5 Easy Ways You Can Celebrate Christmas on a Budget

low cost holidays

To say that this time of year is when consumers let their spending get out of hand the most is probably an understatement.

For many retailers, more than 30 percent of total annual sales happen in December, according to Forbes. What’s more, the National Retail Federation says Americans consumers plan to spend on average $935 during the holiday shopping season this year.

With those numbers, the idea of celebrating low-cost holidays seems pretty unlikely. However, you do have the power to combat overspending and stay within budget.

Here are a few common ways you may be wasting your money around the holidays and some cheaper alternatives to help you save — not spend — your hard-earned cash.

How to celebrate low-cost holidays

1. Avoid elaborate holiday decorations

Your goal may be to win the best-decorated house in the neighborhood this year. But how much money are you truly wasting on lights, ornaments, inflatable nativity scenes, and trees decked out to the nines?

Even other elaborate displays, like floral and centerpiece arrangements, can set you back big time. In 2014, Americans spent more than $53 on holiday decorations.

Try this alternative.

Skip buying new Christmas decorations this year and don’t worry about outdoing the neighbors. Try reusing existing lights, tinsel, and ornaments in new, creative ways and celebrate Christmas on a budget.

Shop around for artificial flower arrangements that look and feel authentic but can be reused when needed to decorate your home interior. This will save you money since you won’t be buying fresh flowers each holiday.

And, if you have outdoor floral displays, mix in some greenery from your own backyard.

2. Don’t buy overpriced wrapping paper

The wrapping paper is usually the first thing you notice when a gift is handed to you. The ornate, colorful designs or surface textures of wrapping paper can make opening a gift even more fun.

Although a gift’s wrapping paper makes a big impression on the recipient, for the gift giver it can be a big money waster. Especially when it is just torn up and discarded in a matter of seconds.

For example, a roll of specialty wrapping paper at gift store Papyrus can cost between $4.95 and $11.95. And once a gift is unwrapped, it’s unlikely that wrapping paper can ever be used again.

Try this alternative.

Inexpensive gift bags are a simple alternative since the gift can be obscured in the bag with some tissue paper. And the bag, if folded up nicely, can be reused for next year. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.

Or, use a few pieces of tissue paper to wrap a gift instead. Throw in some bows or ribbons for extra decoration.

And, if you’re wrapping presents for other family members, make it a project for the kids to get involved in. Wrap presents with cardboard or construction paper and let the kids put their own personalized decorations on them using crayons or paint.

If all else fails, newspaper as wrapping paper will do the trick, too.

3. Steer clear of new holiday clothes

Clothes shopping can drain your budget no matter what time of year it is. But when you’re buying something for one day or one occasion, the benefits aren’t always worth the cost.

You might make an excuse to buy that expensive dress or tailored suit just for one family photo, but then it’s relegated to the closet forever. And no matter how much of a discount you get on festive Christmas sweaters, you can’t really wear them after the holidays.

Try this alternative.

Wear simple items you already own that you can mix and match. Accessorize a basic black dress with some holiday pins, or use an existing suit jacket with a more festive tie and shirt.

It’s definitely possible to put a new spin on items you already own in your wardrobe. And if you do shop for new clothes, seek out pieces that stand the test of the time. That way you can wear them again on future holidays while staying in style.

4. Outsmart shipping costs

Expensive shipping costs aren’t just the bane of the last-minute gift shopper.

Depending on the nature and fragility of the item, you may need to buy insurance or pay extra for certified delivery. And, if you’re not a fan of the U.S. Postal Service, you’ll most likely fork over extra money for UPS or FedEx to deliver your gifts.

If you do the math on how many gifts you need to ship out and the costs attached, you may find you’re almost better off delivering the gifts yourself.

Try this alternative.

Get your shopping done early and avoid paying extra in next-day delivery fees. Or, order your gifts direct from the retailer’s website if they include free shipping when you spend a certain amount.

It may be worthwhile to look into an Amazon Prime membership, too. You get free two-day shipping and same-day shipping in select areas on millions of items.

And, having the gifts shipped directly to the recipient’s home will save you the trouble of paying to ship the gift yourself.

5. Check out discounted gift cards

The biggest mistake many people make when buying gift cards is paying full price for them at all times. Or paying for extra fees tacked onto the regular retail price for premium gift cards.

Try this alternative. 

Gift card discount sites like GiftCardGranny, CardPool, CardCash, and CardKangaroo carry every single type of gift card imaginable at reduced prices.

You can find cards that haven’t been spent at all, or others with some money left on them. Many or sold by users who don’t want them anymore or exchanged them for other gift cards. In many cases, you can find gift cards discounted up to 50 percent.

If you received a gift card you didn’t want, take it to one of the above sites, sell it, and buy one you do want at the best price point you can find.

Low-cost holidays are not a myth. With the right mind-set and preparation, you can celebrate the season of giving in style, without breaking the bank.

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
  2. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.29% APR to 11.44% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of December 1, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.29% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.34% plus 4.20% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 5.99% – 16.24% (5.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
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  3. Automatic Payment Benefit: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
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