities and crafts for the kids to enjoy.

If you don’t have a Bass Pro shop near you, check your local news or local family resource to find out where you can take free pictures with Santa in your area.

Christmas Light Displays

Looking for a festive activity that doesn’t cost any money? Go look at Christmas lights!

Whether it’s just scoping out your neighborhood, or going to see a professional Christmas light display, this is a free and fun activity the whole family will enjoy.

Every year, we pack the kiddos into the car, play Christmas music and bring hot cocoa and cookies with us while we look at lights!

Borrow Christmas Books and Movies from the Library

Stock up on Christmas children’s books and Christmas movies from the library instead of buying books or renting movies.

We like to get 12 books and read one book each day for the 12 days of Christmas. But word to the wise, don’t wait for the last minute because lots of people love borrowing these materials!

How to have a Festive and Frugal Christmas

Festive and Frugal Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Make a Plan

It’s important to have a good plan in place for buying Christmas presents. This will prevent waiting for the last minute and buying anything. Not only is Christmas shopping without a plan stressful (I should know I’m totally guilty of this) it will often lead you into an overspending trap.

Before you go to the store (or start shopping online) come up with a budget.

First, look at your finances and see how much you can reasonably spend on Christmas.

Next, write a list of all the people you need to buy for.

Finally, start divvying up how much you will spend on each person. Once you know how much you can spend on each person, you’ll be able to shop smarter and stay on budget.

Use Reward Programs

My favorite app for earning cash back on purchases is Ibotta. They are partnered with so many awesome retailers including Target, Walmart, Khols, Macy’s, Sears and more!

Sign Up Now and Get a $10 Bonus!

Shop the Dollar Tree for Stocking Stuffers

The Dollar Tree is my absolute favorite place to shop for stocking stuffers.

There is literally something for everyone! From candles and picture frames to puzzles and books for the kids there are so many great budget friendly stocking stuffers.

Send E-cards Instead of Mailing Christmas Cards

Save money on printing fancy Christmas cards and postage by sending your family’s Christmas card by email!

You can use pre-made e-cards from americangreetings.com or hallmarkecards.com.

You can even add you own pictures for free to some of the cards!

Shop Consignment Stores or Facebook Marketplace For Good Quality Used Toys

If you have young children, this is by far my #1 recommendation. If the toys are in good condition, they won’t know that they are used nor will they care!

You can often find good quality toys for a third of the price! That’s my kind of deal.

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Festive and Frugal Christmas Decorations

Make Your Own

I LOVE Christmas decorations. I love them so much, I decorate the house for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving #sorrynotsorry.

But decorations can get expensive fast!

Instead of spending money on new decorations for the tree you can make your own. You can create a popcorn garland or have the kids use construction paper to cut out stars and angels.

Not only will these make your home more festive but you will create memories and keepsakes!

Shop the Dollar Tree

For those things you can’t make, there is often a great selection of decorations at the Dollar Tree. Last year I was able to score new stockings, candy canes and even a wreath! All for $1.

Skip the Lights

To save on your electricity bill, skip the lights on the outside of the house and on the tree.

Instead, you can put ribbons, garland and tinsel on the tree. To decorate the outside without lights, you can wrap columns and trees with ribbon and put a wreath on the door.

Christmas Tree

For real trees, buy a pre-cut tree and buy it closer to Christmas. If you wait until the second week of December, you may even be able to haggle the price down at the Christmas tree lot!

If you prefer a fake tree, you can buy a pre-owned tree or use store coupons to get great deals. Hobby Lobby and Michael’s often have coupons for 40-50% off one item. You can get a great tree AND a great deal!

You can also buy a table top tree at your local drugstore for under $20.

How to have a festive and frugal Christmas

The Bottom Line

My last piece of advice is if you are really struggling financially, talk to your friends and family and be honest. Simply ask if you can skip the gift exchange/holiday vacation/etc. this year. Trying to keep up with everyone will just suck the joy out of your holidays and breed resentment towards your family and friends.

It may not be easy to have these conversations, but it the long run it will be well worth.

You don’t have to spend so much money over the holidays to be festive. Making some small and simple changes to your traditions can ensure that you are able to still have a wonderful Christmas without the debt hangover in January.

What are some of your frugal tips for the holidays? How do you save and still stay festive?

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41 thoughts on “How to Have a Festive and Frugal Christmas This Year”

    1. Stacey, I know what you mean. However, in recent years I have started receiving more and more digital Christmas cards that have a lot of personal touch. I will admit I like the physical cards to display, but I appreciate the e-cards just as much!

