Conquering 9 Budget Busters this Holiday Season

Last week Sam wrote a great post that gave you some tips on giving gifts to all the people that made it on the nice list this year, but we all know that gift-giving isn’t the only area that drains our bank accounts during the holidays.  Here is a list of my Top 9 Holiday Budget Busters and how you can prepare yourself ahead of time so that they don’t break your Christmas Spirit.

ugly sweaters

1.Social Party Circuit: Part of the greatness that is the holiday season is spending time with people you love and catching up with people you haven’t seen much of throughout the year.  It’s up to you to make sure your money doesn’t disappear on the dance floor at a NYE bash or an ugly sweater bar crawl. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Don’t bring your debit and/or credit card to these parties. Bring only as much cash as you want to spend—if you don’t have the option of spending more, you simply can’t.
  • Dance. Dancing is fun, and it keeps you away from the bar. Plus, how many exceptional dance moves incorporate you putting a bottle or glass to your lips—not too many, which makes you slow down your drinking, thus you spend less.
  • Don’t feel the need to buy a new dress for each party you attend. If you really feel like your closet is lagging in holiday attire, maybe you can make a deal to do a clothes swap with one of your girlfriends. One woman’s trash could be another gal’s holiday treasure.
  • Remember that attendance is not mandatory. You don’t have to attend every holiday party or get together you are invited to, so don’t put that kind of added stress on yourself, especially during the holiday season.  A night in with a mug of hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps will save you money and also give you time to let your body and mind rest.

2. Office Parties:  Okay so we are all crossing our fingers and hoping to see two magical words on the holiday party invite—OPEN BAR!!! If you work for a company that is providing you with a free holiday feast and barrels of wine, congratulations…and remember to control yourself 😉 If you aren’t, realize that it is probably a blessing in disguise. It’s in poor taste to get sloshed at your work party anyway, so take it easy—for the sake of your wallet and your career.  Don’t feel like you need to buy a new dress or other attire—how often do you see your co-workers on a Saturday night anyway? If it’s not business casual, it is probably “new” to them.


3. Gifts: Planning ahead definitely helps you survive Christmas season without acquiring debt as well as helping you find the best gifts for the people you love. If you didn’t get a jump start, don’t freak out—there are other alternatives. Etsy has several well priced gift options, give all of your friends one of your specialty dishes or desserts (that you secretly made in bulk and then divided up) with a sweet card or note, give the gift of your time and then pick up the tab for the drink/dinner they had while hanging out with you, or look for something personal. Thought trumps money.

4. Donations: If those less fortunate than yourself are on your gifting list this year, hats off to you and your big heart. J The amount you give should be relevant to the amount you have. Just realize that every little bit you give is a little bit that someone didn’t have before.  If you don’t have a lot of extra money this season there are still ways that you can give to a charitable cause:

  • At the register, donate your change or round up your total cost to the nearest dollar to donate to the cause that the retailer or restaurant is promoting.  It’s an easy way to give a little at a time.Donate your time to a good cause. Time is just as valuable (if not more) as money.
  • Start or contribute to a food drive.
  • Start or contribute to supporting a family in need. Many churches often choose families to sponsor over the holidays—join in!
  • If you are hosting a party, do double duty and instead of a gift exchange or potluck ask your guests to bring a can of food or article of clothing to go towards a drive.
  • Spread the word about charities that you support fully with your heart but can’t financially support on your own. Word of mouth is powerful and its efficiency is underrated. I don’t have tens of thousands to give, but I can still share their stories.

Click here to get an update on Baby Mackenzie’s progress and learn about how you can donate to help pay her medical bills.

baby mack

Click on this cutie’s picture to learn more about how being born prematurely has affected her first year and how you can help support her and her family.

Click here to learn more about Lindsey’s story and how you can help her get the treatment she needs to live.


Click on Lindsey’s picture to learn more about her story and how you can help!

5. Potlucks: Is this holiday season or potluck season?!?!? Seriously food and parties that require you to bring food will be EVERYWHERE starting now and ending once everyone makes their New Year’s Resolutions to eliminate their potbellies. I want to bring a dish that people will like, but I’m not going to spend more on one potluck dish than I would on a nice dinner.  In order to stop the pennies you spend on your potluck contribution from adding up quickly, try to make a dish for which the ingredients are already sitting in your kitchen. If your cupboards are bare, go hit the grocery store with an open (and frugal) mind.  There is always something on sale, and if you get creative you can easily make it work for less than $10.00. Making a dish yourself will require you spend a little more time preparing, but it will save you money.

