Ways to Save on Christmas Expenses

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Looking to save on Christmas expenses this year? You can totally cut back, save money, and still enjoy a great holiday. Here are some easy ways to save.

jar of money in front of lit table top Christmas tree.

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This year has been incredibly wacky, with finances feeling very uncertain for many. All the more reason to be on the ball when it comes to holiday spending.

As you probably know, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years are the biggest retail weeks of the year. Stores want your money and they’ll go to great lengths to get you to buy their product.

We need to be diligent all 12 months of the year, but Christmas time can be an exceptionally tempting season toward overspending. Thinking about it today can help you spend less and save more in the long run. Create a battle plan now before the sights and sounds of Christmas sway you toward not so wise choices.

Thankfully, you don’t need to go all bah-humbug. There are plenty of ways to save on Christmas expenses.

Start planning early.

For some people, early might be December 26th. For others it might be July. For me, I definitely want to have some plans in place by Labor Day. This gives me a good three months to start ideas and plans percolating in my head.

It also helps me be mindful of sales and other specials that I might want to take advantage of in those preceding months. Back to school sales and their concluding clearance deals are great opportunities to buy ahead for Christmas gifts and shoebox donation projects.

You might want to grab a copy of A Simpler Season this week. No matter when you start your planning, it will give you ideas and tutorials to get your Christmas projects underway. Plus, if you use the coupon code XMASJULY you can get the book for a mere five bucks.

Set some limits.

If you decide now how you will approach the holiday season, you won’t be swayed by all the hullabaloo that happens as Christmas approaches. Decide on a holiday budget, how many parties you will host, how many gifts you will give, and so on.

Doing it with a sane mind will help you save money later when everyone’s going crazy.

Start a Christmas Sinking Fund.

There are five months (more or less a week or two) until Christmas arrives. That gives you a good while to set aside some cash for increased holiday spending.

Be honest. You know you want to spend more money in November and December. So plan for it, instead of feeling guilty about it later.

Plan to pay cash.

I know there’s lots of debate on this one. Obviously, you can’t pay cash on online orders. But, when you go into a physical storefront, you are more likely to “count your pennies” if you’ve left the credit or debit cards or even the check book at home.

If greenbacks are all you got, then you’ll choose more wisely than you might with credit or check. Those forms of payment often know no bounds — until you’re overdrawn or overlimit. If you’ve followed steps 1, 2, and 3 above, you’re be well placed to pay cash and not feel buyer’s remorse over your purchases.

Make Presents

For years this was my main mode of operation. I enjoyed the creative exercise crafting handmade gifts, and we saved money. If you’re going to make gifts, NOW is the time to gather ideas and supplies and to get started, if you haven’t already. Handmade gifts can take longer than you think, and it does you no good if you are burning the midnight oil on December 24th. Been there, done that.

–> Check out my HUGE database of gifts you can make, including easy and inexpensive ideas for kids, teens, college students, ladies and men.

rounds of lavender soap, tied in purple twine on a white platter.
Lavender Soap

Bake someone happy.

I love to bake cookies at Christmas time. Eat cookies. Give cookies as gifts. And eat some more cookies!

And believe it or not, if you package them properly, you can bake them a month in advance and store them in the freezer. Using your freezer also allows you to present a variety of cookies without spending a lot of time in one day.

Here’s how I make up a dozen different cookies without a ton of work.

Win with Swagbucks

I love Swagbucks. Over the years my family has used it a search engine that rewards us with points that we redeem for Amazon gift cards. Some years I’ve been able to purchase all the kids’ Christmas gifts on Amazon with Swagbucks.

Talk about a Christmas miracle!

If you haven’t signed up yet, do so now and start earning SwagBucks. You can earn Swagbucks by searching the web, completing surveys, referring friends, shopping through their portal, and even watching short videos.

By the time the holidays roll around, you could have a nice little nest egg to trade in for gift cards. This past weekend I logged in to find enough points for $30 in Amazon gift cards.

Shop online via Ebates

Since I order a fair amount online, I’ve found that using Ebates works well all year-round to get a little cash back from online purchases. Not only that, but Ebates has the latest in coupon codes and discounts so you can get extra savings shopping through their portal

In the past I’ve done my Black Friday shopping through Ebates and gotten great deals, free shipping, and cash back from my purchases. Since I signed up in 2009, I’ve received over $2130 back in ebates! The last few months, they’ve even offered me up to 15% extra back if I opt for a gift card instead of cash.

