Celebrating the Holidays on a Budget

Now that finals are coming to an end, you finally have time to start enjoying the holiday season. You can think about gifts and decorating now that you have a break from all of your schoolwork. As you add people to your gift list and think of ideas for Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, the cost of gifts and celebration plans may start quickly rising. If you are trying to avoid an expensive holiday season, there are many ways you can celebrate on a budget. Don’t let the holidays put you in debt or stress you out in the new year. You can save a bunch of money while having a great time!

1. Determine your budget.
The very first thing you’ll want to do is set a limit on how much you want to spend. You can do this in terms of the total amount you will spend, or based on how much you want to spend per person. Keep in mind, you do not need to buy gifts for every single friend or family member. A heartfelt card is more than enough for those you don’t necessarily want to buy presents for.

Let’s say you set a budget of $75-100 for presents and holiday events. You now have a number to work with, which enables you to allocate your funds appropriately to each person and event on your list. Write down everyone’s names and jot down ideas for gifts, along with a ballpark cost. Having all of the names and costs will help you visualize whether you will be able to stay within budget. If it looks like you are going over budget, adjust your gift ideas or think of something else to give (see below).

2. DIY gifts.
If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you’ll know that we are becoming a very do-it-yourself world. DIY gifts are not only an inexpensive way to show someone you care, but these types of gifts are often very thoughtful because they take time to make.

DIY gift ideas:

*Knit a scarf
*Make a set of greeting cards to give as a bundle
*Bake cookies
*Write a poem
*Make a picture frame and frame a special photo
*Create a scrapbook of memories
*Make soap or candles
*Make a homemade snowglobe
*Design cork coasters
*Paint wooden utensils
*Make a homemade card with a special handwritten note

3. Experience gifts.
Instead of purchasing or making a gift for someone, take him or her out for an experience gift. Sometimes there’s no better gift than time, and by treating someone to a fun afternoon is a very special present. You may have to pay for tickets or food, but this can be done on a low budget.

Experience gift ideas:
*Take someone out to lunch or to see a movie
*Visit the zoo
*Spend the day at an amusement park
*Walk around your local botanical gardens
*Go ice skating
*Hike in the morning and watch the sunrise
*Bake a cake or cook a meal together

4. Coupon gifts.
If you aren’t interested in purchasing, DIY, or experience gifts, giving coupons might be a unique twist on your usual holiday presents. Many people love favors, and giving a little book of coupons to your Mom, Dad, siblings, or friends will not go unappreciated. All you’ll need is a piece of paper, a pen, scissors, and a stapler. Of course, you can make your coupon book look fancier, but this is a quick, easy, and cheap way to offer something nice to someone. Get creative!

Coupon gift ideas:

*Wash the car, inside and out
*Clean a room for someone
*Pick up the groceries
*Cook dinner
*Wash and fold laundry
*Making the bed every day for a week
*Favor of your choice

5. Limit gifts and spending total.
Before you and your friends or family buy presents for each other, have a discussion about how many presents you will get for one another or about how much you want to spend. 1 present and 1 stocking stuffer is typically a good limit for family, whereas friends can differ based on who you are buying presents for. By being transparent about your budget and limit, you and your family and friends can unload that stress and just concentrate on finding the perfect gift.

6. Make dinner and rent a movie.
When it comes time for the actual celebrations, there is no need to buy a new dress, suit, or shoes to attend a festive party. There are inexpensive (and fun!) ways to spend Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, such as making a home cooked meal and renting a movie. You can even just order pizza and watch a Christmas special. The time spent together with people you like being around is all you really need for the holidays.

7. Host a cookie decorating party.
What better way to get in the holiday spirit than to decorate (and eat) cookies? Spend your days off icing cookies with family and friends. The time will fly when you are rolling dough, listening to holiday tunes, and icing cookies with every color of the rainbow.

8. Volunteer.
Give the gift of time! Volunteer at your local food bank or animal shelter, or make blankets and collect toys. The options are endless and it may just be the best gift you give all season.

9. Secret Santa.
When you and your family or friends decide to do Secret Santa, your costs are seriously cut since you only have to buy one present! Set a maximum limit so that everyone stays within that price range. Get a group of people together, draw names from a (Santa) hat, don’t tell anyone whose name you have, and then purchase a special present that will be exchanged later. It’s so much fun to surprise someone with a funny, novelty gift.