Written by Spotloan

Temperatures are dropping, cocoa cups are warming up, and Christmas trees are weaseling their way out of the attic. Many people hail the holiday season as the most wonderful time of the year. And we can’t say they’re wrong! But it can also be the most expensive time of the year. From holiday gifts and beautiful wrappings to massive meals and costly decorations, things start to add up pretty quickly. 

A 2019 Gallup poll study revealed that the average American anticipated spending $942 on gifts alone. A similar study estimated that 2019 overall holiday spending would exceed $1 trillion nationwide. There seems to be an air of excess around the holidays. But that doesn’t mean that this wonderful time of year has to distract you from accomplishing your larger financial goals. Here are some tips for finding balance this holiday season. 

Celebrating Christmas on a Budget

1. Budget for Christmas in Advance

Don’t wait until the week of Christmas to plan your activities or buy your gifts. This close to the holiday, prices and stress levels will rise in sync. Plan your holiday spending instead. Make a list of the decorations, gifts, foods, and activities you are the most interested in. Challenge yourself to see how many things you can get at a discount, for free, or eliminate entirely. And be sure to start a holiday spending tracker to ensure you don’t go over budget without even realizing it.

2. DIY Christmas Decorations and Gifts

If you’re feeling crafty or thrifty, there are plenty of options out there for decking the halls on a budget. Rather than spending exorbitant amounts of money on the overpriced and over glittered decorations that overflow from retail spaces this time of year, make some that are more meaningful to you and your family. If there isn’t enough time or they’re not coming out the way that you want them to, consider buying them used instead. Full price purchases should be your last resort option while you’re trying to stick to your budget. 

3. Start Christmas Traditions with Your Family

Whether you want a dinner table complete with Christmas tree place cards, a fun and festive baking project for the family, or easy DIY Christmas gifts, there are plenty of ways to celebrate this time of year without breaking your budget. If you’re not interested in crafting or you enjoy shopping for gifts, check used and discount sites first. 

Sites and apps like OfferUp, Craigslist, and FaceBook marketplace can be a goldmine for gently used Christmas decorations, perfectly functioning trees, and brand new gifts that someone else simply didn’t want and doesn’t want to be bothered with. A few strings of lights to go along with your other decorations can transform a room into a winter wonderland. Turn it into a game and offer a prize for the person who snags the best deal.

4. Create a Festive Christmas Atmosphere

A big part of the excitement surrounding Christmas is the atmosphere. Previous holidays are revisited through shared memories, delicious scents circle the room, fluffy clothes make you feel warm and cozy, and if you’re lucky, a touch of snow may fall and lend its magic as icing on the cake. Add to the air of coziness that you’ve created by breaking out candles, popping baked goods into the oven, and turning on some Christmas music or a movie.

5. Plan a Variety of Christmas-Focused Family Activities

If you’re going light on the gifts this year, shift the focus from the material items to the more meaningful ones: family activities. Collect all of the board games you have at home, dust off your favorite video games, or start a new tradition with a Christmas scavenger hunt. If there’s snow on the ground, host a snowball target practice in the yard, make snow angels, or go sledding. 

Fond family memories and laughter will last longer than the fleeting excitement of ripping the paper off an overpriced gift. For empty nesters or families with older children, consider looking through family photo albums, trying a festive new drink, or playing charades. From Christmas movie marathons and sing-alongs to replaying memories and baking festive treats, there are plenty of meaningful and budget-friendly activities to enjoy this year. Plan a different activity each night for a beautiful, festive, warm, and affordable Christmastime.