Basically, I’m totally a fan of Ebates, and you should be, too. Sign up here.

Request free samples.

I can’t take credit for this brilliant idea; I got it from Freebies4Mom years ago. As you see offers for free samples of cereal, granola bars, snack bags, coffee, etc, request these and then save them! They make wonderful budget-friendly stocking stuffers or additions to DIY gift baskets and they won’t cost you anything but self-control not to dig in right away.

Create a basket high on a shelf in your pantry to collect them and don’t tell the kids. Also, be sure to check expiration dates so you’re not gifting stale snacks.

Cranberry Christmas book standing up on table next to mug, tea pot, and platter of cookies.

Buy ahead.

If you see a great sale or clearance deal and are 95% sure it will make a good gift for a specific person, then snatch it up and store it in your gift closet. The key is making sure that you have a specific person in mind. A lot of the things in my gift closet are great gifts, but I don’t have anyone to give them to!

Be sure you’re right, then buy ahead. (I think Davy Crockett once said that.)

Plan for experiences.

Carrie is a Christmas geek like me. I loved her recent reflections on how experiences and time spent with people we love are really more important than a ton of gifts under the tree.

Plan more experiences than presents this year! One way to do that is to create DIY gift coupons that can be redeemed for game nights, back rubs, walks in the park, whatever you and your loved ones like to do together.

Make Do with Less

This is probably the most obvious as well as the most difficult way to save money at the holidays. But, there are lots of things that you might think are necessary at Christmas time, that really aren’t. Talk with your family and find out what is really important to them. Make those things priorities and if the rest doesn’t fit the budget, then do without it this year.

Christmas cards used to be a “must-have” for me. But, ten years ago I stopped sending them and haven’t looked back. The world went on without a holiday greeting from us in the mailbox.

Plan well.

Have you ever found yourself a day late and spending way more than your holiday budget? Lack of planning at the holidays can put you over budget quick. Take some time now to plan and really hone in on your priorities this holiday season. Now is the perfect time to do so, before Thanksgiving bowls you over.

My ebook, A Simpler Season is an ideal holiday planner that will set you up for success this holiday season. Not only does it provide some really fun family activities and tips for planning Thanksgiving, it includes extensive sections on budget-friendly Christmas celebrations.

collage of simpler season ebook with printables includes.

When you put this holiday planner into action, you will

  • Enjoy more meaningful celebrations as you pare down to what’s MOST IMPORTANT to you and your family is THIS stage of life.
  • Let go of the have-to’s and should-have’s as you learn to PRIORITIZE and do what’s best for your children and yourself, even if it’s not what you “always do”.
  • Experience the WONDER of the holiday season with fresh eyes as you count down the days with easy, actionable family nights.
  • BLESS others with fun gifts that are easy on the wallet and your schedule.
  • Have thoughtful devotions and books to enjoy with your family every night of the season.
  • Celebrate simply so you can enjoy the peace that the holidays is supposed to be.

The ideas in A Simpler Season are varied and wide in scope. What might make you feel overwhelmed is now very doable since all the work is done for you. Well, almost all.

You get to bake the cookies yourself.

Currently, A Simpler Season is on sale for only $12.

Orange buy now button with icon of basket.

Keep perspective.

The holidays are a wonderful time. They hearken to the child in each of us. We often dream of wonderful get-togethers, fabulous feasts, and memorable gifts.

However, even the best laid plans don’t go according to plan. And finances and jobs don’t always deliver as they should. We can have wonderful get-togethers, fabulous feasts, and memorable gifts –even without a lot of money.

And that is something to think about, no matter the status of your bank account.

I’d love to know what helps YOU save on Christmas expenses.

jar of money in front of lit tabletop Christmas tree, with text overlay: Save on Christmas Expenses.

