What should you do when you can’t afford the Holidays?

The holidays can be a stressful time when you’re struggling financially.  We all want to give our loved ones gifts that they will love, but how can we do this when we’re struggling to get by as it is? Well, today we are going to tackle that problem and try to find a solution to the problem: What should you do when you can’t afford the holidays?

What should you do when you can't afford the Holidays? You can still give gifts without spending a fortune! These ideas helped me save so much money!!!

What should you do when you can’t afford the holidays?

Be realistic

If you’re having a rough financial year, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can afford to spend as usual.

You’ve got to accept that buying anything extra for the holidays will be a challenge, and then plan accordingly.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a joyful holiday season, you’ll just have to make some adjustments so that you stay within your means.

Avoid putting yourself in debt

Don’t overextend yourself and try to use credit cards or loans to buy things you can’t afford. It’s important to make sure you’re staying within your means so you’re not left with a holiday hangover in January.

If you’re not careful, you could end up causing your finances to plummet for months to come.

There has to be another way. And there is! I’m going to give you some ideas that you can use instead of racking up the debt.

Set priorities

Realize that you won’t be able to buy for everyone. And that’s okay, we’ll talk more about how to deal with those people that you can’t afford to buy for below.

You probably have some people in your life that it is most important for you to give to. If you’re a parent, this will probably be your children. It may be other members of your immediate family as well.

It’ll depend on your particular circumstances. Think about your life, your family, and your friends.

Then, decide on who your priorities are. These are the people you should buy for first. Don’t buy for anyone else until you’ve taken care of your priorities.

Make some extra money

If you don’t have any funds in your budget that you can use for the holidays, maybe it’s time to find a side-gig and start making some extra money.

You could take on a seasonal retail job, babysit, or do odd jobs. Maybe you could tutor after work for extra money.

You could also find some things you don’t need around the house that you can sell for extra holiday money.

Alternative Gifts

Who says a gift has to be something you buy at a store? There are many great gift ideas that don’t need to cost you very much to give.

There are two main types of alternative gifts: homemade gifts and skill or service based gifts.

Homemade gifts

Think about what you can make well. Use this talent to your advantage and make some of your gifts. Homemade gifts are often thoughtful and meaningful.

Can you knit? You could gift some homemade scarves.

Do you bake delicious Christmas cookies? Package them in a cute container and tie them with a ribbon. That’s a great gift.

You could even gift a freezable meal! Use what you have on hand.

Think about things that your family and friends compliment you for making. These are the things that you should consider gifting.

Skill or service based gifts

Do you have a skill that you can offer as a gift? These can be much better than a store-bought gift.

I have a friend who is a massage therapist. She gave me the wonderful gift of a hot stone massage one year. That was a great gift!

Maybe you have technical skills. You can help someone with their computer, car, plumbing, electrical or HVAC problems.

Are you good at painting?  Bring your painting supplies and help them paint a room.

Perhaps you can offer an evening of babysitting as a gift so that a friend could have a much needed night out.

Think about your loved ones need. Try to find a way to use what you can to help them meet those needs. These are usually the best gifts.

Make a Pact

Be honest with your friends and family members. Tell them it’s not a good year for you financially and you’re going to have to limit the gifts that you can give. Decide together not to exchange gifts this year. Or you could agree to a limit of $5-$10 to spend on each other.

A few years ago 2 of my best friends and I decided to stop exchanging Christmas gifts. Instead, we treat ourselves to a dinner out together. It has become a special tradition that we all look forward to.


Who says that you have to give all of your gifts exactly on or before the holidays? Except for children, you can give your holiday gifts at a time that works for you. If you need a few extra weeks to afford a certain gift, just arrange to exchange gifts later on. Your loved ones will be understanding, as long as you are honest with them.


I hope these tips help you! I know the holidays can be particularly hard when money is tight. I want you to remember that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your financial situation. And if you’re able to survive the holidays without overextending yourself – you should be proud! You’ll be thankful as you start the new year that you didn’t overspend.

Do you have any tips for surviving the holidays when money is tight? Share them in the comments below.

Subscribe to the Keep your Money Resource Library

Want more? You may like:

The Gift that Everyone wants to Receives

9 Worst Holiday Shopping Mistakes

How to Get Paid for Shopping Online

The First Step to Saving More Money

You can read more about my story here: A Spender and A Saver Fall in Love

And don’t forget to subscribe!

Happy Humble Home Email List



The Gift that Everyone wants to Receive


Look back on your Financial Year


  1. Most of us have been in this situation when our desire to give out weighs our budget. I love making gifts and also keeping my eye out all year for things to save for the holidays. Another idea is to give oranges or lemons if you have a tree! Put them in a pretty basket or box with a bow or maybe a hand juicer from the dollar store. I would love to receive that! Your tips and ideas are great! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great ideas! Thank you so much for sharing this at Coffee & Conversation last week – we’ll be featuring it at this week’s party!
    Merry (debt-free) Christmas! 🙂

  3. I’m sure there are a lot of people in this situation and these are helpful tips! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Share The Wealth Sunday!

  4. Jennifer

    We have an advent calendar that has pockets to hold small gifts. Instead I placed a note for different family members each day with things like: I will make your bed for you today; I will play your favorite game with you, etc. These things don’t cost any money but are sweet surprises. It works for us.

  5. Great tips – the best gifts in life really don’t have to cost a lot (or anything) – and happy holidays!

  6. Good suggestions. I’d add that if you have credit cards, check to see if you are due any rewards. Maybe you’ll find you can get some Amazon, Walmart or Target gift cards that you can use to purchase gifts. My hubby did this after he realized saving all his rewards as airline points wasn’t practical for us…we weren’t going to travel any time soon (and he hates flying.)

    And my brothers and I decided last year that instead of giving each other gifts, we’d just look to see who could buy the others the best funny Christmas card. It probably took longer to find the cards, but they were a lot cheaper when we weren’t trying to pick up gift cards for each other.

  7. Good advice for a tough situation. If you’ve already started shopping and gone over what you can afford, return the items now. It’s not too late to avoid a financial hangover from the holidays.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén