How to Stick to a Budget and Save Money This Christmas (Free Printable Budget Tracker!)
Christmas shopping can be so expensive. Here’s my best tips and tricks for creating your Christmas budget and for finding gifts at affordable prices for everyone on your list!
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We’re headed into the biggest shopping season of the year, and even with all of the Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, Last-Minute Christmas Eve and all the other deals and sales, Christmas shopping still seems to add up every year. When I recently asked people over on Instagram what their biggest holiday stress was, it was overwhelmingly one of two things: the money/gifting aspect or not having enough time for everything/too many obligations.
If the latter stresses you out, check out this post: 5 Ways to Simplify Easter (or Any Holiday) in Your Home
If the money part stresses you out during the holiday season, read on!
Over the past few years, as we’ve added a child to our family, we’ve started to implement ways to help reduce our (read: my) stress and anxiety when it comes to money. I think we add a new way to help us save, set a Christmas budget and be more frugal every year, and now I’m sharing them with you!
Ways to Be Frugal When Holiday Shopping This Year
Shop Consignment Sales and Garage Sales
In our town, we’ve got a huge baby and kids consignment sale in September. By then, I’ve got a pretty good idea of things that my toddler would like for Christmas. And even though the items aren’t brand new, he doesn’t care. And, honestly, why should you? In fact, it might be a good lesson to teach as they get older: new isn’t always necessary.
The thing is, we aren’t struggling financially right now. But I still choose to buy at least part of my son’s presents second-hand. I found him used-but-in-perfection-condition Melissa & Doug puzzles (for $0.50 instead of $10 each!), and a train with a track at this year’s consignment sale and garage sales.
Garage sales are a great place to find kids’ books in next to new condition for super cheap prices, too!
Make Use of Online Consignment Stores, Too
I love to use online consignment stores and the Facebook marketplace for frugal holiday shopping, too! My son’s birthday is at the end of January (we’ve got his birthday, 1 niece birthday, a best friend birthday and 2 nephew birthdays all through the holiday season as well – you can see why we aim to shop frugally!), and he is in love with tractors. I used the Facebook marketplace to buy him this Peg Perego John Deere pedal tractor with working front loader for 1/4 of the price that Amazon is asking! And it is in fabulous barely-used condition!
And my other favorite online consignment store is Kids on 45th – this is best for clothes and accessories, but they have closeout toys for the holiday season as well! You fill out what you’re looking for, and they send you a box filled with the items you’re looking for. If you want to check out my whole review and all the details, click here! And if you want to save $10 on your first box (that’s like 2 free shirts and a free pair of pants!), use my code BISCUITS at checkout! Affordable clothes make great gifts – and the hats, scarves, gloves make the perfect affordable stocking stuffers!
Build a Christmas Budget (and Stick to It)
Make a Christmas budget (see my tips for saving all year long below) and stick to it. Decide who you are buying gifts for and how much you plan to spend and stick to it. Include everyone you’re shopping for: that includes donated gifts, white elephant gifts for parties, hostess gifts, secret santas for school, etc. You need to see how much money is going out and where it is going to be able to see where you can cut some corners and save money.
I’ve created a budget freebie for you to download and make a list of everyone you’re buying for this holiday season. You can track your planned spending, what you actually spend, and whether or not you’re coming out within your budget! Click the image below to enlarge and download the tracker!
For us, we realized we had a lot of money going out because we were planning a Christmas party with friends every year, and we were still buying for all the adults in both of our families. We decided to make some decisions about who we were buying for and where our money was going.
Your Family Comes First, Helping Others Second, and Everything Else Comes Last (or Ranking What’s Important in Your Christmas Budget)
When we think about holiday gifting, the two most important to me are: my toddler and giving to those less fortunate. I budget for those two first, and then I rank the other people we are buying for in terms of importance to us. For example, my husband is third, our nieces and nephews are next, and friends’ kids come after that. For us, other adults and gifts for parties rank last. If they’re not in our budget that year, then we say no to those parties. Or we pick one that we’d like to go to and participate in.