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  1. The 2 things we do. A Christmas Club style savings account. We budget how much we spend for each one we gift, and how much we spend for the dinner & activities. Then divide by 12 to deposit that amount per month automatically from the paychecks to a separate account we don’t touch. The money comes available on December 1. You can also use your swag bucks, and homemade gifts as well as make it clear to all you have a budget for Christmas. My parents limited the number of toys to 2-3 each plus the useful items like clothing to stretch our school clothing, pajamas & nightgowns, one year we each got a new parka. We each got a book, always. Our stockings were filled with little things, an orange, chewing gum, socks or stockings, a little candy, soaps, and tooth brushes. A set of crayons or pencils, yoyo’s, chalk, play dough, slinky’s, playing cards. All group of small inexpensive items. We made lists to Santa and later to our parents each Fall, they were read and an attempt to get one or two items + a couple other things made. We were raised to have realistic expectations of what we would receive. That is a practice I’ve continued. It’s simply not in the cards to give a child everything they think they want. The more you do that, the more they want. It sets up eventual issues with disillusionment, when you reach a thing they want, that you cannot give, yet I see people do this time and again. Plus there is the ugliness between parents fighting for toys in short supply. They don’t understand that it’s a setup on the part of toy companies. They decide over a year in advance what will be featured for any given season. More than enough time to create a generous supply of an item, but the artificial shortage is created to create competition and drive the prices up! Getting that much negative energy together to ensure their child gets that toy, ruins the spirit of the Holiday Season. By making gifts or buying with swag bucks, or giving gift cards in stockings, you can save towards a holiday activity for everybody. Plus enjoy the many free activities of the season. Building a set of family customs during the holiday season, isn’t wrong, if you do it slowly and a filling festive Christmas feast doesn’t mean spending hundreds and cooking not stop for a month. Balance is everything, just enough of everything to create a wholesome festive whole.

  2. For the last few years, we’ve limited our gift-giving, and no one seems to mind. We also give spring/summer clothes (purchased at end of season sales or resale shops) as part of our gift to the kids.

    Also, track your purchases and those of others, if they share. If I know that one grandmother has bought one thing, I let others know so that we don’t have to mess with returns, disappointment, etc.

  3. If you want to send out Christmas cards order them early. Last year I ordered my photo greeting cards in October during a great sale from Shutterfly.com. I got free shipping and saved a bundle. This may mean you have to resort to sending a photo taken this summer, but who doesn’t love a little sun in December? My cards were addressed and ready to go before Thanksgiving…I just waited to send them out.

  4. I can produce that I grow in our garden and we eat off of it all winter. I am hosting a Canning Week Blog Party the week of August 23-27 with lots of tips, recipes and how-to on canning. I think a lot of women are probably a little skeptical or have just never done it and hopefully once they see how easy it is they will want to give it a try. Hope you can stop by sometime that week as well!!!

  5. Just a tip…for the past several years we have gotten many of the black friday deals online on Thanksgiving. Stores like best buy and amazon have great deals.

  6. Now that I’ve finished a baby blanket I was working on (for my first grand nephew, Patrick Warren), I totally have to get started on Christmas presents! You are right, now’s the time!
    BTW, do you have Coinstar machines in your grocery stores? While they do charge for cash counting, if you get a gift card or certificate (I like to get them for either Amazon.com or Borders) it is totally free. I bet if you go around the house you’ll find lots of change you can cash in for free. Remember, a lot of places ship free if you have a minimum purchase, so you can get stuff for pennies and nickles you had lying around, anyway!

  7. Thanks for hosting!

    These are great ideas for Christmas. I love making gifts. My husband’s family loves it whenever I give my homemade baking mixes complete with the recipe. Jars of homemade apple butter and bread and butter pickles were a hit last year too! My BIL loves my homemade caramel corn so he gets a batch of that each year. It’s easy to make and inexpensive!

  8. Just as a heads up with SwagBucks, you can only redeem a certain amount of prizes per day & per month, so this is something that if you have a lot of points to use, you might want to start in late october/early nov. to redeem so you can make sure you get them in time. I didn’t know about that & last year wound up frustrated & scrambling….

  9. Wow momma, you really gave me a lot of great christmas savings ideas that I never even thought of! Gonna sign up for that swagbucks for sure! My article this week is all about a Bittman recipe that I was unable to effectively “Traditionalize” and the lessons I learned. Thanks for sharing your space with us on Frugal Friday and have a GREAT week! 🙂 alex@amoderatelife

  10. I borrowed your free sample idea last year and included cereal samples in my kids stockings which they could eat for a quick breakfast and then we could sit down for a more enjoyable meal a little later. They loved it! Thanks!

    1. Oh, I also used your Mix ‘n Match Muffin recipe to give as gifts. It has become one of our favorite recipes. We will have our current favorite variation, apple nut raisin, tomorrow!

  11. I love the “making your own” gifts idea. On the really lean years this is what our family has done and they are usually the favorite gifts because we put a lot of time and effort into them.
    I have a hard time with the whole Christmas in July thing since it is in the high 90’s this week, but I am starting to get into the spirit. 🙂