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27 Ideas for a Low Budget Christmas

Note: I may earn money or products from the companies, products, or links mentioned in this post.

While growing up, my family did not have a lot of money. My parents budgeted and saved and spent wisely, but holidays like Christmas were still hard for them. There were three of us kids and some years my parents could only afford to spend $50. per child and other times it was $100. per child. When I look back I don’t remember, how much my parents didn’t spend, I only remember the good times we had. Things like putting up and decorating our fake 6-foot Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music, and driving around with the family looking at Christmas lights every year.

Now that I am grown up and have my own family, I realize that it’s ok if we don’t have a lot of money to spend on Christmas. With my son’s special needs, and both of our health problems and more, our Christmas this year will be very tight. That’s why I decided to put together this list! I want to help other families know that it’s not all about the gifts you can or can’t get for your children or family members, it’s about WHY we are celebrating and the memories we make each year.

Together, my good friend Paula and I compiled this list of ideas for a low Budget Christmas. Here is what Paula says about celebrating Christmas with a low budget this year:

As a young family we don’t have tons of extra money to spend on Christmas. I start planning and budgeting months in advance so that we can buy gifts for our families.

I think it is important to remember that not having a lot of money at Christmas time doesn’t mean that Christmas can’t be fun and exciting for every one! Your kids will follow YOUR lead, so if you are stressed and upset, then they will remember Christmas that way, even if you get them 100’s of gifts! But if you are joyful, excited and a bit creative they will remember making happy memories as a family regardless of what gifts you get for them!

There are very few specific presents that I remember receiving as a child, but I DO remember our family times together. Honestly, the gifts I remember most, are the ones that are connected to later memories with my family!

Now that I have my own family, we buy a few low key gifts for each child (most are purchased 2nd hand) and then I try to do lots of crafts and other family traditions each year to make this time of year special and memorable! I have special toys hidden away with our Christmas decorations that only get pulled out at Christmastime, and we try to do a lot of fun things together as a family. Gifts or no gifts, extra money or no, Christmas can be a thrilling time of year celebrating the birth of Christ and celebrating the gift of family. It just takes a bit of creativity (or a handy list like this one!) and the willingness to give it a go!

Here’s to a memory-filled Christmas!!!

**Looking for more low budget ideas? Check out Paula’s Christmas on a Budget Pinterest Board!**

27 Ideas for a Low Budget Christmas

27+ Ideas for a Low Budget Christmas

1. Shop consignment stores or sites like Craigslist for good quality used toys.

2. Hand-write heartfelt letters to your spouse and other family members instead of purchasing gifts. Frame them for a little extra something!

3. Hide a bunch of small gifts (like gum, or stickers) around the house and send each child on a personal scavenger hunt for their gifts.

4. Send your Christmas letter and photo via email instead of regular mail.

5. Walk/drive around looking at Christmas lights. Mini-Van Express Tickets

6. Go on a cheap Christmas date. 10 Holiday Date Ideas.

7. Start a new Christmas tradition! An Ornament Christmas Tradition, Christian Version of Elf on the Shelf, 25 Ornaments of Christmas and Hot Chocolate Bar & Christmas Movie Night.

8. Shop the sales. 10 Sites You Should Know for Christmas Deals

9. No space or money for a tree? Make one of these trees instead and make MEMORIES! Family Tree, Alternative Christmas Trees, Christmas Felt Tree, Instead of Gingerbread Houses Make Gingerbread Trees, Tabletop Knitting Needle Ornament Tree, String Christmas Tree, Paper Plate Christmas Trees, Kid-Friendly Christmas Tree and Cupcake Liner Christmas Trees.

10. Give what little you have to someone else who needs it more. Rescue Project Rainbow and The Christmas Jar.

11. Center your Christmas around family activities instead of gifts and goodies. Activities Advent and Christmas Fun List.

12. Keep it Simple! One readers says, “If three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they’re good enough for our kids.” Simple Gift Giving Philosophy and Keep it Simple Sweetheart.

13. Decorate your tree with items you already have in your house. Use items like cranberries and popcorn (strung on thread and hung like garland).

