Celebrate Fun Family Christmas Traditions on a Budget

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Enjoy the beauty and love of Christmas on a budget this year.  There is no need to go broke just because it’s Christmas.  Click to Tweet this.  For some reason, in America, we lose sight of what Christmas is about. 

In 2018, nearly half of Americans racked up over $1,000 in debt during Christmas.  Don’t let yourself become one of these people.

Whether or not you’re religious, Christmas is a time to celebrate life and have good times with your family and friends.  It should not mean you go broke buying the latest Christmas decorations or buying fancy gifts for everyone you know.

Christmas is about celebrating old and new traditions with the one’s you love and enjoy. Lots of fun family Christmas traditions are very budget-friendly if you plan appropriately and are intentional on how you spend the holiday season.

Come along and discover or re-discover many traditions that won’t break the bank. I have even included free Christmas printables that will help you stay focused and on budget.

free printable christmas list

Low Cost Fun Family Christmas Traditions to Indulge In

Budget-Friendly DIY Christmas Traditions

#1 – Handmade Christmas gifts

Put a personal touch on your Christmas gifts this year and make something for the loved ones on your list.  A thoughtful DIY gift will leave a lasting memory.

Related Article:  19 Easy DIY Christmas Gift Ideas for This Holiday Season

#2 – DIY ornaments.

Get creative and make Christmas ornaments. This is a great way to help engage the young ones in the holiday celebrations too.

Pro tip:  Skip any salt dough ornament ideas as they are quite heavy and difficult to hang on the tree.

#3 – Make Christmas decorations

Go beyond just DIY Christmas ornaments and make your own Christmas decorations.  The dollar store offers many options for a great price if you know what you’re looking for.

Christmas Traditions for Everyone on Budget

#4 – Decorate the Christmas tree. 

This is a time honored tradition that everyone can participate in once the lights are strung (lights are such a pain). We have a pre-lit fake tree and happily avoid the cost of buying a real tree each year. If you can’t part with having a real Christmas tree, wait as long as you can for the best deals before picking one up.

#5 – Make Christmas cookies.

You don’t have to be a baker or make Christmas shaped sugar cookies to enjoy a little time in the kitchen, smelling freshly baked cookies. In a pinch, because you’re a terrible baker or short on time, the prepackaged cookie dough batter you can find at the grocery store will work.

christmas on a budget

#6 – Turn off the TV

Instead, listen to Christmas music while you play board games, drink wine or decorate your house with Christmas cheer!

#7 – Watch Christmas movies.

My favorite Christmas movie growing up was Home Alone. I don’t necessarily think it’s as funny anymore as I did when I was a kid but my 7 year old sure does. Another favorite in our house is the animated Polar Express with Tom Hanks. Trains and Christmas combined, what kid wouldn’t love it?

#8 – Visit local Christmas decoration displays

Make an adventure out of finding the best outdoor Christmas decorations in your neighborhood or town.  On a nice evening, get out of the car and get some exercise while walking around the best decorated neighborhood in your area.

Fun Family Christmas Traditions with Kids

#9 – Create a fun way to kick start the holiday season for the kiddos.

We do Elf on the Shelf which is a creative way to help keep the kids in line over the holiday season. The story goes, the Elf on the Shelf watches over the family and reports their behavior to Santa at the North Pole each night when the family is sleeping. Our kids are always anxious to know if they were good enough the day before to stay on the nice list.

#10 – Give a small gift a bit earlier in the Christmas season

At our home, we leave an early Christmas gift under the tree on the first day of December for the kiddos. We have always done Christmas pajamas for them to wear the whole month. Lots of stores have great Black Friday deals on pajamas that can be shipped to your home for free

Over Priced Christmas Traditions to Skip

#11 – Don’t bother with expensive gifts for your boss.

I mean, c’mon, they’re your boss and must make more money than you. If your boss is amazing and you want to do something nice, keep it simple and write a note of appreciation inside a Christmas card. If that’s not your style or you’re looking to spend at least a little, consider giving a $10 gift card to Starbucks or a bottle of wine.

#12 – Skip photos with Santa at the local mall.

Those photos are so expensive and honestly who besides you really needs a photo of your kid with Santa.  Check your local community events to see if you can snag a free picture with Santa at one of those events.

As we live in Chicago, we try to catch the Christmas CTA train each year where you can get a free picture with Santa before the train departs. It’s a double win.  We get our Santa picture and the boys get to ride on a decked out Christmas train with elves and candy canes! 

#13 – Forget fancy Christmas photo cards.

I am a huge fan of Shutterfly and have spent plenty on fancy photo gifts over the years.  However, it’s kind of insane to spend $40+ on fancy Christmas photo cards that people throw out after a month.

