Frugal and Green Tips for Cutting Back Holiday Spending

Posted on Oct 28 2013 - 12:49pm by Guest Post

It seems like the back-to-school shopping rush barely ends before the holidays start to arrive. First Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then winter holidays, September to January seems to consist of one expense after another and they all just seem to run one right after another. Just because you want your family to enjoy the holidays, doesn’t mean you have to throw your budget and green lifestyle out the window. With a little planning and some creativity, your family can enjoy the holidays without going overboard, just keep your budget in mind and leave yourself some wriggle room for last-minute expenses.

Halloween Costumes

Kids often have ideas about who they want to dress up as for Halloween, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to compromise if you come up with a better idea. Steer clear of the costume aisle at your local and consider crafting homemade costumes using materials you can recycle from your house instead. Another good option is to start scouring thrift shops and/or yard sales in September. You can often find gently used costumes at low price. Not only are you getting a deal, but you’re saving a costume from thrown out prematurely.

The Thanksgiving Family Feast

Planning a fantastic family dinner, even one large enough to account for unexpected guests, doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Spend some time comparing sales at different grocery stores and stock up on items in advance when they’re on sale. Thanksgiving food special usually start in late October/early November, so make your list early and you can load up your reusable grocery bags with the items you need while they’re on sale. It is a little less convenient than buying all your items at once, but you can save a lot of money and have extra food on hand.

Classroom Parties

Many teachers plan classroom parties and don’t give the parents much warning. If you need to come up with a contribution for your child, don’t just run out and buy a couple dozen cupcakes or other store-made foods. Try to be creative and come up with something that you can make at home. For example, creatively decorated sugar cookies aren’t expensive or difficult to bake, plus you and your kids will have fun making them together. Your child’s classmates will be a lot more impressed with homemade treats than anything you can buy.

Holiday Gatherings

From Halloween parties to New Year’s Eve gatherings, you can save yourself some money and hassle if you don’t try to do everything yourself. People often love to show off their favorite recipes, so why not have a pot-luck party? Decide what you can reasonably afford to contribute to the occasions and then ask guests to each bring something of their own. Keep a list of who is bringing what so that you know you have the right assortment of food available. Try to plan your contributions to cover things that other people aren’t already bringing.

Plan on Saving Leftovers

After holiday meals and parties, there are almost always leftovers. Determine which leftovers you can save for future meals instead of throwing them out. For example, many people have recipes for turkey soup, pot pies and other ways to reuse Thanksgiving leftovers, but what about Halloween goodies? Instead of tossing out a partial try of uneaten cookies, put them in your children’s lunch boxes for snacks. You can also freeze many items and eat them after the holidays have passed, so that your family won’t feel like they’re eating the same food for a week.

Use Debit Instead of Credit

According to, online shopping accounted for 47.5% of Black Friday retail sales. While you can get some great deals online, that’s not a good reason to run up your credit card balances. Start a holiday savings account that you contribute to throughout the year and use your debit card to pay for online purchases. No matter which winter holiday you celebrate or how many gifts you want to buy, you’re always better off to pay with the equivalent of cash than to run up debt on your charge cards. Plan a holiday shopping budget and stick to it.

Greener Gift Cards

While buying e-gift cards won’t always save you money, it does keep some plastic out of landfills. Instead of buying plastic gift cards at the store, consider getting online and buying electronic versions instead. Many major retailers like Amazon and Apple offer gift certificates that can be delivered via email. You can even get electronic gift cards for stores like Whole Foods and services like Task Rabbit. As an additional plus, e-gift cards are great ideas if you need to come up with a last minute gift.

Don’t Spend to Impress

Indulging your children during gift-giving holidays is one thing, but spending a lot of money on people you aren’t that close with just for the sake of keeping up appearances is rather silly. People that truly care about you will appreciate the thought you put into choosing their gifts, not how much money you spent on it. Besides, if you have to spend a small fortune just to impress someone, there’s a pretty good chance that he or she won’t appreciate your gift anyway and it will just go unused.

There really is truth to the old adage that it is the thought that counts. Whether you’re buying gifts, contributing to holiday celebrations, or planning your own family dinners, your creativity and careful thought are more important than how much money you spend. Even though it seems like the fall/winter holidays creep up on us before we expect them, they’re occasions you can count on every year. Try to keep room in your budget for holiday and spending and throw in some extra savings for the inevitable surprises that come up. You’ll enjoy your holidays a lot more if you don’t have to worry about spending more than you can afford.

About the Author: Angela Quint is a mother of three. She loves looking for new ways to spoil her family without blowing her budget out of the water and enjoys helping others do the same.


