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This post was updated and republished August 16, 2019.
Christmas can often be a time of stress, overwhelm, worry and when we spend a lot more money than we ever planned.
All of these characteristics is often due to last minute Christmas shopping and not even having a plan for Christmas shopping before it arrives.
This has been my story for so many years! I remember many Christmases where I was running around a couple of days before trying to get my shopping done. And the worst part about was that I didn’t usually know what I was shopping for. So I randomly walked up and down aisles hoping I would know it once I came across the perfect gift. Due to the lack of time I had, that usually resulted in me spending a lot more money than I had wanted.
But I don’t believe it has to be this way!
I think that if we are smart about how to budget for Christmas, when and how to shop for it, and are a little clever about the choices we make, we can have a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday with friends and family that doesn’t put us in debt.
Here are my tips to help you save money this Christmas:
Christmas Tip #1 Start thinking about gifts early
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start thinking about next Christmas on December 26. But the earlier you start, the earlier you will save money because you won’t be shopping last minute. When we shop last minute, we tend not to pay as much attention to how much money we’re spending because of the pressure we’re under with the Christmas deadline approaching (as I mentioned with my last minute shopping).
I don’t necessarily plan to start looking for gifts super early, but anytime an idea suddenly pops into my head (maybe someone mentions something they would love to have or I randomly hear about or see something I know someone would really like) I write it down right away or save a note on my phone.
I do the same for birthdays and other holidays as well. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to get somebody something I know they will like.
There is of course the risk that if a gift is bought too early, the recipient may get it on their own before you have a chance to give it to them. So when you take note of it, don’t necessarily go buy it right away. It is best to wait until the holiday (or whatever event it might be) gets closer and/or look for it to go on sale. This most certainly will help you save money.
Christmas Tip #2 Look for sales throughout the year
As I already mentioned, if you do think of something to get someone well in advance of Christmas, pay attention to if it goes on sale. The price on items are always going up and down so try to snatch it up when it’s pretty low.
Also, keep your eyes open for sales throughout the year for items you don’t already have in mind. You may see something that is perfect for someone that you never thought of before. Always be mindful of that opportunity while looking through sales.
You can look for sales while you’re out at the store or through various ads you come across.
Christmas Tip #3 Shop early
I did mention that just because you think of a gift to get some well in advance of Christmas, that does not mean you should rush out to get it right then. But sometimes you may want to if you see the item on sale or are worried it will get sold out.
Shopping early will also help you avoid the overwhelm of the Christmas crowds and rush!
Christmas Tip #4 Take advantage of Black Friday
Don’t use Black Friday as an excuse to get a bunch of things you don’t really need. When you do that, you just end up spending more money than you would have had you not shopped on Black Friday.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say that something is normally $300 but they only got it for $100. Okay. I get that that certainly seems like a good deal. But does that mean that just because it was on sale, a $100 pair of jeans was something you really needed or couldn’t have gone without? Probably not. So really you didn’t save $200, you spent $100.
In other words, so many people also use Black Friday to get themselves major deals instead of shopping for other people. And if you do, that’s Okay as long as you’re smart about it (see above paragraph). But make sure to also take advantage of it to shop for others as well.
My family gets each other stocking stuffers every year ($0-$5 gifts) and I always like to pick up nicer soap and lotions on Black Friday because they are often at such a great discount. I stay within the price limit and it’s the only time of year I tend to buy those things.
Christmas Tip #5 Take advantage of Amazon Prime days
Amazon Prime days happen a few times a year so you have more than one day to look for the perfect gift. One of the days is usually the Monday after Black Friday.
There are often a lot of great deals you can find and you may be able to save money when Christmas shopping this year on Prime Day. But once again – be careful you don’t overspend just because you end up seeing so many things YOU want that are on sale (unless of course you budget for that).
Christmas Tip #6 Do Secret Santa
I love Secret Santa. The adults in my family started doing this about 10 years ago to save money and it’s always fun to wonder who got who and see the excitement of finding out Christmas morning. In case you’re not aware, Secrete Santa is when each person playing draws a name and the person whose name you draw is the only one to buy a gift for. This way everyone doesn’t have to buy a gift for everyone else. You save money and each person playing the game still gets at least one gift.
You can also draw family names instead of individuals. This is something we have talked about doing on my husband’s side and might start this year. He has 4 siblings and they all have kids. By pulling a family name, you get either one family gift or a gift for each person in that family. Yes, you are buying more than you would have with individual Secret Santa, but you’re still saving money by not having to buy gifts for everyone. (Tip #8 has ideas for family gifts.)
Thanksgiving is a great time to draw names if you are all celebrating together. Or you can draw names online, like we usually do. I life to use Elfster.com to draw names for my family. It keeps it random and I can set it up so that couples don’t pick each other if they’re going to get each gifts regardless. I can also set it up so that nobody picks the same person as the previous year.
When the names are drawn, emails go out to everyone showing them who’s name they picked. It’s also a great way to draw names if you can’t all be together at the same time.
Christmas Tip #7 Have a White Elephant Gift Exchange
White Elephant gift exchanges can be very fun. You may have also heard it called Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa.
This is where everyone brings one wrapped gift, either new or used (rules are set up ahead of time). Numbers are then drawn once everyone arrives at the exchange.
The person who drew number 1 picks a gift at random and opens it and makes sure everyone can see it. The second person can either pick up a random gift to open or “steal” the gift from the first person. If that happens then the first person picks a new gift. This continues until all the gifts are opened.
Some people play this game differently and make their own rules but you can read the official rules here.
Christmas Tip #8 Make family gift baskets
These are some of my favorite Christmas gift ideas. As I mentioned earlier, we have some bigger immediate families within our larger family so family gifts are a much more budget-friendly way to go than getting each person a gift.
I love making family gift baskets! I enjoy coming up with different ideas for them. Here are a couple of ideas I have used before:
Family Movie Night
I admit that I did find this idea online (unfortunately, I have no idea where I found it online as it was years ago otherwise I would love to give credit).
To make this gift basket, you can go to the dollar store and pick out some boxes of candy, hot cocoa, and microwave popcorn to include in the gift basket. Then find cheap movies online or in the Walmart bins to put in it. Make sure they are movies the whole family will love.
Most dollar stores have popcorn buckets the gifts can go into and clear wrapping for the baskets. Or you can just use a basket or gift bag.
Family Game Night
Find an expensive board game the family is sure to love and put into a basket or gift bag.
You can include many of the same items as the Family Movie Night: candy, hot chocolate, popcorn etc. All can be found at most dollar stores.
Christmas Tip # 9 Make gifts
We are in the era of DIY and for good reason! DIY can save us so much money. It can also make gifts more personal.
Pinterest is a great place to look for DIY gifts that would be perfect for people you know.
Just make sure to start these early as they can sometimes be rather time consuming, especially if you’re not the handiest or craftiest person – like me!
Christmas Tip #10 Budget every month for Christmas
Always make sure to include in your monthly budget some cash to save for Christmas (if you can afford to).
That way if you do see a gift you can’t wait to pick up or find on sale, you will have the money for it.
If you don’t buy any gifts that month, add that money to Christmas savings. And just think, if you don’t buy any gifts until much closer to Christmas, you will have a nice amount in your budget to shop!
It often bothers me how stressful and overwhelming Christmas can be. It has been for me many times.
To me, Christmas should be a time of joyful family gatherings, a season of reflection and a time where we excitedly give instead of feeling the pressure of shopping and going into debt.
I think that with a good plan we can have all of that! With many things, it might take a little effort, sacrifice and determination, but it is doable!
In what ways to do you plan to save money this Christmas? Please comment below!
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