As joyful as the holidays are, if we’re not careful, they can be super expensive. And if we give more than we can afford, we can end up going into debt or starting our new year in a tough financial place. It doesn’t have to be this way! Instead of paying too much for the holidays, we can have a perfectly nice holiday without breaking the bank. These top ten frugal holiday ideas will help you do that.
Top Ten Frugal Holiday Ideas
As you read through these frugal holiday ideas, think about which ones will work for you. You can make a big difference in the cost of your holidays by just implementing some of these ideas.
1. Celebrate Small
Your holiday celebration doesn’t have to be something fancy and huge. Don’t waste time and money trying to impress people who don’t really matter.
Focus on the people in your life who are most important to you. And keep it simple!
Small family gatherings are often the most memorable.
Invite your nearest and dearest over for hot chocolate and game night. Or whatever sounds fun to you. There are so many possibilities!
2. Agree not to gift
Even for some of those important people in your life, gifting might not be necessary.
You could make a pact not to gift and do something special instead.
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.
You could easily do a potluck style celebration in someone’s home to cut down costs even more.
This year, I have a brand-new baby. Hubby and I have agree not to get each other gifts and focus on Baby instead. It takes some of the pressure off of us, and our holidays will not be any less special as a result.
3. Handmade Gifts
Handmade gifts are often the most special. And there are so many possibilities!
Think about what you can make well. Use this talent to your advantage and make some of your gifts. You don’t even have to be crafty. But of course, if you do have a special crafty ability, use it!
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. I know I’d love to receive a freezer meal as a gift this year!
Think about things that your family and friends compliment you for making. These are the things that you should consider gifting.
4. Gift your skills
Do you have a skill that you can offer as a gift? Those 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!
If you have a technical skill, you can offer that as a gift. 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. A gift like that is priceless.
So, this is probably controversial, but I don’t think it should be.
Sometimes people give you gift that are perfectly nice, but just not something you use.
You know what I mean. Like the cute Bath and Body Works hand soap wrapped in the cellophane with a bow on it. So nice! But I already have hand soap in my bathrooms and a bunch of extras that I got on sale in the closet.
So instead of keeping that cute soap or, worse, throwing them out, I’ll regift it to someone else.
And that person might just love it!
While I’m telling you my secrets… I also keep gift bags that I’m given in a closet (I put all the bags inside one gift bag so they don’t take up that much room) and I use them instead of buying new gift bags. Those things are expensive! And most are sturdy enough that they can totally go for more than one use.
A little regifting here and there is nothing to feel guilty about.
6. Shop Smart
When you do shop, be smart about it.
Start by planning your gifts and setting a budget.
Scout sales. Find the deals. Compare prices.
Don’t do it the easy and just buy everything all in one place.
You can make this easier on yourself by buying everything all at the same place.
Remember, that you can compare prices online. Just open a few tabs on your computer. Just make sure that if you’re shopping online you’re getting money back, googling a coupon, and getting free shipping.
7. Build Affordable Traditions
Family traditions can be wonderful and memorable without costing a fortune.
Keep cost in mind as you’re building your family traditions.
Maybe everyone in your family puts on their pajamas and watches Polar Express under blankets with hot chocolate – and you could even break out some bells.
It can be super fun without costing a thing!
Instead of doing something fun with your extended family, just invite everyone over for a potluck. It’s so much more affordable to make one dish than all of them.
8. Use the leftovers
All the holiday foods, come with all the holiday leftovers. Don’t let them go to waste!
Reuse them in creative ways so that you’re not eating the same thing over and over. Make turkey soup. Cut up the leftover ham and bake it into mac and cheese.
Here’s what it comes down to, though. There’s no reason to go grocery shopping when your fridge is full of food! Find ways to eat what you have before you buy any more food.
If you feel like there’s simply too much food for you to eat, freeze some! You can really freeze almost anything. Or, better yet, use those leftovers to make a meal that you can gift away!
9. Keep yourself in check
I totally understand the feeling of generosity that we feel during the holidays. We want to give, and give, and give. But it’s important to keep yourself in control.
It feels great to give to our loved ones, and even our acquaintances, but if we let it get out of hand, it will do us more harm than good.
Never let yourself go into debt by racking up credit card bills that you won’t be able to pay off.
If that seems hard, it’s a great idea to enlist someone to keep you accountable. If you’re married, this could be your spouse. You can work together and keep each other on track.
You can also make an agreement with a friend that you will keep each other accountable. If you both have the same frugal mindset going into it, this works really well! You can brag to each other via text messages when you exhibit amazing self-control, like putting something back at the register or walking out of a store without buying anything. Moral support can make a huge difference!
10. Track those dollars
This is the most important thing you can do to make sure you don’t overspend during the holidays.
Track everything you spend so you know where every precious holiday dollar is going. There’s a few ways you can do this.
You can track them using a spending plan so you can see it all written out. That’s what works best for me.
You can also track things in a note on your phone if you’d rather be able to see your spending that way.
Make sure you keep your receipts! This will help you track your spending by reminding you exactly how much you spent. It will also give you the opportunity to return things that you may have overspent on or just don’t really need.
As you’re tracking your spending, check back to the plan you’ve set ahead of time. Evaluate how you’re doing and adjust as you go.
A little effort goes a long way
I know a frugal mindset can be hard to stick to during the holidays, but a little effort and self-control can go a long way.
Of course, if you try all of the top ten frugal holiday ideas, you’ll save a ton this holiday! But if that seems like a lot, pick one or to two things to try this year.
Being deliberate about what you’re buying and shopping according to a plan will always result in saving money. So, if you’re looking for the best place to start, start there.
You can always add in one or two more ideas next year to save even more.
Have a Frugally Merry Holiday!