Christmas on a Budget

The holiday season has officially begun with the hustle and bustle of retail shopping, pulling the boxes of decorations from the garage, and families planning their seasonal meals (now if California would just drop below 78° so I could light the fireplace).

But are you nervous about spending money during the holidays? Well, if so, you are not alone. While retail sales are showing a promising sign this year, it’s my gander that people are putting a more conscientious thought into their purchases. It just means there is a frugalite in training – taking that hard earned money and finding the best buy.

A frugal holiday can still be high in cheer if you think like a pioneer, plan the holiday budget, instill some frugal fun, research some great sales and take up that free shipping. Yup, free shipping! Read all the way down for details. Check out my giant holiday post.

Pioneer Christmas

How do you have a real frugal Christmas? Think back to how our Old West ancestors celebrated – with a Pioneer Christmas.

Taking the consumerist out of the season is not easy. I really had to consider this one. With everyone so geared to opening retail gifts, is it possible to have an enjoyable simple holiday with our loved ones?

Well, I am willing to try! Here are some tips to bring you back to the roots of celebration:

  • Cooking all day. There is nothing better than having the family cook a great big meal together. It’s especially great at my aunt’s house because we cook Filipino, Mexican and a traditional American meal.
  • Use natural materials found anytime of the year, such as evergreens, pinecones, holly, nuts, and berries. The great Adirondack Christmas – simple, natural, and cozy.
  • Decorate the tree with ribbon, yarn, berries, popcorn or paper strings, and homemade decorations. Sounds like a great craft for the children to string popcorn or berries! My daughter and I are making colorful paper chains this year.
  • Give gifts of jam, preserved fruits and vegetables. If you are a crafty, make gifts of dolls, sachets, knitted scarves and hats. Gift making was a craft that lasted through the year in the pioneer days. Since I have not been so crafty this year, the farmer’s market and craft fairs will make a great place to stock up on gifts with love. Time to ponder on next year’s gift giving list.
  • Sing carols with friends and family around the Christmas tree or fireplace. I remember as a child, we used to take hayrides around the neighborhood to sing Christmas carols. What fun! Does anyone do that anymore?

Christmas Budget Worksheet

You may start realizing, as Christmas dawns, that you forgot to get a gift for Aunt Sallie or Uncle Bob. If you don’t plan accordingly, the holiday “forget me’s” can’t wreck serious havoc on your finances. Save the stress and have a merry holiday by using the Christmas Budget Worksheet by Simple Living.

Advent Calendar

With all the hard work that goes into preparing for the holiday. Make it shine each day with opening a small give from the advent calendar. Yes, even adults can enjoy a bit of chocolate or a script of love.

Last year, I finally remembered to buy my daughter an advent calendar before they were sold out. Trader Joe’s sells a great chocolate candy advent calendar every year. But, I wanted to craft an advent calendar so I could have to take out each year. So, bring a bit of frugal happiness to a person each day in December by creating a matchbox advent calendar. Those small pieces of left over scrapbooking paper or gift wrap now have a purpose!

Five unique ways to make and display them:


Plan a Christmas Dinner on a Budget

Whether you plan to host a few friends or a large gathering of family members, planning a Christmas dinner requires some thought, and a little creative shopping. Fear not. Following these tips will allow you to plan a Christmas dinner on a budget.

  • Host a potluck. Big gatherings can be expensive. Especially when everyone has a hearty holiday appetite. To stay in budget, our family hosts a potluck. The hosting family will provide the main course – usually a turkey or ham. Then family members will bring all the side dishes and desserts. It works out great, as there are always tons of left overs to take home.
  • Change the main course. A traditional thanksgiving dinner may not always the frugal choice. Consider mixing up the menu to fit within the budget. Most people will welcome the change. With my family, there is no shortage of ethnic flare.When it comes to holiday gatherings we have lumpia, enchiladas, mochi, adobo, sashimi, and a traditional turkey dinner (p.s. I have a large family and that sashimi is fresh, as my uncle is an avid fisherman).
  • Check out your cupboards. Plan your side dishes by checking out your cupboards. If you have a can of green beans, a green bean casserole could be a start. Or a can of chickpeas, you can easily make hummus for a starter. Then start looking at your grocer’s sale ads to start saving on the other necessary ingredients.

Free Shipping Day 2010

On Friday, December 17, an estimated 1,000+ participating merchants will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. Check out for more details.

Free shipping day isn’t the only perk. Did you know you can score unadvertised specials from 40 Merchants?

I am so happy to be able to share these unadvertised specials with you. Because fewer people know about the sale, betters their chances of closing the deal at cut-rate prices.

(Credits:,, and inspireco)

19 thoughts on “Christmas on a Budget

  1. Credit Cards Canada

    Great post. Every celebration costs something, and Christmas is perhaps the one that costs the most. But you don’t have to go over-budget and suffer for the rest of the winter. Some great tips here.

    1. Money Funk

      Thanks CCC! My family had our first debt free holiday last year. I LOVED IT! Don’t ever intend to rack up holiday debt again. And just because you don’t have the money (to keep up with the Joneses spending habits) – you can still have a terrific holiday spending time with friends, family, members of the church, etc…

      And baked goods or cookies are always a great present!

