Plan an Amazing & Affordable Christmas on a Tight Budget - Savvy Savers Academy

Plan an Amazing & Affordable Christmas on a Tight Budget


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We all want to give our family, our children and our loved ones a Christmas to remember and make it special. Christmas is truly a magical time of the year with many exciting things to experience. Even if your money is tight, you can enjoy and amazing Christmas on a budget. 


Create a Spending Plan

I personally like the phrase “Spending Plan” better than a budget, but they are one in the same.

Before you even think about gifts, you need to create your spending plan for Christmas.

This is so important! It’ll help keep perspective on how much you have to spend on each person while you’re having fun purchasing their gifts.

I use an app called Gift It for my iPhone that is great. It lets you keep track of your total budget, your spending and the gifts you purchased (or would like to purchase) for everyone on your list. You'll easily see how much you have remaining in your budget.

I've also put together this free printable for you in case the app isn't available on your smartphone or your prefer pen and paper. This will help you keep track of your gifts you've purchased and how much you have left to spend.

Free printable Christmas budget worksheet

Save Up and Pay Cash

Ideally you’ve already started saving for Christmas. If you wanted to spend $1000 for Christmas and started saving at the beginning of the year you’d only need to save $45 every other week (assuming you have a bi-weekly paycheck).

Life happens and other things can take priority, so if you haven't saved up yet, all is not lost. Here's a quick calculation showing how much you can save over the next few weeks if you were able to save $84/week.

Even if you need to plan Christmas on a budget there are great ways to save money and still have an amazing Christmas

Paying cash for Christmas does five important things for you:

  1. It helps you to stick to your spending plan. If you use cash set aside for gifts you'll be a lot less likely to overspend. Once your cash is gone, you won't be able to spend anymore.
  2. It gives you freedom to spend without interfering with your other expenses (and vice-versa). Your Christmas cash is dedicated only to Christmas. It's not for going out to eat or getting gas in your car. Likewise, you shouldn't co-mingle money for utilities or rent with Christmas gifts. Separating your money ensures it will not cross over into another category.
  3. You'll be more selective of what you buy. If you're limited to a certain amount per person on your list, you'll be sure to be sincere and select gifts that are the most meaningful to what your budget affords.
  4. It prevents an awful debt hangover after the first of the year. If you've planned ahead and don't need to rely on credit cards you won't have to worry about how you're going to pay for it all after the new year.
  5. It's guilt free. You've set aside that money for Christmas. You get so spend it freely on all of your Christmas stuff because that is what the money if for! (I think that's a very fun perspective!)

I recommend using cash envelopes to keep track of your Christmas money. I've used cash envelopes for everything from groceries to clothing and it really helps me keep my budget in check. It's a very reassuring to know what money I have available and it's actually a guilt free way to spend.

Cash envelopes can be as simple as slipping money into an envelope labeled for Christmas, or you print your own from this cute, simple template

Printable cash envelopes that are great for sticking to your budget!

Find Extra Money in Your Budget

I get that money is tight and you might be maxed out already. Here are a few ways can you find extra money in your budget to go toward Christmas so that you don't have to go into debt for it.

  • Reduce spending categories by a few dollars each. Can you cut $5-10 from your grocery bill, gas for your car, entertainment or household expenses? If you can cut $10 from 5 categories that's already $50/month. It adds up fast!
  • Reduce or quit eating out. If you are in the habit of grabbing a drive through coffee in the morning or fast food for lunch, try cutting back by preparing your splurges at home and bringing them with you to work.
  • Stop smoking. My sister used an app called QuitNow! After a year of being cigarette free for almost a year the app calculated she had save $1,882! That's your entire Christmas right there!
  • Get a cheaper television package. Look into different plans for cable or check on getting Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime with streaming services. You could also try switching to a digital antenna to get local channels.
  • Negotiate a better interest rate. Call you your creditors and ask for a lower interest rate on your credit cards. You may be able to reduce the rate and therefore your monthly expenses.
  • Drive for Uber and/or Lyft. A quick way to add some cash to your account is to offer rides to people in your area. You can apply through my husbands referral links and receive up to a $500 bonus with Lyft. Uber currently guarantees you will earn $200 with the first 30 rides you give.  (Please check the terms on the links provided for the most current offer as it changes from time to time.) You decide if and when you are going to drive, so do it in your free time. My husband has been able to make anywhere from $40-$80 at a time depending on how many rides he gives. (This is part-time hours).