If you want to do photo Christmas cards check out deals at local department stores or local drugstores (CVS or Walgreens). Groupon has great deals on photo cards sometimes too, especially during the holiday season. Last year, I think we spent $20 to have our picture taken at a local department store and got 25 holiday cards with it. That seemed like a decent deal.

#14 – Don’t buy gifts for every extended family member or friend you see on Christmas.

Organize a grab bag or White Elephant gift exchange for any Christmas gathering you attend. This will save money while spreading a bit of Christmas cheer.

free christmas printables

Shopping for Christmas on a Budget

#15 – Purchase all your online gifts through Rakuten.

If you haven’t heard of this company, can I ask where you’ve been hiding? Rakuten is a rewards program that gives customers cash back on purchases made through affiliated companies.

New members who use the below link get a $40 sign up bonus so long as you spend $40 in the first 90 days.

In general, I don’t do a ton of online shopping except around Christmas and the rewards on Rakuten are the best between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I have a yearly reminder set on my phone for the 3rd week of November to make sure I don’t forget to use their site for all my online purchases. Set your alarm now!

#16 – Shop using the Ibotta app.

Ibotta is also a rewards program that pays customers through the form of gift cards. While Rakuten focuses on department stores, Ibotta gives rebates on a variety of different stores including grocery stores. They have amazing bonus rebates too.

If you shop at Walmart on any kind of regular basis you must get this app. The savings are endless with Walmart through Ibotta. You can save/make some serious money during the holiday season with this app. I can’t recommend it enough.

Related Article:  Plan ahead and be intentional with your grocery shopping.

#17 – Shop Black Friday deals from the comfort of your own home.

Many retailers offer the same deals online and some even offer them earlier in the week. Don’t forget to buy through Rakuten for even greater savings.

#18 – Shop at discount stores

Stores like Marshall’s or TJMaxx offer immediate discounts without having to watch for a sale.  Items at these stores are already marked down.

#19 – Buy gift wrap and Christmas cards from the dollar store.

Fancy wrapping may look nice but it’ll be torn to shreds too quickly to bother spending much on it.

#20 – Use high reward credit cards to make your purchases.

Obviously, you only want to do this if you are paying your statement in full each month. If you aren’t good about this, then don’t even think about charging anything on a credit card.

fun family christmas traditions

Mailing Christmas Gifts on a Budget

#21 – Free Shipping Offers

Most gifts bought through a store can be shipped from the store. Lots of retailers offer free shipping around the holidays so take advantage of it.

Many of those same retailers will wrap your gifts for a fee that’s comparable to the cost you’d pay to have it shipped through your post office. This is a DOUBLE BONUS if you ask me. You don’t have to spend time wrapping the gift and you don’t have to wait in line at the post office

#22 – Shipping Through the Post Office

Unfortunately, you will need to mail DIY gifts or gifts you want to add a personal touch to. I have some experience shipping items through eBay and boy, can it be overwhelming.

I only use USPS to ship my packages so I can’t comment on FedEx or UPS shipping. Here are your options with USPS (they should all get your package to its destination within 3 business days):

  • The best option for any package under 13oz is First Class Mail. The size of the package doesn’t matter but the number of ounces and distance makes a difference. Expect to pay less than $6.
  • If you’re item is over 13 oz but can fit into a flat rate envelope, your next best option is using a flat rate Priority Mail envelope that the post office provides. This should cost between $7-8.
  • For larger, heavier items that are traveling far, the post office offers a variety of box sizes to ship your items for one flat rate. Pricing varies between $8 and $20, depending on the flat rate box size.
  • You can always use your own boxes to ship items via USPS but then they charge you based on the distance and weight which can add up quick. Flat rate boxes are your best option.

Free Christmas Printables

#23 – Organize and plan for the Holiday season

To help you stay organized and keep you on budget I have created some free printable Christmas lists:

The free Christmas printables include:

  1. Christmas Gift List – allows you to jot down gift ideas and track the amount you spend on each gift.
  2. Black Friday Shopping List – write down what you want to buy from your favorite stores on Black Friday.
  3. Christmas Movie Watchlist – write down all the Christmas movies you want to watch this holiday season or create a list of favorites from this season to watch next year.
  4. Cyber Monday Shopping List – track where you’re hoping to score great deals on Cyber Monday
  5. Christmas Activity Printables Checklist – keep track of all the holiday activities you’re hoping to accomplish this holiday season and check them off as you go (includes two copies – one is pre-populated, one is blank).
  6. Christmas Dinner Shopping List – lets you track the holiday dishes you’re planning to make and create a grocery list by category of what you need to perfect your Christmas dinner.
free printable christmas list

Wishing You All a Very Merry and Budget-Friendly Christmas

Hopefully you are leaving with some good ideas on how to manage a budget-friendly Christmas this holiday season.    At the end of the day, we should all remember that Christmas is about spending time with people you enjoy and care about.  Merry Christmas all!

christmas budget ideas and tips for saving money during the holiday printables

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