Don’t pull out your credit card for Christmas shopping just yet! I know it’s a little early for all of these Christmas posts BUT I have good reasons to get your prepared for the holidays. If you want to have a more frugal Christmas this year, keep reading!
Frugal living applies to all areas of our life: home, work, eating, our child, even the holidays and family events.
Whether you have decided to live frugally all year, or just want to have a frugal Christmas (or just more budget friendly) you’ve made an awesome decision to read this post. I promise.
Let’s start by revisiting a few ideas:
1 – You need to have a budget for Christmas (find a free printable HERE)
2 – Create a spending list for each person and event (like we’ve done HERE)
Now that you have your budget in place and have an idea of what you can spend on everything, we need to cook up some ideas to make that budget work.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Frugal Christmas Ideas
To make your budget work for you, you need to be real with yourself on three counts:
1 – All those shiny new toys and gifts look really amazing, but they are also expensive. Don’t be lured in by fantastic, shiny packaging and the promises some of these products offer. You’ll need to consider alternatives.
2 – If you plan to make gifts for your friends and family, I suggest you start NOW (unless it’s food, then of course hold off until the day before you give it to them).
3 – Christmas cheer isn’t cheery if you’re stressed out about how much you’ve just spent.
Frugal Christmas Traditions
1 – Look at Holiday Lights
This was one of my favorite Christmas traditions as a kid. We would pile into the minivan and drive to the “rich” part of town to see all the elaborate Christmas lights.
So grab some warm blankets and find a cheery radio station. Driving through even your own neighborhood can be fun with the whole family! There are churches and charities that put on light displays for families to drive through. Most only charge a “suggested donation” – which is still very inexpensive!
2 – Hot Cocoa Bar
Hot cocoa, candy canes, marshmallows, and whipped cream are all you need for this frugal Christmas tradition. Make a kettle full of hot water and help the kiddos make a fun hot cocoa.
Invite friends over (the more the merrier, right?) and have them bring one element of your hot cocoa bar. Play board games and huddle in front of the fire for a memorable night.
3 – Advent Calendars
Advent calendars are a fun way to help kids count down the days until Christmas.
Try to DIY your own advent calendar this year. A paper chain of 25 loops where one is broken each day is a fun craft to make with kids. Sticky notes in the shape of a Christmas tree can be stuck to the inside of your front door with special notes or verses on the back of each one.
4 – Bake Cookies
The thought of yummy, frosted sugar cookies just makes my mouth water. Pull out those heirloom cookie recipes and designate one or two days this Christmas season to bake and decorate cookies.
5 – Decorate Together
Maybe you like to decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving day, or maybe your a last minute type person. Whatever the case may be, decorate the whole house together. Use what you have on hand and don’t purchase anything new. Crank up the Christmas tunes and get decorating!
6 – Christmas Movie Night
To score a double frugal win – check the movie out from the library! Our Christmas time favorites include: Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (all versions), and Charlie Brown Christmas.
7 – Christmas Story Night
The library can save the day (again) if you don’t own any Christmas books at home. Have special fire-side story nights with the whole family. Read a book a night or designate Saturday nights as story night. It’s up to you!
8 – Handmade Ornaments
I’m a big lover of Christmas DIYs, and that’s what makes a frugal Christmas so great! You get to put your DIY hat on and get to work!
Handmade ornaments can be simple (construction paper triangles decorated with glitter) or more complicated (puzzle pieces painted green and glued together to look like a wreath). Whatever you choose to do, make sure you proudly display them on your tree and maybe even give them as gifts!
9 – Give Your Spare Change
Don’t pretend to ignore and scurry past those bell ringers at every store you run into this Christmas! Grab your spare change from your change jar or car door and drop some into the buckets every day you shop. It feels good to give – even if it’s just pennies.
10 – Christmas Photos
This is another DIY! Grab your camera and head to your local Christmas tree farm. Make sure your family is dressed is something cute (or at least wipe their face – ha!) and pose in front of all the wonderful trees. You can even ask another family to snap a quick picture of all of you.
These photos may turn out comical or be really nice. Either way, they’d be great to send out in your Christmas Cards!
11 – eCards
As much as I love a good Christmas card, it can get pricey! With cost of stamps higher this year and the minimum order requirements for cards going up – this is not a frugal venture!
Try eCards or a family “newsletter” email with a couple of your adorable pictures attached.
Frugal Christmas Gifts
12 – Sugar Scrub and Other DIY Body Products
I love, LOVE sugar scrubs and they’re pretty great gifts too. My favorite sugar scrub recipe is:
2 Cups Granulated Sugar (you can also use sea salt – but I’ve never tried it!)
1/4 Cup Oil – Safflower or Olive Oil works best (but if you use vegetable oil – no one will notice!)
15 drops of essential oil per batch plus 2 additional drops per jar
You mix all of the ingredients together and spoon into individual jars. This recipe makes four 8oz jars.
Know a gardener or mechanic with always-dirty hands? Swap out oil for Dawn Gentle Clean soap (the pink bottle). It gets grease off no problem!
13 – Candy Bags
You’ll need to spend a bit to make candy bags BUT you’ll be able to make dozens at a time. These are great for teachers, neighbors, and coworkers! … and also last minute gifts you may have forgotten about 🙂 . See my DIY here.
