When my first child was born, I was still trying to figure out how we would be able to live on one income. Even though we had been fairly successful at doing so in the year-and-a-half long trial run leading up to her birth (we started pretending like we didn’t have my income well before we needed to), I went a little nuts with saving strategies after our daughter arrived.
Only then did it seem real that I wouldn’t be bringing in any money going forward, and I was so afraid we wouldn’t be able to do it.
Our 1-Present Christmas – The Year We Only Spent $10 on Christmas
One thing I did was basically spend nothing on Christmas that year. We bought one $10 gift for my only nephew at the time, and that was it for the entire family!
At the time, it didn’t really phase me. I mean, we had a our first-born 6-week-old infant to tend to and didn’t really know day from night. LOL
By the following Christmas, I knew we were gonna be able to make it on one income. By then we had been doing it “for real” for 13 months, so we were in a position to be a little less strict with our money. Even so, as a general rule, I supremely dislike spending money unnecessarily, so I employed many strategies to stretch our Christmas dollars.
11 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Presents
Here are 11 different ways I like to save money on Christmas gifts. We’ve been employing these tactics for 3 years now, and they really do help us keep our costs down while enjoying the holiday season.
1) Set a budget and gift recipient list, then stick to it. Come up with the amount you are able to spend, figure out who you will be giving gifts to, and estimate an amount per person. I like to use a printable Christmas gift list to keep track of everyone I planned on buying presents for, how much I was allowed to spend on each person, and how much I actually spent so I could make conscious gift purchase decisions all along the way. If I budgeted $25 for mom and $15 for my niece, but spend $30 on mom, I then tried to find a $10 gift for my niece to make up the difference. Sounds cruel, but it really isn’t, I promise! It just required me to get really creative and thoughtful in certain cases. The recipients won’t know unless you tell them, and this kind of monitoring will keep you on track to meet budget.
2) Only buy for the kids. When my siblings and my husband’s siblings started having kids, our gift recipient numbers multiplied quickly. For a couple of years, we kept giving gifts to the adults, but we eventually cut out that tradition, and now only the children get gifts. At first, it seemed a little insulting, but once everyone got on board, the holidays instantly became less expensive!
3) Get free shipping. I used the Amazon Mom free Prime shipping discount while I could (I eventually maxed out the number of free months I was entitled to), but now I can still do this by using Amazon Super Saver Shipping (update: I now have Amazon Prime, which comes with automatic FREE 2-day shipping). Amazon’s my personal favorite, but you can find all kinds of free shipping deals around the holidays…it seems to be one of the most common type of online promotions during the gift-giving season.
4) Establish a gift closet. This is the same general idea as stocking your pantry when items are on sale. Instead of purchasing Christmas gifts in November and December, think through your expected gift recipient list for next year as soon as possible (the day after Christmas isn’t too early!). And anytime you come across super deals on gifts that make sense for your recipients, go ahead and buy them, and save them in your gift closet until Christmas rolls around. Adding to this stash throughout the year will not only save you money in the long run, it will greatly reduce the amount of shopping you’ll have left to do at Christmastime.
5) Use free or highly discounted wrapping paper. I have a friend who uses newspaper comics to wrap gifts. I would have never thought of that on my own, but it makes for really cute wrapping paper. Spiff it up with some shiny ribbon, and it looks quite nice. What I personally prefer to do is use premium gift wrap, like the extra thick kind with metallic accents on it. But that stuff can be expensive! I think it’s something like $4.99 a roll, and the rolls don’t go very far. Luckily, Target has this kind of paper and always puts it on deep clearance the week after Christmas. If you can time it just right (keep checking back at the store or find a local online deals forum where you know someone will post info on Target clearance items), you should be able to find a good selection of premium gift wrapping paper for about 70% off retail. Stock up on that for next year, and you’ll be able to wrap your presents in luxury for very little $$.
6) Gift exchange. My family doesn’t do this, but I’ve heard of people from large extended families doing gift exchanges so everyone doesn’t feel obligated to buy a gift for everyone else.
7) Think: homemade. Thoughtful trumps expensive every time.
8 ) Re-gift. Need I say more? LOL
9) If you order online, have the item shipped wrapped to the recipient. Many online stores will gift wrap an item for you for free or a nominal cost. This saves you the cost of gift wrapping supplies plus you don’t have to pay extra to ship the wrapped gift yourself.
10) Pare down the recipient list. Unless you’re made of money, don’t feel obligated to act like you are. Do you really need to send a gift to Aunt Lily, whom you haven’t seen in 5 years? She probably won’t mind if you send her a nicely handwritten note inside a Christmas card instead of an actual gift. And even if she sends you one, perhaps she will take the hint and take you offer her gift list next year. Nothing wrong with reciprocity as long as you can do without a gift from her!
11) Buy or make the same gift for everyone by type of family member. I do this quite a bit, especially for my parents and my husband’s parents. For example, both sets of grandparents love seeing pictures of my children, so I try to find deals like Buy 1 Get 1 Free photo books from Shutterfly, and purchase two of the same photo book. Saves money while making everyone happy!
What Other Ways Can You Save Money at Christmas Time?
Those are my biggest ways to save money at Christmas. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m continuously thinking of ways to make Christmas less of a financial burden on our family and more about spending time together and celebrating the real reason for the season.
What other ways can I keep down the cost of the holiday season? I’d love to hear your best tips! Do you budget a specific amount each year or do you simply try to save as much as possible?
Other Advice on Saving Money at Christmas
If you’re looking for more Christmas money-saving advice, check out 5 Rules for Planning Your Most Affordable Christmas Ever at Wise Bread. Among other tips, author Craig Ford emphasizes the importance of NOT buying gifts on credit just to keep up appearances. His main point: Don’t buy a decent December in exchange for a horrible January. Love it!