Are you wondering how to have a magical Christmas for your kids when your budget is way too tight? Get these ideas on how to fill your Christmas with joy and generosity even if you are broke.
One of the hardest things for single moms is not having enough money to make ends meet. This can be a problem especially when you are first separated from your ex and adjusting from the life you had to the life you are creating.
Not enough money is a struggle and in the beginning, you wonder how can I make Christmas special when I can barely pay the rent and buy groceries. Lack of money can feel like a crushing burden and making the holidays special overwhelming.
You may be tempted to put Christmas on your credit card, but that is not the answer. If you don’t have the mone now how will you have it in January when the bill comes due? So then you will have the bill and 18-24% interest which makes me feel like weeping just thinking about it.
What do you need to do instead?
Start by setting a budget for Christmas and sticking to it. If you want to spend more money than you have to try making some extra money to put in your Christmas budget. Can you work some overtime or use one of these ways to make some extra money.
Use rebate apps to save money on the gifts you buy. My favorite is Rakuten (previously Ebates). It is free to sign up and you can get rebates when you shop online. Add the chrome extension and you will get a pop up asking you if you want the rebate, it couldn’t be easier. When you use Rakuten all year and put the money in your Christmas fund next year you will have a few extra dollars without even thinking about it.
How to Save Money on Gifts at Christmas
You can start by trimming the number of people you buy gifts for. Having the adults in the family draw names or pass on receiving gifts is a great way to cut down on the cost of buying gifts. You can buy nice gifts specifically for a person whose name you drew, do a white elephant exchange or draw numbers to see who gets what gifts.
Limiting the gifts you give to nieces and nephews or drawing names among the kids is also a good idea if you have several kids in the family. Too much stuff is overwhelming to the kids and financially overwhelming for the adults. So limit the gifts.
The rest of the family will probably be relieved you are suggesting spending less on gifts. That will me less money spent and less stuff they don’t want or need cluttering up the house.
Try using these cute reusable gift bags to simplify wrapping and save money by not buying new wrapping paper every year. There are so many options for gifts that don’t break the bank even when your Christmas budget is small.
One of the best ways to give frugal gifts is to make your gifts. Crafts or gifts from your kitchen or woodshop are all great options. Besides making your own gifts there are a lot of fun gifts that are cheap to buy.
If you decide to go the make your gifts route here are some suggestions. While you are making these why not make a few extra and sell them to make money to for the Christmas gifts you do plan to buy.
When you are spending little on the gift be sure that you up your game with the presentation. Wrap everything. You don’t have to spend a lot on the wrapping paper look at the dollar store or decorate newsprint (you can usually buy leftover end rolls at the newspaper for cheap). I had the kids decorate end rolls of newsprint with hand and footprints in red and green, the grandparents loved it. Plain brown wrapping paper can be dressed up to make adorable wrapping paper. For smaller gifts, you can use brown paper bags.
Use traditional stocking stuffers as gifts under the tree or just do stocking stuffer gifts for the adults. We usually open a few small things on Christmas Eve then play games and have stocking stuffer gifts on Christmas morning.
We have started a tradition of the main gifts being about creating experiences and spending time together. You might suggest this to your family. For us, it is a great way to look forward to being together again in a few weeks when we go to an event that we planned at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Share Family History
You could make a family gift by having the kids interview the adults about memories and make a family video of the kids interviewing the adults about memories of their childhood or Christmases past with the extra time you have when the adults aren’t opening gifts.
Some interview questions to get you started:
- Where were you when____________depending on the age of the person you could fill this in with when the first man landed on the moon or when you heard about 9/11?
- What has been the most significant invention in your lifetime? How was life different before that invention? (possible answers cell phones, computers, Facebook).
- What was your favorite meal growing up?
Have the kids come up with a few interview questions ahead of time. Then have them work in teams with an interviewer, interviewee, and a camera person. If it is going well and you have time you could have the kids interview each other too.
Have a family member with some video skills put the clips together and give everyone in the family a copy. Video editing might be a great way for some of the teenagers to get involved.
One experience that is fun to share during the holidays is a Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt.
Some of these experience gifts are affordable when you are broke and others will need to wait until a year when you have more money to spend. There are also great suggestions to put on your wish list for the grandparents to give that will ease your budget all year round.
Save on Christmas with Amazon Prime
You get the first month of Amazon Prime free, which will give you free shipping on your gifts. The membership also includes streaming of movies and there are a number of Christmas movies. One of my favorite benefits is the playlists which are included in the membership. They have a number of Christmas playlists including traditional, jazz, pop and country.
Check to see if you are eligible for a discounted rate on Amazon Prime
Decorating for Christmas on a Budget
First, there is the tree. Trees can be expensive to buy. If you bought an artificial tree on clearance after Christmas then you’ve got that covered. If not some places you can get a permit, go out to the woods and cut your own.
You can also use a big house plant or search Pinterest for no tree Christmas tree ideas and piggyback off of someone else’s creativity. Sometimes on Christmas Eve places will give trees away, don’t be too proud to take the free tree. If you have Christmas ornaments from other years go ahead and use them.
Try making some of your Christmas decorations. If you make extras you can give some for gifts.
If you don’t try decorating with old fashioned decorations like stringing popcorn and cranberries, making salt dough or cinnamon & apple sauce dough ornaments with cookie cutters. I’m not very crafty, but I can manage to make ornaments with dough and cookie cutters. You could even make extras and give them as gifts to friends and family. Making the ornaments is part of making special holiday memories with your kids.
Making memories is more important than buying stuff. I put together a list of 39 ideas that cost $5 or less #4 free Christmas concerts at the mall. High schools and colleges often have cheap Christmas concerts. Check out the list to see what other ideas you might like to include in your Christmas celebrating.
Christmas letters are free to write. If you send them via email they are free to send. Have your kids help with creating your letter and you are making another memory.
I set up a Pinterest board to collect ideas on how to have a magical Christmas when you are broke. Check out what else I found here and follow the board to keep up on the new ideas as I add them.
Need more ideas to make and save money for Christmas? You will find them in the Ultimate Guide to Making Ends Meet for Single Moms.
Your kids truly can have special Christmas memories even when you are broke. I’d love to hear how you make Christmas special on a tight budget. You can share them as a comment on this Pinterest pin.
Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
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