  1. Such good ideas! I love the idea of getting Christmas books and movies from the library!!

    One of my favorite tips that my husband and I have started doing was to buy a $15 or $20 gift card every month starting in January. Then in December, you can use all of those gift cards for Christmas shopping.

    1. Jordan, I love the idea of buying gift cards throughout the year. It’s a great way to put that money aside and know that it’s only for Christmas.

  2. Really good tips here. Christmas can get overwhelming with all the costs. I’m going to attempt to DIY my gifts this year! I usually make some cookies and other food gifts, but we’ll see what else I can do. Making ornaments for the tree is fun as well and so much more charming!

    1. Thanks Yolanda! I love the idea of DIY gifts but a lot of the times I have ended up with more #pinterestfails than anything else. When it comes to DIY, I’ve found sometimes simple is the best way to go and those that receive the gifts still enjoy them.

  3. I think these are great, practical tips. I shop for people year round when I find good prices on things and keep them stored in a tub in our storage area. It has helped us SO much over the years! If you are a garage saler or shop at thrift stores you can easily find NWT or unused toys, coloring books, and other stocking stuffers for pennies on the dollar (and then store them until the holidays 🙂 ).

    1. Yes Ginger! Another great idea. And so smart to store them in a tub to make sure nothing happens to them. I haven’t practiced this myself, but I’m thinking of starting this for next Christmas!

  4. Really like not making Christmas so commercialized. We enjoy more of an old fashion christmas of just being together, and enjoying good food with just a few homemade gifts.

  5. Hi Jill,

    These is a great list. I especially love the idea of making your own gifts and decorations. I think it’s a great way to spend extra time with your family and it’s something kids will remember for years. Plus it really creates a more festive season that way knowing you made it that much more special

    1. Thanks Erna! We’ve made our own ornaments a few years in a row now and each year when we take out the ornaments box the kids love putting up their home made ornaments the most. As they put them up we talk about how old they were and share our memories of past Christmases. I also treasure those DIY ornaments so much more than the store bought ones!

  6. Great ideas!! We are spending less on presents and more on experiences around the holidays. Instead of a bunch of presents, we spend the weekend at a hotel with a water park. More memories and less stuff. My girls have plenty of stuff the way it is, but we are always looking for more quality time to spend together.

    1. We have been cutting down on the gifts each year for the kids as well. The kids enjoy the experiences so much more than the shiny new toys. Those get stocked in the playroom after a few weeks, while the experiences last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing!

  7. What great ideas you’ve included in here! As a book lover, I am going to implement the 12 book each of the days before Christmas. I fact, I’m putting slips of paper in my advent calendar now so it’s even a surprise for me come December!

    1. We are book lovers here too. I always have done this with the kids, but I never thought to do it for myself! I may just have to try it this year. Momma needs to get in the spirit of things as well!

  8. You are right about making a plan. I have a “Christmas Clipboard” and it has my list of people to buy gifts for and a list of ideas of what to buy. This helps keep me focused and organized while shopping. I write down each gift I buy as well as the price. I also keep an envelope attached to the clipboard where I keep all receipts. Making a plan keeps me on budget and makes my shopping day smarter and productive.

    1. Gina, what a great idea! I especially love that you keep your receipts organized. This sounds like a super easy way to stay focused on what you need to buy at the store and ensuring you stay on budget. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Your ideas for a frugal Christmas are fabulous!!! We do the free Christmas light thing on Christmas Eve every year. Since I was twenty, I piled the whole family in my SUV with cocoa and we rode around to look at lights all over our community. Now that I have my own family, I do the same! Magical! 🙂

  10. I think the idea of e-cards is so interesting. I’ll admit I have neglected to send out ANY cards the last couple of years due to general Christmas Overwhelm. While I love the idea of actual Christmas cards, e-cards is very appealing!

  11. I have a cousin who gives each of her four kids a big pile of gently used books for Christmas. She picks them up library book sales, garage sales, thrift stores, etc. It’s a win on so many levels!

  12. Also if you have family members with a lot of decoration, see if they sort out anything you could take. I took over a bunch of christmas decoration my mom doesn’t use anymore but I would and I have definitely enough decoration just with that.

  13. These are some great tips on how to save money during Christmas. Christmas can sometimes be overwhelming financially and it is great to find some free or inexpensive activities to do. Thank you for sharing and I am definitely pinning your post!

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