Save Money And Celebrate The Holidays On A Budget

During the course of the year, it’s apparent that there’s almost always something to celebrate.

Expenses for holidays and special occasions can add up quickly.

The best way to control spending is through the use of a holiday budget.

I’ll provide an outline of how to create a holiday budget and give you tips on how to save money for each of the categories.

Let’s get to it!

holiday budget

Save Money And Celebrate Holidays On A Budget

STEP #1 – Prepare A Holiday Budget Using Categories.

To save money, using a holiday budget for each area of your celebration is the smart way to go.

It takes out the guesswork of how much you can spend in each category.

The goal is to allocate money to the areas that are most important to you!

Here are 5 categories for your holiday budget*:

*When creating your budget, add and remove any categories to suit your needs.

#1. Traditions/Memorable Experiences

#2. Decorations

#3. Gifts

#4. Meals

#5. Travel

Let’s briefly review each category:

#1. Traditions/Memorable Experiences

There’s a personal meaning to the event that you continue to do as the years go by.

These are the experiences that will be fondly remembered for a lifetime.

It depends largely on your tradition, but some can be more budget-friendly than others.

For instance, a tradition of a family football game is free versus a trip to a resort that can reach into the thousands.

#2. Decorations

Do you find yourself springing for all the fun and new decor items at Target?

If so, it’s essential to allocate a good chunk of your holiday budget for decorative items.

#3. Gifts

This area will vary for each holiday, depending on the extent of the gift-giving.

Along with the actual gift, include all materials and wrapping in the budget.

#4. Meals

Oftentimes, meals are included in many celebrations.

Think Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays – it’s likely a central part of the whole occasion.

#5. Travel

Some holidays may require extra travel either by car, airplane, bus, or train.

If it relates to the holiday you’re celebrating, add it to your budget.


Here’s an example of how your holiday budget could look using the 5 categories:

Holiday Budget*: $1,000

*Personalize your holiday budget to fit the specific occasion you’re celebrating. In your situation if there are categories that overlap, feel free to use the ones that suit you best!

Holiday CategoriesBudget Amount
Traditions/Memorable Experiences$200
Holiday Budget Total$1,000

STEP #2 – Save Money On Your Holiday Categories.

This next step considers saving money on the areas that you have placed importance on in Step #1.

Your holiday budget may be the bare minimum or it’s “just enough”, so why not add in some room to ensure your budget stays intact?

I’ll give you ideas for each of the categories!

#1. Traditions/Memorable Experiences

This category can vary widely in scope and price.

A simple way to save money here is to review your current traditions for areas to streamline and update.

For example, traveling to see family during the holidays can be planned and purchased far in advance. Check areas that are cheaper for all family members to gather to celebrate the occasion.

Also, consider if your traditions still serve their purpose or if it’s only because “you’ve always done it”.

Try adding in new traditions that are more cost-effective that can still bring about the desired result.

There may be times that traditions and memorable experiences are much less expensive than other categories on your holiday budget.

Let’s say for an occasion, you opt to take an inexpensive road trip to a nearby [insert location] for the holiday. As a result, you may end up taking other categories off your list, such as decor and gifts.

Here are some budget-friendly memorable experience ideas:

••• Local 4th of July fireworks and festivities.

••• Halloween hayride.

••• Volunteer at shelter for Thanksgiving dinner.

••• Christmas lights drive through neighborhood and/or park.

#2. Decorations

Scale down your fancy factor.

AKA – less picture perfect.

To bring your decoration budget down, find a few key pieces that you can reuse over and over.

If you’re seeking items to bulk up your selection, look for deals at the dollar store and right after the holiday season.

When it comes time to store decorations away, use a good sturdy box. You can find a big plastic tub at Target or Amazon to use for storing decorations.

Here are holiday decorating ideas to consider: 

••• Use Christmas cards (you’ve received from years past) to decorate throughout your house. Put them in the tree, wreath, mantle, or string them together to put over a door frame.

••• Make your own wreath! There are plenty of ways you can craft your own. Simply get a round styrofoam, metal, or straw form, a glue gun, and any other decorations such as ribbons, bows, greenery. The options are endless!

••• Switch to colored lightbulbs to set the tone for the specific holiday.

••• Use home decor items year-round to elevate your space for celebrations (ie. heart-shaped tray, different colored candles, floral centerpiece).

••• Do a share and swap with your closest friends. This method will bring in new-to-you decor items for the season without costing you anything!

#3. Gifts

Most holidays can be gift-intensive, but if you approach it with a budget then you can have holiday cheer without the added debt.

Try making a “Holiday Gift List” of all the occasions that you’re planning to gift-give – Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Christmas, etc.

••• For each person (or group) on your “Holiday Gift List“, add a dollar amount you want to spend on them.

••• Add the item(s) that you’re likely to purchase for the recipient(s).

••• Keep an eye out for sale advertisements in-store and online for those items.

••• When the item is a good price, pounce and buy – even if the occasion is months away.

••• Bonus: Purchase from a retailer that offers cash back through Ebates!

All it takes is some pre-planning and you’re set for each gift-giving occasion.

For an example of the “Holiday Gift List” and a complete list of gift budget tips, check it out here: 

More money-saving ideas:  

#4. Meals

These aren’t average meals.

Think about the meals you have for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, Anniversaries.

They’re all either fancy home-cooked or in a restaurant setting.

Normally you may go “all out” and cook all your favorite holiday type foods or decide to visit a restaurant and spring for an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and a nice drink.

This all adds up and it may or may not already be within your normal budget. 

Here are meal ideas to consider:

••• Holiday potluck – each person brings a dish and the host makes the protein.

••• Sign up for Birthday discounts from your favorite restaurant establishments.

••• Get your favorite meal to-go from a restaurant and serve it on a fancy plate with candlelight (so you don’t actually have to pay 5-star prices for ambiance)

••• Find budget-friendly holiday recipes that can be made with 5 ingredients or less.

#5. Travel

If you’re traveling for the holidays and want tips and tricks for saving money on airfare, hotels, meals and more – check out my popular articles below for all the details!

holidays on a budget

Bottom Line

When it comes to holidays on a budget, if you’re seeking to save money – there’s always a way to do it.

Let’s review!

#1 – Use categories to budget your holiday spending. 

#2 Save money on your categories by planning and managing your resources. Consider what’s the most important to spend your money on in each of the circumstances.

Enjoy your Holidays and celebrate debt-free!

Get the Budget + Tracking Spreadsheet!  It comes with a 20-page guide to help you get started. It’s much more than having a “budget”. It’s about knowing where your money is going and seeing the big picture.



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