  2. Briana @ GBR

    I’m actually really excited to do my Christmas shopping online. I did it one year, and it was a hassle because I had things sent to me THEN delivered them to friends and family. I’m going to just do a few clicks and sit 🙂 As for Christmas dinner, since things are going to be a little different this year, I think a potluck is in order. We’re gonna test drive it for Thanksgiving and see how it goes.

    1. Christine Post author

      I love it! I started online shopping a couple years ago. Makes it so convenient and I actually SPEND LESS money this way because I can comparison shop. Most stores offer free shipping, too. You can usually find the latter by scoring great discounts/free shipping on

      I love potlucks! I hope it works out. Nomnomnom.

  3. danielle

    i LOVE it! i would be perfectly happy surrounded by pine cone decorations, singing and pot luck dishes. also…love that Free Shipping Day site. i bookmarked it when i saw you tweet it. this is a great post! bring it back to the roots and you won’t even realize it’s Christmas on a budget. i’m all warm and fuzzy inside now 🙂

      1. danielle

        my co-worker heard Christmas music at the mall the other day and she said she got teary-eyed. i hope you have tissues nearby in case you need them! 🙂 (btw, what is Christmas jazz? sounds really nice)

  4. Mom

    Reading about you making paper chains reminded me of the year we made a ton of paper chains and hung them all over the living room/dining room. We didn’t have the paper cutters like they do now. I remember how much our hands hurt from all the cutting. I even have some pictures of the paper chains. I hope you and Ashley have fun making them.

    1. Christine Post author

      LOL. The fun of paperchains! Oh we shall have fun (cuz I don’t have a papercutter). Now that you mention it, I think I will bring the construction paper to work the weekend before I make them.

      I’m looking forward to making the matchbox advent calendar, too. Maybe we need to come crash your place for all the scrapbooking paper. 😉

  5. Mom

    You know I have tons and tons of scrapbooking paper and two paper cutters, I also have a heat gun to make ink turn puffy (although I think my ink pads ared too old), I do have tons of stamps too and glitter. It would be fun. Love, Mom

  6. Jenna

    Great post! I make all my presents and then donate the money I would have spent on that person to a local charity in their name. It’s a pretty sweet gift if you ask me.

    1. Christine Post author

      Seriously? Do you spend time making your presents all year long? That is awesome. And the charity recipient thanks you, too. What a great idea. Love to hear what types of gifts you make (need ideas ;))

  7. Bret @ Hope to Prosper

    Wow, you are definitely getting a jump on it.

    I am kind of old-school about Christmas and I refuse to participate until after Thanksgiving. I resent that retailers have begun starting the Christmas season right after Halloween. Plus, I am a guy and a natural procrastinator. Before I got married, I commonly did 90% of my shopping on Christmas Eve. Now, I shop online and finish a couple of weeks early.

  8. Ben with BankAim

    Great article. The holidays on a budget can be a stressful time when it should be a happy time.

    In the past my family has traded acts of service to help with the budget. In fact this year my sister and her husband are going to trade with my wife and me. The trade?… They’ll babysit our two daughters and put them to sleep at our house and wait for our return from the date night. We will do the same for them. This is better than any “thing” they would buy for us IMO.

  9. First Gen American

    Well, I already went a little overboard. I mail ordered advent calendars to a bunch of people. The shipping was killer, but I thought I’d splurge this year and I was happy to support a local chocolate shop.

    My son and I made paper snowflakes over the weekend. I have a post that I’ll put up later in the week. It was fun and simple and free. Given my credit card balance, the remainder of the Xmas events will need to be on the free or near free side.

    What I always least expect is how much my food budget goes up in November and December as I host a couple of big meals. Food has gotten expensive, even with scratch cooking.

  10. Silvia Merrill

    Great article. The holidays on a budget can be a stressful time when it should be a happy time.In the past my family has traded acts of service to help with the budget. In fact this year my sister and her husband are going to trade with my wife and me. The trade?… They’ll babysit our two daughters and put them to sleep at our house and wait for our return from the date night. We will do the same for them. This is better than any “thing” they would buy for us IMO.

  11. W. Maxwell

    Gifts that come in special envelopes are also pretty awesome. You can buy all sorts of gift vouchers, eg. facials and/or manicures for those who don’t usually treat themselves, hairdressing salon if you know where the person usually goes, hardware store gift certificates for the home handy person. bookstore voucher for the avid reader, or music store voucher for the music lover, gift certificate for a romantic dinner and/or a show for a couple, e.g. parents, movie gift certificate for two, or even a donation to a cause the person is keen on, interest their name. A handmade gold or foil red envelope with a ribbon would be beautiful. I’ve given several of these gifts over the years and they have always been greeted with screeches of delight. Gift certificates are fun to open, then it is fun again to go to the store and spend time looking around for what you would like, or enjoying being pampered at the beauty salon, etc. These gifts just seem to last longer than the initial giving on the day.

Comments are closed.