How to get the best possible gifts for your friends & family WITHOUT breaking the bank!
This post is all about Christmas budget hacks.
Christmas is all fun and games… Until it comes to the CRAZY money that is so easy to spend at this time of year if you don’t have a Christmas budget. It’s not all about the cookies and the carols (ok I admit, I’m listening to my Christmas music playlist as I write this). You CANNOT avoid the elephant in the room:
The first year I moved out and was completely managing my own money, I have to admit, I splurged a little. Ok, a lot. And then promised to never let Christmas take control of my bank account again.
What do I mean by this?
I DON’T mean you can’t spend good money on your loved ones.
I DON’T mean that your budget has to take all the joy out of shopping for people.
In fact, having a good frugal Christmas budget that suits your financial situation will actually give you lots of FREEDOM because you won’t be stressed about spending money. You’ll know exactly where you WANT your money to go and you’ll have a lot more control!
This post is all about Christmas budget hacks.
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CHRISTMAS BUDGET HACKS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS:
1. DON’T go into credit card debt!
In November 2019, USA today reported that the average Christmas budget is $1050.
That’s $1050 that you DO NOT want as credit card debt!
And it doesn’t have to become debt.
First of all, you don’t even need to spend upwards of $1000. You can easily get amazing Christmas gifts for all your loved ones for wayyy less than that.
But if upwards of $1000 is the budget that is most realistic for you, that’s fine. You just need to make sure you can afford it (which is what the next few tips will talk about).
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2. Plan ahead!
If you’re already on a pretty tight budget month-to-month, then it’s important that you start setting aside Christmas money a couple months in advance. Figure out how much you can set aside and put it into savings until December. Even if it’s only $20 or $50, that’s enough for a gift for someone!
Already missed the mark on this?
That’s okay! There are still ways you can plan ahead.
How do you do this?
Don’t neglect your budget for this month. Figure out how much money you have left over after your absolute-necessity-expenses.
It might mean you have to sacrifice the new shoes you really wanted to buy yourself.
It might mean a few less holiday drinks at Starbucks.
You’ll survive. You don’t have to sacrifice everything. Just figure out the little things you can cut for the sake of not busting your Christmas budget.
RELATED POST – Ways to Save Money in College [STOP BUYING THESE!]
3. Make a detailed budget.
This is where learning how to set a Christmas budget comes in.
Make a Christmas budget list. This will include the names of all the people you want to buy gifts for, as well as how much money you’re willing to spend on each of them.
How do you know how much to spend on Christmas gifts per person?
There are a couple ways you can do this:
- Think: Do you already have a gift in mind for them? If so, what’s the approximate cost of that gift?
- How much does that person usually spend on you?
- How long have you known that person and how close are you with them? For example, if it’s a new college friend that you just met in September, even if you’ve gotten pretty close, you really don’t need to spend more than $30 on their gift.
Think of people you can put together in your Christmas budget list. Maybe you can get Grandma and Grandpa a joint gift. Or a box of chocolates for your partner’s parents, rather than individual gifts for each parent. You’ll know best what’s most appropriate for your relatives and friends since you’re the one who knows them. But, if people know you’re on a tight budget (ie. you’re a student!) they generally won’t expect you to go crazy on them. So, there’s nothing wrong with joint gifts for some people.
RELATED POST – Christmas Gifts for College Guys (MOST POPULAR OF 2022)
Hey! I’m just going to interrupt this post for a moment — If you want to stay on top of your financial goals in general, here are a couple helpful books I highly recommend!
4. Give yourself wiggle room.
I can’t stress enough how IMPORTANT it is to account for some wiggle room in your budget.
This is NOT so that you can spend more than what you budgeted for each gift.
This is for unexpected gifts you need to buy.
Don’t know what I’m talking about?
Let me paint you a scenario:
The girl across the hall in your dorm building knocks on your door one day and gives you a small gift. So sweet! But are you gonna leave her gesture unrequited?
Here’s another one:
Your boyfriend’s parents invite you to their family Christmas dinner last minute. Are you going to turn up empty handed, or rush to the store for a pie or bottle of wine to show up with? Probably the latter; showing up empty handed never leaves a good impression!
So, you get the point. It’s important to have some wiggle room. I usually leave myself about $50 of wiggle room, but it’s up to you to decide based on your own budget how much money to leave in this category.
RELATED POST – How to Budget in College: 4 Simple Budgeting Tips
5. Track your spending as you go.
You’ve determined how much to spend on Christmas. The most important thing to do now is to NOT go over the budget you’ve set!
Track your spending in a notebook, on your phone, in an app or an excel spreadsheet. This is super important because if we don’t constantly check up on our spending, we forget about the small purchases we made and end up going way over budget.
I seriously can’t stress enough how important this step is. If you do nothing else, do THIS. It is a game changer.
6. DIY is your best friend.
If you’re ready to embrace getting Christmas gifts on a budget, DIY is a great way to go. Here are some amazing ideas of DIY gifts you can make!
- DIY Chunky Blanket (buy the yarn here!)
- DIY Lip Scrub (use these cute mini mason jars to hold the scrub!)
- Bath bombs
- Check out these best DIY Christmas gift ideas on Pinterest!
7. You don’t have to buy gifts for everyone.
Listen, I know alllll about wanting to buy gifts for absolutely everyone you know. If you’re like me and one of your love languages is giving gifts, this might be you, too.
But at times, it might be more appropriate to just give a nice card, maybe with a candy cane or a chocolate.
Are there family friends, college friends, acquaintances, who you want to pass some holiday joy to but don’t necessarily need to buy a gift for?
Instead, buy a stack of Christmas cards — or better yet — make them yourself!
8. You’re on a student budget. People will understand.
I’ve said this before in this post, but at the end of the day, remember that if you’re on a student budget, your loved ones likely already know this and don’t expect you to splurge like crazy on gifts for them.
So, take a breath, don’t stress, stick to your budget, and know that the opportunity to give amazing gifts will faithfully come around again next year.