Surviving the holidays on a budget can be tough. There’s meals to be made, parties to attend, and gifts to be given. The most wonderful time of the year can easily become the most expensive — but not if you don’t want it to.
If you’re not interested in blowing your budget this holiday season, you’re in good company. We gathered some savvy advice from a few of our favorite finance bloggers who are also in the spirit of mindful spending. Keep these tips in mind over the next few weeks so you don’t lose focus and jingle all the way into a downward, debt-filled spiral of holiday cheer.
Here is the best advice to survive the holidays on a budget:
“There are about a zillion different ways you can overspend during the holidays, from gifts to travel to a new outfit for every holiday party. The best thing you can do for your wallet is to look at all of the things you could spend money on, and pick three of them to prioritize. If going home for the holidays, spoiling your family with gifts and indulging in some peppermint lattes are your holiday must-haves? Awesome! Spend money on those, but cut way back on things that didn’t make your top three, like decorations for your house and extravagant holiday events.”
– Desirae Odjick, Half Banked
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“My best advice for holiday budgeting is to stop chasing perfect. A perfect Christmas is impossible on any budget. At Christmastime, our culture seems to scream do more, spend more, but more won’t make it perfect. When I choose to believe that, I can choose to stick to a budget.”
– Hannah Rounds, Unplanned Finance
“Making gifts is one of our favorite ways to save money and give meaningful presents during the holidays. Whether it’s a delicious homemade treat, a one-of-a-kind seashell necklace, or a calendar filled with old family photos and stunning scenery from recent adventures. These gifts are the kind you can’t buy at the store… luckily! With a little bit of time and whole lotta love, there’s no one on your list you can’t make smile.”
– Brittany and Drew, Mr and Mrs Adventure
“I think it’s important to be honest about your finances around the holidays. No one will be upset if you can’t afford to buy presents if you’re upfront about your situation. Being clear will make it easier for people not to buy you gifts out of obligation or even encourage other people to take a look at their finances.”
– Zina Kumok, Debt Free After Three
“Instead of a physical gift, go for an experiential one. Make an IOU to give the people on your gift list, and surprise them later in the year with a day trip, picnic in the park, or personalized scavenger hunt. Make it something that’s specific to your relationship. It will be much more memorable and help you stick to your budget during the holidays.”
– Jackie Lam, Cheapsters
“My best advice for anyone on a budget is to be open with your family and friends around the holidays. This is so simple and so powerful. Share your money situation and work with them to stick to your budget. They love you and don’t want to see you steeped in holiday debt!”
– Kara Perez, From Frugal to Free
“Gifting is something we’ve pared down over the years since our relatives (and us!) have been trying to declutter. Rather than buy presents for everyone we visit, we bring gifts that can be shared and consumed, like bottles of wine and homemade pies. We have a couple go-to wines that are both excellent and affordable. Cabernet Sauvignon from Blackstone Winery and Zinfandel from Ravenswood Vineyard are both fantastic!”
– Claudia, Two Cup House
“Don’t procrastinate. The longer you wait to buy gifts, the more desperate you’ll get — and desperation leads to irrational decisions. When you’re down to the wire, you’re more likely to impulse buy something that’s over your gift limit just to check someone off your list.”
– Dani Pascarella, Invibed
“Just work with what you have and try not to stress it too much. Figure out the exact dollar amount you can afford to spend and stick to it. That might mean Christmas dinner is going to be potluck-style, or that a lot of people are going to get homemade cookies as their gift. That’s okay. From my experience, most people jump at the opportunity to show off their best side dish or guarantee their favorite wine is on the menu. And who doesn’t love cookies? Especially when they come in cute packaging.”
– Korrie Martinez, Invibed
“I love the holidays mostly because I don’t like to spend money on myself, but I love to spend money on others. That means my budget can start to slip quickly, but not if I remember one thing: cash is king. Only bring what you need, and leave the plastic at home. Avoiding credit cards can help you to start the new year off with no bills and a fresh financial slate for 2017.”
– Alyssa, Mixed Up Money
“Make a list–and stick to it! Try not to get distracted by all the discounted odds and ends, as the small purchases can add up to take you off budget in a big way. If you end up finding a great deal on a specific gift and come in under budget, don’t feel compelled to buy that person more. Your giftee doesn’t have to know how much something cost you as long as you remove all pricing stickers and tags.”
– Femme, Femme Frugality
“My top tip for surviving the holidays on a budget would be to not go to the shops. Look online at marketplaces such as eBay, where you can get items for very low prices. They could be either second hand or brand new depending on what you are getting and who you are buying for. The majority of my daughter’s Christmas presents this year are from car boot (garage) sales and I know that she will absolutely love them – just as she has in the past. Kids don’t care how much you paid or whether it’s in the packaging – they just want the toy, and most importantly, to spend the holidays with you.”
– Francesca, From Pennies to Pounds
“The best advice I can think of is to plan ahead of time. For example, I’ll use Digit to save small amounts of cash throughout the year that I can then use during the holidays. Or, as I’m shopping for things I need throughout the year, I’ll make sure to use cashback and then use that money for the holidays. This takes a lot of the stress off because the money is already there.”
– Amanda Abella, Make Money Your Honey
“I’d recommend sticking to holiday sales for items that are on your gift list. Also, doubling up on gifts isn’t a bad idea either. If you can get a buy-one, get-one-half-off deal for an item, you can give friends similar gifts or get the same item for your parents and in-laws. Many people like to shop with credit cards to earn reward points, but if you are on a strict budget stick with cash and use the envelope method to avoid overspending when you shop.”
– Chonce Maddox, My Debt Epiphany
How do you get through the holidays on a budget? Let us know in the comments!