Christmas is one of the most expensive days of the year for the average Canadian family. We spend over $500 per person on Christmas Day alone, factoring in everything from food and travel to toys and booze. If you have that sort of money to spend then Christmas can be a joyous and carefree time. If not, it can be one filled with stress and worry. But there are ways that you can get the best of both worlds, cutting down on your Christmas spend by applying these holiday money-saving tips.
What to Get For Christmas if You’re on a Budget
If you’re trying to do Christmas on a budget then the first things you should focus on are the presents you buy for friends and family. This is often the biggest expense and the one that can hurt your finances the most. Here are some tips:
- Give Time: Rather than spending a lot of money on friends or family, give them your time instead. If you play an instrument, give them an IOU for lessons. If you’re a singer or dancer, promise to perform for them during an event. You can arrange game nights, spend time with them on their hobby, teach them something or show them something. Time is often remembered more and valued more than things.
- Make a Deal: Come clean about your finances and your struggles and tell your closest friends and family that you can’t afford to buy them anything. Make a promise with your partner that you won’t buy each other anything. It sounds cheap, but it’s better than being broke.
- Regift: Got old, unused gifts lying around? Regift them. We all get gifts that we can’t really use or have too much of, including booze, toiletries and food hampers. Rewrap them and give them out again. Just make sure you don’t send them to the people you got them from.
Christmas Decorations on a Budget
Christmas decorations can be a pain, but if you have kids then you probably don’t want to skimp on them. Kids love them, and while most adults complain about how difficult they are to put up and how tacky they can look, we love them as well. The trick is to buy a really good set of lights, an artificial tree and some quality baubles as they will last for years and years.
As the saying goes, “Buy cheap and you buy twice”. With Christmas decorations it’s more like, “Buy cheap and you’ll buy every year for the rest of your life”. So, don’t be afraid to invest one year and you’ll be set for every year to come.
If you’re really struggling checkout garage sales and eBay sales just after Christmas. You might be able to find a good quality set secondhand.
Christmas Shopping on a Budget
If you shop savvy then you could approach the season with a lot more money in your pocket, making Christmas Day the fun-filled and stress-free day that it should be. These Christmas budget tips can help when you need to shop smartly:
- Start Early: If you are broke at Christmas then the January sales probably aren’t a good time for you, but that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on big savings. Toys, games and other common Christmas gifts are so much cheaper earlier in the year. Buy them when they are on offer and bring them out in time for Christmas. Don’t pass-up the chance to buy a hugely discounted gift, no matter what it is, because there’s always a friend who you can give it to.
- Forget the Turkey: This bird is traditional, but most of us don’t actually enjoy the taste. You can swap it for chicken to save money and give your guests something they will enjoy more.
- Avoid Gift Cards: They can seem like the perfect gift for people who have everything, but they can expire, they often go unused and the stores may go bust.
- Get Fewer Presents for Your Kids: Your little ones might scream for the latest toy, but they probably won’t play with it when they get it. Most kids won’t pay with 90% of the toys they get and only get excited about the big ones, so go for quality not quantity. They’ll get the same amount of enjoyment and you’ll spend much less.
Creative Ways to Give Money for Christmas
As mentioned above, gift cards are a bad idea, but where does that leave you if you’re not sure what to buy? A cop-out would be to just give money, but while most of us are happy to receive it, none of us want to give it. It lacks creativity and looks like we haven’t tried. So, for the best of both worlds, try these creative ways to give money as a gift at Christmas. Not only can they add some creative flair to what is otherwise a thoughtless gift, but the uniqueness of it and the combination of handmade, individuality and cold-hard cash can make the gift seem more expensive than it is:
- Include paper money hidden throughout the pages of a novel and gift it with the message, “Read me for a big surprise”.
- Create origami with money and use them to make your own little diorama.
- Create or buy a money box and help the recipient with their savings by partially filling it.
- Attach folded notes to a piece of vertical wire and pop it in a small plant pot to mimic a Christmas tree.
- Put the money in a glass frame with a small metal hammer attached and the words, “Beer Money: Break in the Event of an Emergency” on the front.
What if you Have no Money for Christmas?
If you have no money at all then you might be tempted to take drastic action. We’re here to warn you that there are better alternatives:
- Don’t Borrow Money: Loans and cards spike around Christmas. We get more of them and as the demand increases so do the rates. If you anticipate a struggle then put small amounts of money aside in the run-up to Christmas or get a card months before.
- Get Help: Friends, family, charities—the help is out there. Your kids can get gifts, you can get a Christmas dinner and you can salvage something from the season.
- Bargain Shop: You can use what little money you have to find secondhand deals on eBay and in local garage sales. Do this after Christmas to take advantage of unwanted presents and you can have a luxury Christmas next time around.
- Get Crafting: If all else fails, use your time—or your children—to craft homemade gifts. It’s the thought that counts, and if you put thought into creating something that a friend will love, whether because it has sentimental value, because it shows that you spent a long time creating it or even just because it’s something that they have a passion for, then it definitely shows that you care.