36 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Erin K. October 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    These are geat tips.  I especially love the tip about not buying presents for family members just to keep up appearances.  We definitely do that.  I have spoken to my husband about it but he still feels the need to do it.  We would save sooooo much money!  Regardless, these are all great.  Thank you!

  2. Kristen Coronado October 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    This is a great post! I love the ideas! I am a firm believer in not spending above your means during the holidays. We have had our fair share of tough times and after spending more than half a year paying off my sons/family christmas in 2009 we buy what we can and when times are tough we offer services. Babysitting, personal training, help around these house. Love this post!

  3. Alexia October 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    I always try to use the "debit over credit" rule and it's really helped me stay within budget because it's realtime withdrawl. I like the idea of "going green" with gift cards instead of buying the plastic version. Plus, sending the gift via email is much easier for friends and family live out of town. 

  4. Sherry J October 29, 2013 at 12:25 am - Reply

    I love these ideas,thanks for the post.

  5. md kennedy October 29, 2013 at 10:25 am - Reply

    We've also done something about the "insanity" of the gift-giving: our fmaily has a Yankee Swap that everyone participates in.  Each person only has to buy ONE gift!

  6. lisa October 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    The holliday season is so commercial.People do tend to over spend and out do each other.

  7. Brigid OHara Koshko October 30, 2013 at 7:51 am - Reply

    These are wonderful ideas!  I have tried to stay to budgets especially around the holidays but something always ruins my plans.  The best thing I ever did was get rid of all our credit cards five years ago.  You think twice before you buy anything and you learn to plan way ahead.

  8. Maria Iemma October 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the good ideas. It is so easy to overspend during the Holidays. Although I want to make everyone happy I need to make sure I have money to pay all my bills at the end of the month.

  9. CHRISTIE ROBINSON October 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    These are wonderful ideas. I have told everyone that with the economy  like it is, why do we HAVE to shop for each other to recognize Christmas when it's NOT what the TRUE meaning of Christmas is……we should be celebrating Christ's birthday & how everyone has gotten away from that. I would love to just have a meal with my loved one's & enjoy each other for another year together. That's MORE important than ANY gift I could get.

  10. ellen beck November 2, 2013 at 2:48 am - Reply

    Good tips- so many overspend on the Holidays due to what they see on TV, read on the net etc. There is no need to think everyone has a Walton perfect Christmas -they dont. Do with what you have, smile and enjoy your family and non material things.

  11. Rebecca Parsons November 2, 2013 at 2:49 am - Reply

    I couldn't agree more on the Debit instead of Credit.  I refuse to use a credit card during the Holidays.  If you start buying a little here and a little there, it saves you from reaching for the plastic at the peak of buying season.  I am proud to say not 1 credit card in my 20 plus years of buying for Christmas.. 

  12. LisaM November 2, 2013 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Thanks for the tips, I really never thought about buying Holiday dinner stuff in advance.  I'm going to start asap.

  13. Allyson Tice November 2, 2013 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Thank You for posting this! I really needed to read this! I am always trying to make sure everyone is happy at Christmas that I never really sit down and think how much I am spending! I tend to put a LOT on my credit cards and that ends up hurting me in the long run. Thanks for kicking my butt back to reality!

  14. Kayleen Hilyer November 2, 2013 at 11:50 am - Reply

    I am cutting back this year!  For people who have everything and don't need anything – I often make a donation in their honor to a charity that they support/like.  They often will send a personalized gift card to the person or send u a blank card to do it yourself.  I am also doing 2 special gifts for others less fortunate than my family.  I am thinking of making up some cookie boxes for a few people.  At Dollar Tree and Dollar General you can get nice tins and/or cookie boxes to put them in.  For my nieces I buy practical gifts – they have enough grandparents to buy all the fancy toys and I find they like the practical, simple, educational gifts we give more than the pricey, fancy toys!

  15. Carolyn Arroyave November 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Excellent tips.  Favorite tip is use debit instead of credit. I already do this and I believe it saves so much. 

  16. Amy Ledesma November 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Great tips. Concerning spending to keep up appearances that can lead to disaster. I dont think anyone should feel that they must do ,observe,or purchase something out of traditions sake. Each family must decide for themselves if certain traditions are worth keeping because some are very exspensive and time consuming. There is a a certain freedom in doing things completely diffrent than before.

  17. Marcia Lee November 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    I appreciate all the helpful hints. This year I am making all of my presents for friends, family & co-workers. I have been collecting ideas from Pinterest and I am ready to go.

  18. Sarah L November 2, 2013 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    What's a credit card for? Perhaps renting a car or hotel. Other than that my debit card works just fine. I shop year round for gifts which levels out spending.