Buy/Sell Discounted Gift Cards

Do you have old gift cards that you know you'll never use? You can try selling your gift cards and get cash back or rewards towards the purchase of a different gift card that you will use.

If there are certain stores you'd like to buy gifts from, check to see if anyone wants to get rid of their gift card and buy it at a discount. That's an instant savings on your part!

Pretty snazzy, eh?

Here are a few places you can check for discounted gift cards:


Make it Homemade

I had a favorite Christmas as a child when we got to make our own tree ornaments.

It was so exciting to me as a kid!

The thing was, we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree and we had no Christmas decorations. My mom let us make popcorn garland and handmade ornaments that we hung on a fake plant that we had in our home. I have no idea what I got for Christmas that year, but it’s a Christmas that I’ll never forget.

Here are just a few places you can check for some really fun Christmas homemade ornaments.

Offer Service

There’s so many people in need and Christmas is a great time to open your heart and offer some extra service to those less fortunate than you.

We always have many things to be grateful for, no matter what struggles we are currently facing. Everyone faces challenges. No one escapes them.

One of the best ways to give yourself a boost when you feel like things are hard (or even if you feel like things are great) is to go help others in need.

Check out some ideas from these websites for opportunities to serve in your area. You can also check with your church, nursing homes or homeless shelters for more opportunities to give back to your community.

60+ Budget Friendly Stocking Stuffers

Some of my favorites for babies from Amazon
Some of my favorites for toddlers from Amazon
Some of my favorites for kids from Amazon
  • Lip gloss/nail polish
  • Movie/movie tickets
  • Popcorn
  • Gift Card to favorite store
  • Headphones/earbuds
  • Fidget Spinner
  • Journal
  • Hat/Beanie
  • Colored Pens/art supplies
  • Grooming (razor/shave cream, manicure kit)
  • Sunglasses
  • Rubik's cube/Kanoodle
  • Watch
Some of my favorites for teens from Amazon
  • Bath Bombs
  • Candles
  • Essential Oils
  • Gift Card to favorite store
  • Makeup (eyeliner, mascara ... check her makeup bag for her favorites!)
  • Jewelry (doesn't have to be designer)
  • Coupon book for special treatment or doing extra chores for her
  • Book light/Bookmark
  • Movie tickets
  • Apple/Orange
  • Toothbrush
  • Socks (a little cliché … socks inside of a sock! Ha!)
  • Gloves
  • Treats
If your planning Christmas on a budget you'll want to check this out. It has a Christmas budget worksheet and great stocking stuffer ideas for the whole family.
If your planning Christmas on a budget you'll want to check this out. It has a Christmas budget worksheet and great stocking stuffer ideas for the whole family.

Cameron is a Financial Coach who works with couples and individuals to achieve financial freedom and peace of mind. She believes being in control of money = less stress + more fun! Join her on the journey to think about money less and enjoy life more.

  • Alexis says:

    I have a friend who has a million unused gift cards sitting in a kitchen drawer. It’s seriously the craziest thing ever! I never have gift cards laying around, but it’s cool that there are sites out there that make it easy for people to sell them.

    • Cameron says:

      Definitely let your friend know about it! I’d think it’s better to get something out of it than let it go unused. Even if I gave someone a gift card and it wasn’t one they would use, I wouldn’t be offended at all if they sold it.

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