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The smell of cinnamon apple and pumpkin spice in the air can mean only one thing – it’s Fall!

I love Fall: the smells, the cooler weather, the color changing landscape, and of course the anticipation of the coming holidays.

As the excitement of the holiday season builds, the anxiety and frustration of staying on budget can make it all feel a little less jolly. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Here are several ideas to help you come up with a strategy to avoid debt while still enjoying the holidays. 

Adjust Your Current Behavior (Temporarily)

If you’re working with a tight budget consider adjusting your normal spending first. 

Cancel any monthly services you can go without (Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc.) and start eating at home and making your own lunches.

You might be surprised how easy it can be to free up some cash when you really need to. The average American household spends over $280 per month on eating out. You could probably save up enough for a cheap plane ticket just by eating at home and packing your lunches.

Remember, these are just temporary adjustments. You can choose to make them permanent later, but for now, it’s just a matter of prioritizing your expenses.

Ask yourself, do you want to fly home for Christmas more than you want to binge on McDonald’s fries and the latest season of Daredevil?

Get Crafty

What gifts can you make instead of buy?

Pinterest is a wealth of information when it comes to homemade gifts. I’ve seen everything from homemade candles and soaps to mixed-drink mason jar kits.

The only downside of Pinterest is the inevitable rabbit hole you’ll wander down. I could seriously get lost on that site for hours.

Check out my board on budget-friendly gifts to save some time. 

Scale Back

Are there any people you can mark off your gift list this year?

This can be a tough one, but again we’re prioritizing here. Co-workers or friends you rarely see or speak to may not justify the expense anymore. 

If you can’t get away from gift giving in some of your circles, maybe you can at least make it cheaper by proposing Secret Santas or a White Elephant gift exchange. That way you’re only responsible for one gift.

You could also propose a price cap with the exchange. Our White Elephant exchanges at my old job had a $25 limit. 

You’re not alone in wanting to save money, especially around the holidays, so don’t feel shy about making these suggestions. They’re usually welcomed by all involved.

DIY Your Christmas Cards

I would prefer to opt-out of Christmas cards entirely, but since we live so far from our families and rarely see them, Mr. GFB likes to do annual updates and photo collage cards.

Even when I think I’ve talked him out of it, once we start getting cards from other people he can’t help but want to return the favor. 

There can definitely be some peer pressure to join in and even compete with all those amazing looking Christmas cards, but instead of using an expensive service, try designing your card for free using Canva and printing them yourself or at Walmart.

Combine Couples and Families

I have a big family with more than 20 people we usually want to buy gifts for. That can be a huge expense. Even with a price cap per person, we’re looking at hundreds of dollars. 

So last year I tried something new by grouping people together where I could. I was able to group them into couples and families and send them gifts to enjoy together.

It saved us a ton and was actually pretty warmly received. Again, you’re not alone in your desire to save money during the holidays. 

If you want to give it a try here are some ideas:

For couples:

  • A food or wine gift basket
  • Something for their home
  • A restaurant or theater gift card for an evening out together

For families:

  • A container of popcorn and/or candy with a gift card for Netflix or Amazon
  • A board game with a gift card for pizza or their favorite delivery place
  • A gift card to a movie theater, special restaurant, or local attraction

Pro-tip: check Groupon or LivingSocial for ideas and discounts to local restaurants and attractions. And don’t forget to use Raise.com for discounted gift cards.

Create New Traditions

Part of our Christmas tradition growing up was picking out a Christmas tree. 

We always bought fresh trees (my mom liked the smell) so when I got married and we were preparing to celebrate Christmas on our own I was intent on continuing this tradition. 

But Mr. GFB’s practicality won out when I saw how expensive fresh trees are…especially when you live in the desert. So we bought an artificial tree for about $100. We still use that same tree 10 years later. 

Sometimes I still feel nostalgic for a real tree and the experience of getting to go pick out the perfect one. But as I write this, it’s the first week of November and Little GFB is already harassing us to put up Christmas decorations. 

With an artificial tree, not only do we save on the expense, we can prolong the season by starting it earlier than we ever could with a live tree. Plus, if you figure the average cost of a fresh tree at $60, we’ve saved about $500 over the years.

Here are some other cheap or free holiday traditions you can start that will curb costs for years to come.

  • Find the neighborhood with the best lights.
  • Make a gingerbread house from scratch.
  • Have potluck Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
  • Purge your closets and donate to a women’s shelter.

Buy Smart

Finally, when it comes to yourself and your family, think of gifts you can buy or add to your wishlist that will save you money in the future.

One of the most popular kitchen tools of the past few years has been the InstantPot and for good reason. It’s a multi-use device that can save you money and time. 

This thing single-handedly eliminates the excuse that you don’t have time to cook. Plus, it can cook just about anything, which makes it super easy to find cheap recipes. Most recipes will make enough to give you leftovers too, so you really only need to cook a few times each week.

Another great gift idea is a Dollar Shave Club membership. Razors are expensive, even the crappy ones. DSC provides not only a quality product at a great price but a variety of purchasing options and excellent customer service as well. 

With DSC we pay about $6 every two months for high-quality razors. Compare that to the Gillette we were buying for more than twice the price and that didn’t work as well or last as long.

Go Save Some Money!

Hopefully, all these tips and ideas will help you save some money this holiday season. I know the combined gifts really helped us out last year and I fully intend to do it again this year.

Leave a comment to let me know if you’ve ever tried any of these before or which ones you most look forward to giving a go this year.

 

 


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