Just make sure you rank where it’s most important to you to have money budgeted, and put them in order on your tracker. That way you make sure you budget for them first.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to parties, gifts, celebrations, and anything that costs you money outside of your budget. If something comes up that you really feel strongly about it, you can extend or alter your budget. But ask yourself: are you doing it because you want to, or because you want to be a people-pleaser? It’s becoming more apparent to me that my happiness should be a lot more dependent on what is important to me and my family, and less dependent on people-pleasing.
Repurpose Halloween and Parade Candy
Do you put candy in stockings? If you do, then here’s a great tip for you: take some pieces of candy from your kids’ Halloween and parade candy collections to put in their stockings. More than likely, your children got tons of candy at Halloween. And if you’re like our family, we go to at least a couple Homecoming or Labor Day parades in the fall, and a couple of Christmas parades during the holiday season. All of that candy collections means that kids are overwhelmed with candy. So rather than spending money to buy more candy, use the pieces of candy that aren’t wrapped in Halloween wrappers to put in your kids’ stocking. They’ll never know those M&Ms and mini Reese’s cups came from their candy stash!
Have Your Kids Make Gifts for Friends and Family to Help Stick to Your Budget
We like to have our toddler give something small to family, but I try to have him make low-cost items instead of buying gifts. This year, we’re having a crafting day with his best little toddler friend, and they’re decorating cheap wooden ornaments from Michael’s. I’ll date them and wrap them and we’ve got easy gifts to give to family at a low cost. The memory is the important part, so homemade is honestly better to me, anyway. And it’s just one more way to help stick to a budget!
Buy Gifts That ‘Give Back’
If giving is an important part of the Christmas season for you, but you also want to buy gifts for family and friends, think about choosing gifts from companies that give back and donate or work with charities that support missions you’re passionate about. If you’re going to buy the gift anyway, why not make it something that helps support those in need?
Need some ideas?
- Check out my post on ‘Gifts for Women That Give Back,’ I literally want every single thing on this list!
- Buy some gourmet roasted-to-order coffee for the coffee fanatics in your life and give back through Boca Java’s Coffee for a Cause program! Support our troops, children with autism, medical treatment in third world countries, and other fabulous causes! Plus get 20% off with code BISCUITS20 !
- Get a GlobeIn subscription (or one time box) for someone you love! This company gives back to artisans all around the world and helps support fair wages and equal pay and rights! And the boxes are gorgeous!
- For kids, check out Cuddle + Kind dolls, Tegu blocks, or Yoobi art supplies for great companies that give back!
Ways to Be Frugal and Shop Smart For NEXT YEAR (Start Right Now!)
Save All Year (Know Your Christmas Budget)
We always found ourselves stressed out from October through January, because it just seemed like the money needs were never ending. And since we didn’t have a Christmas budget at the beginning of the year, we were trying to pull all the money out of our paychecks during the last three months instead of all year.
This year, though, we’re changing that. We’re creating a birthday & Christmas budget plan at the beginning of the year, and opening an additional savings account. Then, we’ll split the amount by 12 and figure out how much we need to put into our holiday savings each month.
And, that way, when I start Christmas shopping in June or August, I’ve got money to pull from savings and use. Plus, since it’s all in one place, it makes it easy to keep track of it.
Shop All Year
Hold on – I’m telling you to save money all year long for the holidays, but then I’m turning around and telling you to spend it too?? Let me explain before you think I’m crazy.
I usually start my Christmas/holiday shopping in June or July. I start keeping an eye out at all the sales, clearances, consignment shops, etc for things that I know my kids want. My mom did that too – we always had to have Christmas lists done by September so she could shop early. You might just want to make sure you leave a little budget for that last minute new ‘popular’ gift that your child is sure she has to have – haha.
And you can even pick up things for next year’s Christmas at the after-Christmas clearance sales. Two years ago, I got Camden a $10 Infantino car for his stocking for the next year for less than $1. Last year I got him a 12 Days of Socks advent calendar for $2.50 (it was originally $15!). And if you’re planning to have your kids make ornaments, after-Christmas clearance sales can be great times to grab ornaments and stickers and decorations for next year!
Do you make a holiday budget each year? When do you make yours?