Why do we need Frugal Christmas ideas? Because the average Christmas & holiday season gift budget for Twin Cities shoppers is $773 this year, according to a University of St. Thomas study. It’s up from $703 last year and $680 in 2010. How does your family compare?
Our budget has always been lower than all of those, but we have always exchanged great gifts and had a fun season regardless thanks to being frugal!
Here are some tips to keep Christmas within your means:
Determine now how much you can afford to spend, and stick to it. Easier said than done? Try this:
- Make a list of all the people you plan to give gifts to. This includes co-workers, teachers, your paper carrier, your mail carrier (postal workers by law can’t accept money, only gifts), babysitter(s), etc. Determine your budget for each person.
- If you have a Christmas savings account or enough cash on hand
, withdraw it and use that for your purchases. For online purchases made with a credit card, just set aside some of that cash to to pay the credit card bill. Or just put all of your purchases on one designated credit card and pay it all at once with your Christmas savings before the bill is due.
- If you don’t have a Christmas savings account or enough cash on hand, well, first of all, start an account for next Christmas NOW. Then determine how much you can realistically afford for this Christmas. Don’t be discouraged if it’s not as much as you’d like. Did you know that the average American family spends until May of the following year paying off Christmas debt? That doesn’t have to be you! Read on for tips to save money on gifts!
2. Be creative to save money on gifts.
Black Friday is certainly a great day for getting the best deals. To view the ads now, go to theblackfriday.com. Plan your spending around the sales and which ones you can realistically hit. Some other tips:
- If you find you’d like to give more than you can afford, make a gift instead of buying one. Seriously. If you like to bake, make some cookies or other treats. Your kids can help with creating a gift. How about a handmade card or picture to show appreciation? Include some words about how that person makes a difference in your life or your child’s life. That’s more meaningful than something store-bought anyway. Allyou.com is one my favorite websites for great recipes, crafts and money-saving ideas.
- The best gifts exchanged in my family are personalized calendars. The grandparents love them and they last all year! I make them by uploading our own pictures on walgreens.com and use coupon codes to get great prices. Be sure to take advantage of coupon codes for any website purchases. I like retailmenot.com best for finding codes.
- In another post I listed 6 great gifts for frugal moms. One of them was a free night of babysitting. I would LOVE this as a gift. Would someone on your gift list appreciate this? Or can you think of a similar but cost-free gift of time for others on your gift list?
- Create your own gift basket. Last year I received a fabulous gift basket filled with treats and fruit from ALDI. It was great! (Yes, ALDI has some great gift ideas!) Here are some other ideas:
Coffee-lovers gift basket: Coffee mug filled with instant beverage mixes or bag of coffee, chocolate-dipped spoon, Biscotti, chocolates.
Bread-lovers gift basket: Loaf of homemade or fancy bread, mixing spoon, cutting board, jar of jelly or jam.
College-student gift basket: Snacks, coffee or hot cocoa mixes, gift cards to coffee shops, fast food restaurant or gas station. Put in a small storage container – they’ll need it!
Child’s activity gift basket: Paper, crayons or markers, bubbles, play dough, small toys from the dollar store. Put it all in a sand bucket or other reusable container they can tote around.
Child’s dress-up gift basket: Raid the thrift store for hats, necklaces or other costume jewelry, purses, accessories, Halloween costumes. Get some cheap makeup from the drugstore (so the kids don’t raid mommy’s makeup!).
Pamper herself gift basket: Scented bath soaps or shower gels, shower pouf or sponge, lotions, scented candles. Put in a bath caddy or small, decorative basket.
- Think beyond the usual “Black Friday” and other holiday season store ads. What other stores are near you? Last year on Black Friday weekend, I went to a Once Upon a Child store. Everything was 20% off that weekend, so I bought two huge bags full of used but like new toys for the kids. I had so much fun and saved a lot! They got the toys from us on Christmas Eve (Santa gave them their “new” toys the next morning). The used toys were actually some of their favorite Christmas gifts, and they still play with them now.
3. Take advantage of free or low-cost activities in your area.
There’s a lot going on in the Twin Cities. Check out the Phalen Park drive-through light display in St. Paul ($10/$8 per car), the Macy’s Santaland walk-through display (free), and the various events happening in each city, such as South St. Paul’s Holidaze (free). Visit your local city’s website as well as my Deals & Events Calendar for local Christmas & Holiday season events! I’ll be adding more as I hear of them.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Share below your favorite Frugal Christmas Ideas.