Anyone who knows me well is aware of the fact that I go a little overboard during the holidays. I overload on movies like Elf, A Muppets Christmas Carol, and A Christmas Story. I have the Pandora Holiday station churning out one-hit wonders, and old standards. It is also not uncommon to see my best friend and I at Target the day after Christmas with two shopping carts filled to the brim with 50% off Christmas decorations.


I am *usually* a very sensible shopper, but during the holidays I struggle with my spending. The holidays can take a toll on anyone’s wallet. There are tips to be given, presents to be purchased, parties to attend, and secret santas to shop for. So how does one survive all of this wonderful craziness with money still in the bank? Each person’s spending habits are different, so what works for me may not work for you. Even so, here is my list of 14 ideas on how to survive the holidays without breaking the bank.


  1. Make a REALISTIC budget: I love finding the perfect gift for my loved ones, and making my house look like an elf threw up all over it, but I can’t go into debt just to get “the gift of a lifetime”, or that amazing Santa that plays the saxophone. Start broad, and drill down in each category. Click here to download our Holiday Budget Planner. 

  2. Leave the credit cards at home: It is just too tempting to swipe that plastic wonder when you have all those holiday warm fuzzies flowing through your system. The easiest way to stick to your holiday budget is to use the envelope method. However much you have allocated to spend for each category/person/event, place in an envelope and stick to the limit you have set. Have money left over? GREAT! You can save it, or allocate it to another category for a little more spending in that area.

  3. Make a list and check it twice: When you go shopping make sure you have a definitive list of what you will be buying and try not to deviate from that list. A great tool to help you create and keep track of your various lists is Wunderlist. I just started using this app, and I am IN LOVE.

  4. Send e-cards: I love getting actual mail that is not spam or a bill, but depending on how large your mailing list is you could end up spending a ton of money on holiday greeting cards. Instead make a JibJab holiday e-card, or create a MailChimp account and send out a holiday e-mail.

  5. Get your DIY on: In the age of Pinterest it has become incredibly easy to find ways to make inexpensive, yet AWESOME gifts. Don’t believe me? Have a look for yourself. I personally would much rather have a gift my friend/family made for me than a gift card to some generic store or restaurant.

  6. Make your own wrapping paper, and gift tags: Yes, again this is another DIY suggestion, but it could be fun, especially for children. Buy a roll of blank white paper or brown packaging paper, set out some glitter and markers, and you are ready to create some legendary wrapping paper.

  7. Have a swap meet: Invite your friends and family over to exchange their unwanted decorations.  This is a great way to have fun, save money & get new-to-you decorations!

  8. Set Up Secret Santas or Gift Exchanges: When you have a large family or friend group,  buying presents for everyone can drain your bank account fast. Consider drawing names for your own secret santa. That way everyone still gets a gift (that is probably nicer and more thoughtful), and everyone saves a lot of money.

  9. Shop the sales: Try to plan out your gift list in advance and watch for these items to go on sale online or in-store. Use sites like to stay on top of sales.

  10. Exchange gifts a week or two after the Holidays are over: The amount of money a person can save the first few days after the holidays are over is mind boggling! This is especially nice for family or friend groups that travel a lot for the holidays.

  11. If you are giving Gift Cards, buy them at a discount: Check out and Both sites offer gift cards that others didn’t want – at a discounted price. You can save up to 35 percent.

  12. Get a seasonal job: The benefits of getting a seasonal job can be two-fold. First, it is more money in your pocket. And second, if you get a job at a place you would buy a lot of your gifts you will have the benefits of an employee discount! But a word of caution: do not go overboard because of the discount. Getting a seasonal job can be a double edge sword because some people actually increase their spending.

  13. Just say “no”: The holidays are busy, and you do not have to do everything. Turn down an activity if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

  14. Don’t forget the “reason for the season”: And I’m not just talking about the spiritual reason. The holidays are a time to enjoy your family and friends and remind them how much you care. You don’t need presents to show your love, all you need is you!