6. Travel Expenses: Getting close to family and friends is a top priority for many of us this time of year. I only know of one jolly fellow who has a magical sleigh that can take him around the world free of charge, but for the rest of us, travel costs over the holidays can get pretty steep.  Although it’s no reindeer drawn sleigh, a plane doesn’t have to be a completely cash-consuming means to your nearest and dearest. Sam wrote an entire post about saving while traveling that you can find here. Below are some more tips that can help you save a little or lot when you are soaring next to Rudolph this holiday season.

  • Shop around for flights—explore several airlines, across several times of day, and be as flexible as possible on your travel dates.
  • Pack your own snacks or suck it up and let your stomach growl on the flight—yes I went there.
  • Provide your own entertainment—those stores with magazines and books are so overpriced. Take the time to pack your kindle, current book/magazine, and have your phone/iPod charged.  You could also partake in my favorite flight activity—the nap!
  • Phone a friend instead of a taxi if possible. You can save anywhere from $20-$100 just by not leaving your car in long-term parking while you are away.
  • Pack Light! Several airlines will charge you for extra bags or extra-heavy bags, but this is totally avoidable if you pack well and reasonably. I’m guessing there will be a place for you to do laundry at your holiday destination, so take advantage of it….and (gasp!) wear some of your clothes more than once! If Duchess Kate re-wears her clothes shamelessly, so can you!

Pile of illuminated string lights

7. Decorations: Nobody wants their home to look like the Grinch’s cave during the month of December, but let’s get real—it is only one month.  It is possible to feel the holiday cheer without overspending.  Major discount stores, such as Dollar Tree or The 99 Cent Store, carry all your holiday basics—garland, lights, tinsel, wrapping paper, bows, cards, gift bags, and stocking stuffers. You can also up the holiday atmosphere by doing something as simple as filling a clear vase or bowl with spray painted pine cones, white Christmas lights, or peppermints.  And no matter how burnt out you are by the time January rolls around, pack up all your favorite holiday décor pieces instead of throwing them out. In about 330 days you will be really happy you did :)

brit and bess

8. Boozin’: In addition to the parties you will be eating candy canes at that have actual invites and required RSVPs, you will probably be meeting up with many of your friends from high school and/or college. When you leave your childhood homes and head to your favorite bars or restaurants, decide how much you want to spend on drinks ahead of time, and bring only that amount of money out with you, IN CASH. It’s the most fool-proof way to succeed at beating your bar tab.

9. Hosting: For all the brave souls that are playing host/hostess this year—first things first, you are AWESOME.  Now, down to the business of trying to save you some money without annoying or disappointing your guests.

  • Don’t go overboard with decorations. Just like a wedding, people are going to remember A – How much fun they had, and B – Mmmm that food was good!
  • If you are providing food, do it easily and in bulk: Salads, Crockpots, appetizers, and desserts are a hostess’s best friend. And don’t feel like everyone needs a piece of everything—packing up leftovers at the end of a long night can be a hassle anyway. Make your life easier by being sure all the food will be consumed by the end of the night.
  • Accept help if it is offered. Your friends are offering to help because they want to, so let them. This is not the same thing as demanding help.
  • Providing entertainment doesn’t need to cost as much as 100 gallons of eggnog. Board games, card games, tacky holiday attire, and a solid playlist are all cheap and sure to make everyone’s sleigh bells ring. I stumbled upon a Christmas Vacation Drinking Game during a Pinterest binge earlier this year, and it seems like a good time. Click on this majestic picture of Clark and Ellen Griswold to learn how to play. Or get think outside the box and create your own game!

Click on this link to get details on the Christmas Vacation Drinking Game: on the picture to learn how to play.

  • You get to decide how/if people give gifts. It’s your party, if you want to do a white elephant, that’s cool. If you just want to party, that’s cool too. Be confident and comfortable with whatever you decide.
  • If the shindig is informal and especially if you are providing food, make it BYOB.

Christmas is still over a month away, but the holiday season going be in high gear in less than 2 weeks! If you start thinking about where and how you will be spending your money right now, you can feel like this

xmas splits

instead of like this

grumpy grinch

by the time that jolly old man squeezes down your chimney!

We want to know–what strategies do you use to make sure you enjoy time with your family and friends during the holidays without majorly impacting your finances?

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