14 – Gift Cards
Gift cards are a versatile (and sometimes frugal) gift. There are two ways to get gift cards for cheaper than the card value:
1 – Watch for sales closer to Christmas either at the resturant or store the gift card belongs to or at a store like CVS or Target. Often times, CVS will run a sale that is something like “Spend $50 on gift cards and get $10 back”. Or Target gift cards will be 10% off. You get the picture. Just watch the ads.
2 – My favorite way to get gift cards for cheap (or free!) is by doing surveys on SwagBucks! You earn SwagBucks by using their search bar, taking surveys, watching videos, and even playing games. All of that adds up and you can redeem SB (SwagBucks) for gift cards… FOR FREE! Want to try it? It’s completely free to sign up and start earning gift cards! See SwagBucks HERE.
15 – Handmade Ornaments
Remember those ornaments you made as a family earlier (see #8)? You can absolutely give those as gifts!
Last Christmas, I made my mother-in-law and all of her siblings heart shaped ornaments out of a shirt from their father who recently passed away. It was a sweet reminder that he’ll always watch over them. I also made her a memory pillow from the same shirt.
These ornaments don’t have to be fancy. Just a little gift to show someone you care about them enough to let your kids make your whole dining room a mess (mostly joking).
16 – Baked Goods and Other Delicious Things
One Christmas (or birthday, I can’t remember), my grandma gave me a basket heaped to the brim with jars of jam. Y’all – I LOVE a good jam on some fresh baked bread. It’s amazing!
Our family goes crazy for two things:
My red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting
Dan’s artisan bread
If I had the time to bake everyone a perfectly frosted cake, I would. But that kind of time just doesn’t exist in my life any more – and I’m sure you don’t have that kind of time either.
So whip up a double batch of your favorite snickerdoodles or chocolate chip cookies. Put them in a mason jar or other cute container and you’re done. Easy!
Better yet, just mix all the dry ingredients and put them in a mason jar with instructions on what to do with the mix. Call it a … deconstructed cookie.
17 – Wine
Okay, so don’t judge me on this one. Got it?
I love Aldi wine. There… I said it.
The Aldi brand wine is $2.97 and it is just as good (in my non-professional, I-try-not-to-day-drink opinion) as wine that costs $25 a bottle.
Trader Joe’s wine is also in the $3-$4 price range. For a few dollars more you can buy Barefoot brand wines… but it all tastes the same to me.
You could even have a party where the theme is cheap wine. How inexpensive is that? (Just make sure to Uber home.)
Frugal Christmas Gifts – Secondhand Shopping
You might feel weird about purchasing gifts for others secondhand. Secondhand shopping can be your ultimate weapon in your frugal Christmas arsenal.
Kids are notoriously hard on clothes, books, and toys. Why buy them something brand new if you know it may not last more than a few months? What if they aren’t interested in what you bought them six months from now? You won’t feel like you wasted as much money and can often re-sell the item you purchased secondhand.
18 – Books
My son currently loves anything to do with trains, planes, or big trucks. I will not, however, shell out huge amounts of cash to buy him books about these things. BUT I will shop consignment sales and thrift stores for them!
Books are one of the most plentiful things (behind clothes) at thrift stores. My favorite thrift shop in town has a whole wall with little reading nooks completely dedicated to books.
So why spend $15 on a brand new book when you can purchase the same book in good condition for $2??
19 – Toys designed to last
Plastic toys literally last for forever… because plastic does not biodegrade even after it ends up in the landfill. For that reason, may plastic toys are circulating through resale stores, charity shops, and consignment sales for dirt cheap prices.
These toys have likely been played with and outgrown. They’re just waiting for you to scoop them up at a rock bottom price!
My favorite toy find for my son was a Little People fire engine that is also a block shape sorter. I scored it for only $1.50!
Just a few weeks ago, we found an activity or busy board from Fisher Price that was made in 1974. When I showed it to my mom she said “Oh, I think you had one of those when you were a baby! And it wasn’t new to us either!”.
20 – Clothes and Accessories
Clothes are something I would bring up when talking to the person you are going to give them to if you are purchasing them secondhand. Some people might feel strange about being given clothes that aren’t new.
Name brand clothing and purses can be found just about anywhere you look… and for a great price, too. Our thrift store keeps all of the designer purses behind the counter, like most places. Resale stores like Plato’s Closet or Uptown Cheapskate also have a plethora of designer bags and clothing.
If your kids are asking Santa for those new Nike shoes or a Kate Spade purse, check resale stores and thrift shops first! It may take time to find just what you’re looking for but it is worth it.
Last tip… Don’t buy junk.
There is a huge difference between being frugal and being cheap. If you’re frugal, you’ll purchase items that are meant to be cherished and last but often times you will find them at a discount. If you’re cheap, you don’t necessarily care about how long something will last – you’re buying the item because it is inexpensive.
Inexpensive items people don’t want is just junk.
I would rather receive nothing than receive junk.
Skip the dollar store and the Target Dollar Spot if you’re looking for small gifts or stocking stuffers. Try their favorite snack, toothbrushes and toothpaste, or fun socks instead.
Enjoy this holiday season and spend time with the people you love.