  19. molly c November 3, 2013 at 1:19 am - Reply

    thanks for the tips! always looking for ways to save money

  20. Raye W November 3, 2013 at 3:56 am - Reply

    Great post with wonderful ideas. I especially love the ecards rather than plastic.
    I have to point out though, with the classroom parties, the schools around here don't allow home made treats due to health concerns, it all has to be store bought, we can't even just 'rev' up something from the store, it has to be totally as is. 
    My family and friends make any and all celebrations pot luck, and we all have our own specialties.

  21. Sandra Beeman November 3, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Angela Quint has touched on all of the money-demanding points of the time period from September to January. I know, through personal learnings, this lengthy and very expensive time can lead to lots of stress. Now i plan all my food and gift purchases very early. The, I can also enjoy the events and holiday I once just endured.

  22. Angie Kissel Weightman November 3, 2013 at 11:15 am - Reply

    When my  son was in high school and college, he and his friends always hit the local Goodwill and used their imaginations to put things together for Halloween costumes for parties, he and his wife still do that.  When we were kids, we were lucky to get a store bought plastic mask and wore regular clothes.

  23. patti k November 3, 2013 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Thanks for the Awesome tips and ideas. We have cut way way back the past few years and I am working on whittling it down a bit more this year.

  24. Keno Moore November 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Great article.I usually over spend on holidays,But i am out of work now and the only gift this year will be for mom.

  25. Susan Harp November 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    What a great list of tips for not going broke by overspending!!!  In my family (their are 6 of us siblings), we take turns with who will host the holiday (Christmas, Easter & Thanksgiving), and then the rest of us bring dishes to pass.  That way one person doesn't end up with all the work and all the expense.  When it comes to gift-giving, we do a name exchange in my extended family of nearly 40 people, which really helps with, not only spending, but also having to think up ideas for so many.  As far as my husband's and my elderly parents, who have everything they need, we give IOU vouchers for services offered throught the year.  They love it and we feel useful!!  I agree that we should not spend beyond our means.  I think we live in a culture where people often try to keep up an image, spending just to look like something they're not, and that's what has put so many people in debt.  You're right on, it is the thought that counts, and it's amazing what a little creativity and common sense can do to keep your holiday (or any time of year) budget on track.

  26. Heather Garcia November 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    informative article that I needed to read, we have for the last few years stopped buying gifts for the adults in the family, it has saved quite a bit if money.

  27. Lynn Tarte November 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    try to stay within budget and give gift appropriate items

  28. Amy November 3, 2013 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing the great tips. We use prepaid cards for shopping and it is nice to know we don't go over budget. 

  29. Carol L November 4, 2013 at 7:08 am - Reply

    Some great tips for cutting back. I espoecially follow the shopping early for Thanksgiving. Thanks for some greta and  hrlpful ways to save money.

    Carol L

  30. Adam Morgan November 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Really excellent tips to keep the fun going without spending a lot.

  31. Wendy T November 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    Don't spend to impress resonated with me. I think that's a big part of it for many people…and if it's not to impress, it's out of a sense of obligation. Either of those reasons should be eliminated, in my opinion – and I'm saying it for me as much as anyone.

  32. md kennedy November 9, 2013 at 10:29 am - Reply

    I know it is not popular but if you really want to be "green" try a meat-free holiday meal!  Production of meat is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases – even more than cars!

  33. heidi eaton November 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    I myself think it's great if I get a home made gift and would love and cherish it, however not everyone feels that way or appreciates the time  or thought you put into it. I raised my kids to appreciate the little things in life. I can remember one Christmas when my mother had no money and shopped at a second hand store,she gave my son a box full of little men I think she said she spent .25 on it. My son love it and played with them for years. Yet she wouldn't give anything like that to my sisters kids because they would have made her feel bad for not buying them something that was new. To my son it didn't matter, he love them just the same.

  34. SD Murray November 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    Great tips!   We have taken things a step further by creating wish lists for each family member of things they wish other family members will help them with this year (things that do NOT cost money and can be done in 4 hrs.)   Each family member chooses one thing off the list to do with or for that person.  You'd be surprised at the things your family members really want to have done or wish they knew how to do!!

  35. ANN*H November 25, 2013 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    This is a good list to help us save money over the holidays.  I try and shop thru out the year if I see things I like on sale. Also we bake cookies or make homemade gift sometimes. Better and more personal than bought gift.  You can also write coupons – like good for 1 hr. of babysitting  or so on.

  36. Financial Buzz news December 26, 2013 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Amazing Blog. Thank you for publish. Much more hang on… …


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