Christmas on a Budget: 25 Ways to Save Money

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Looking for ways to save money this Christmas? Check out these 25 easy ways to do Christmas on a budget this year.

You’ll find ideas ways to save money on Christmas gifts and fun ideas to keep the holiday magic for free.

I’m a forever frugal person and have been writing about ways for families to save money for years. My hope with this list is that you find creative ways to save money this Christmas that you can easily try out.

Let’s save some money!

a christmas tree with red and white ornaments and brown paper wrapped presents with text overlay that says totally easy ways to save money this Christmas

1. Organize a toy swap

Toy swaps are a win win because you get to purge toys before the Christmas deluge and you can save money on toys you can give as gifts. Our local library holds a toy swap so check for ones in your community or organize one in the neighborhood

2. Try experience gifts

you can often save money with family experience gifts instead of individual gifts. Experience gifts can even be free things, like a special day trip or cool free community activity. Need ideas for experience gifts? I’ve got you covered with this list of experience gifts for families

3. Consider total present influx when deciding on how many presents to give kids

In some families, there is just no stopping grandparents or aunts & uncles from giving lots of presents. We mitigate the toy influx by limiting what we gift our kids to the one special thing they want and some stocking stuffers.

4. Start stalking buy nothing groups early

Snag Christmas gifts and decorations on buy nothing groups on Facebook to save lots of money. Keep an eye out early gives you more time to score awesome finds

5. Use Facebook groups and marketplace

Buying used is a great way to save money and it’s more environmentally friendly! I’ve found Facebook groups give away more free stuff but you can also find good deals on Marketplace (though expect to negotiate a little)

6. Make homemade gifts

making gifts is a fun and easy way to make a lot of cost effective gifts, especially for people further in your sphere like coworkers. I’ve made infused vinegars before as an easy DIY gift.

7. Don’t forget the Dollar Store

Never underestimate the things you can find at Dollar Tree. The dollar store is a great spot for Christmas gifts, decorations and stocking stuffers (I especially like to get consumables like sidewalk chalk and glow sticks there for stocking stuffers).

Check out my lists of Dollar Tree stocking stuffers and kids Christmas gift ideas at Dollar tree for more ideas.

8. Shop after Christmas sales for next year

Restock on wrapping paper and replace broken strings of lights after Christmas instead of when things are full price before Christmas

9. Give family gifts instead of individual gifts

if you have a lot of people to give gifts to, you could try giving a gift to a family instead of each individual family member. Some family gifts could be a movie night gift basket or gift card to an ice cream shop.

10. Thrift

Thrifting is a great way to save money on gifts, decorations and Christmas-y attire. Because no one should pay full price for an ugly Christmas sweater party.

11. Bake or cook gifts

This one may be controversial because there are usually too many sweets around the holidays, but baking or cooking a special food or treat can be a cost effective gift. And after years, gifting the same treat will start to feel like a tradition to everyone and make it feel more like the holidays.

12. Set up “no gift” deals whenever possible

Honestly, many people will actually be relieved to have “no gift” discussions. It saves money and takes off the stress of having to shop for another thoughtful gift.

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13. Regift

Yes, re-gifting can be a social taboo but if you are given something you don’t need and would be a good fit for someone else, think of it as finding that present the right home. 

14. Establish free Christmas traditions

So many Christmas traditions can be free activities. Going to look at Christmas lights, baking cookies and reading Christmas stories can all make it feel like the holidays without spending a dollar.

15. DIY your decorations

Don’t let social media get to you, Christmas trees and decorations don’t have to be perfectly curated. Let’s bring back the 90’s pinecone-covered-in-glitter style ornaments, which are funner for kids and save lots of money on decorations.

16. Suggest gift exchanges

For big families or groups, Secret Santa or white elephant exchanges can help reduce the number of gifts you need to buy. White elephants where you gift funny things you already own is even better because you don’t have to buy anything new.

Check out my list of white elephant gift ideas for families with kids.

17. Christmas movie night

Christmas movie night is such a simple classic Christmas activity that doesn’t cost anything. Don’t forget to add it to your holiday list in lieu of a more expensive activity.

18. Don’t give babies elaborate gifts

babies change so fast and have no idea what’s happening at Christmas. They don’t need big fancy gifts. A simple toy they’ll like or something they’ll need soon are all you need. Bonus tip: if family members ask for gift ideas, think ahead to essentials you’ll need to buy soon like a convertible car seat or learning tower.

19. Don’t give toddlers elaborate gifts

Similarly, toddlers don’t need hundreds of dollars of gifts either. your odds are 50/50 at best that the toddler is going to be more interested in the toy than the box or wrapping paper. Keep things reasonable and look for toys that aren’t age-limited (for example, magnetic building tiles that grow with you kid).

20. Shop sales early (but with caution)

Taking advantage of sales can be a great way to save money around the holidays, but only if it’s an item you actually need and would have bought not on sale. Buying a jacket at the end of summer at 75% off is awesome; getting lured into buying something just because it’s on sale is not.

21. Switch to digital Christmas cards

Paper Christmas card costs can really add up so sit down and calculate how much mailing physical cards actually cost. You can save some cash by texting or emailing out a digital holiday card instead

22. DIY your family photos

you don’t have to get professional photos right before Christmas for holiday cards. You can DIY your own photos (for example, here are some ideas of baby’s first Christmas photos you can do at home) or have a friend take them.

23. Do family photos off season

Everyone is getting their holiday photos done in the fall. If you love professional photos but want to save money, consider getting them done during less busy times. One year, we got an amazing deal doing a January special a local photographer was running during her slow season.

24. Set a holiday budget

Most people think budgets are restricting but actually, they can be very liberating. Knowing what you can afford to spend can be less stressful than constantly worrying about spending too much. And budgets are also great for frugal people like me to see that when it’s actually okay to spend money in a certain category without guilt.

25. Make a donation instead of gifts

For some people on your gift list, making a donation in lieu of a gift can be a thoughtful and meaningful gesture. And you don’t have to reveal how much was donated so you can more easily keep it in budget compared to some physical gifts.

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Save even more money with these Dollar Tree stocking stuffer ideas.

About the Author

Elizabeth Jon is a Ph.D. researcher whose work focuses on pregnancy and education. At Shoestring Baby, she uses her skills to research baby name trends, in-depth baby gear reviews & money savings ideas for parents.

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