Joyce Chou

Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone.

With the holiday season comes the most wonderful time of the year—a time that’s also unfortunately become synonymous with consumerism and overspending.

But you don’t need to sacrifice your savings to celebrate the holidays. By thinking ahead and spending carefully, it’s possible to stay on track with your big money goals and prevent end-of-year festivities from being a major financial drain. 

Just try these nine ways to save more money this holiday season.

1. Commit to a shopping list

holiday gift list

It’s not enough to just budget during the holidays—you should also prepare a shopping list. So long as you commit to them, shopping lists can be incredibly effective at curbing your spending.

Before heading out to the mall or grocery store, write down exactly what you need, whether it’s stocking stuffers, wrapping paper, or cooking ingredients for your favorite holiday dish. 

Then force yourself into a tunnel vision mentality with your list. That is, if something’s not on your list, then don’t add it to your cart. If you didn’t think of something for your list beforehand, perhaps it simply wasn’t important enough to buy in the first place. 

2. Avoid self-gifting

Along the same lines, avoid self-gifting. Holiday sales can be enticing, but no matter how great a sale, self-gifting can easily lead you down the slippery slope of going over budget.

If it feels utterly impossible to resist, then give yourself a hard dollar limit. Or, alternatively, write your financial goals somewhere you’ll see on a daily basis, e.g., on the fridge or bathroom mirror. Whether it’s building your emergency fund, paying off credit card debt, or saving for a big down payment, let your goals remind you of your financial priorities.

3. Send e-cards

The cost of sending physical holiday cards may not seem like much—less than a dollar for postage, after all. But couple that with the cost of buying cards or printing personalized ones, and it quickly adds up, especially if you’ve got a long list of mailing recipients.

Try a more convenient and affordable method of spreading holiday cheer instead: e-cards. You can find the perfect card that suits your taste and send it for free (or very cheap) at sites like:

4. Opt for more affordable traditions with family and friends

holiday cookies

Some holiday traditions, like ice skating or watching a new movie on Christmas Day, can leave a dent in your wallet. 

But remember, the holidays aren’t about spending money. They’re about appreciating each other’s company, which you can do more affordably with activities like:

  • Baking holiday treats together
  • Renting and watching a movie at home
  • Using a homemade advent calendar
  • Walking around and admiring Christmas light displays in your neighborhood
  • Building a gingerbread house
  • Volunteering at a local charity

5. Set a limit with gift exchanges

Gift exchange games like White Elephant and Secret Santa are a holiday classic, though of course, they may encourage you to spend more than you ordinarily would on a joke gift or a present for the friendly acquaintance you drew the name of. 

But rather than give up on these traditions altogether, you can still participate and save money by suggesting a dollar maximum, e.g., $15 or $20. 

Or, if you want to put a creative spin on the game, make it a spend-free exchange, where participants can only make gifts themselves or find something in their homes to give. Not only will your gift exchange be more affordable this way, but it’ll also probably be a lot more interesting and memorable. 

6. Skip the gift-wrapping service

The cost of gift-wrapping services varies among stores; some offer it for free only in person while others charge anywhere from $2 to $6 per item both in-store and online. Needless to say, wrapping expenses can add up fast, especially if you’ve got a lot of presents to give.

To avoid this unnecessary cost, take wrapping into your own hands instead. You can find cheap but festive rolls of wrapping paper at Walmart, Target, or your local grocery store. And thanks to YouTube tutorials, learning how to wrap a gift nicely is easier than ever. 

holiday gifts

7. Thrift around for holiday decor

Trying to get in the holiday spirit without breaking your budget? 

Rather than buy brand new decorations, check out Goodwill, Salvation Army, or your local consignment shop. Chances are you can find wreaths, ornaments, and even lights at a fraction of the cost at major retailers.

If you don’t have any luck thrifting, try the dollar store or go the DIY route. Homemade ornaments using paper or salt dough are a classic and add a touch of personality. Or, if decorations don’t matter to you, consider forgoing these expenses altogether—to each their own.

8. Host a potluck instead of providing for everyone

It can be fun hosting your annual ugly Christmas sweater get-together or any other holiday party, but providing for a dozen or more guests is expensive, not to mention time-consuming. 

Fortunately, there’s an easy and logical way to get around this without ruining the fun. Instead of catering or preparing all food and drink yourself, make your event a potluck. Ask guests to prepare their favorite dishes and beverages—it’ll save you both time and money, but also make your get-together feel a lot more homey.

9. Think outside of the box for gifts

Rather than spend hundreds of dollars buying presents, get creative and craftsy with your gifts.

Family Together Christmas Celebration

Sure, DIY gifts have a reputation as being useless and overly sentimental, but it’s still possible to give something practical without spending exorbitantly. 

For example, you could gift a free week of babysitting, household chores, or even business services (e.g., a free personal training session if you’re a fitness coach). Add some personality to your gift by designing a coupon or voucher for whatever it is you’re giving.

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