14. Give  a gratitude journal/notebook in which you document the multiple reasons you are grateful for that special person in your life as a gift. The absolute Best Christmas Gift Idea Ever

15. Make and give yummy Christmas desserts as gifts instead of buying gifts. One reader says, “This year I’m giving all my friends homemade bread. I can make it early, freeze it, then give it. I found some super cheap green bags to put it in then all I need to do is add a bow and it’s done.” Here are just a few recipes to get you started: Mint Chocolate Bark, Peppermint Bark, Peppermint Pretzel Kisses, Tis the Season for Yummy Desserts, Christmas CookiesChristmas Tree Brownies, and Chocolate Dipped Candy Canes.

16. Have a homemade Christmas, where everything is homemade. How to Plan a Homemade Christmas

17. Make homemade gifts instead of buying them. Handmade Gifts for the Kids

18. Make homemade decorations instead of buying them. Here are a few examples: Christmas Glitter Branches, Homemade Noel Letters, DIY Pine Cone Garland, 20 DIY Christmas Decor Ideas, Hobby Lobby Letter Wrapped in Garland, Christmas Decorating with Kitchen Items, Craft Stick Snowflakes, How to Make a Rag Wreath, Ornament Wreath, Snowflake Frames, DIY Ruffle Tree Skirt and Toilet Paper Roll Snowflakes.

19. Make Homemade ornaments instead of buying them. 130 Homemade Ornaments, 25 Christmas Ornaments to Make, Salt Dough Ornaments, Christmas Thumbprint Tree Ornament and Personalized Scrabble Ornaments.

20. Save on your electric bill by decorating with ribbons and/or tinsel etc. and NOT lights on the house or tree.

21. Do “Christmas Pajamas” pictures instead of pictures in fancy clothing to save money on outfits.

22. Use fruit as stocking stuffers instead of expensive candy.

23. Sell old toys/clothes to a local consignment store for extra cash for new gifts!

24. Go Christmas caroling as a family and make memories.

25. Do something for others: take Christmas cookies to the elderly in a nursing home.

26. Let the kids do cheap Christmas crafts. Printable Nativity Scenes and Christmas Craft Week

27. Instead of buying a ton of gifts have the family just to do stocking stuffers and see how many cheap gifts you can fit into each stocking! Fun Ideas for Your Hubby’s Stocking and 50 Cheap Stocking Stuffer Ideas.


What do YOU do to save money or to have a low budget Christmas?

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    1. No problem! I just really loved your post about your version of Elf on the Shelf and had to share! I have never done Elf on the Shelf, but I definitely am going to be incorporating your idea! 🙂

  1. What a terrific list you have put together! Thanks for including my post on the Best Christmas Gift Ever.

    We love to do thoughtful gifts: putting together scrapbooks, creating home movies out of pictures and music, taking items we find for cheap or free at yard sales or thrift stores and changing them into something better.

    For instance, my daughter loves containers for her jewelry. I found an ugly wood tray last year in a free pile at a yard sale. I painted it to match her other items (she already had the paint!), and we gave the now adorable tray to her for Christmas.

    1. No problem! Thanks for letting me share it! 🙂
      Love your ideas! Sounds like your family is very creative, thanks for sharing with us!!

  2. Pinning this list for when I have more time to visit all the links you included. We are already planning to not send Christmas cards this year. Just not in the budget.

    1. Great! I hope it helps you. I agree with you about the Christmas cards, only doing for close friends and family this year.

    1. Hi Lisa!
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I read your blog post and I agree… it does seem that the focus is elsewhere these days. So sad. glad you liked my blog post, I appreciate it!

  3. You’ve put together a great list here! I hope more people will focus on having fun with family and friends instead of spending a lot of money :). Glad to find you through Saturday Sharefest!

  4. Visiting from SITS today. I love our suggestions, and I think it is nice that many of them create experiences with the family. That is what the holidays should be all about.

  5. Happy Sharefest! 🙂 These are some great ideas! I haven’t been caroling in years, but it sure is a lot of fun! 🙂 We’ve also done some homemade gifts…in fact, we do them most of the time regardless of finances, especially if the homemade includes Christmas cookies! LOL 🙂 People tend to enjoy them so much, so why not? We’ve even donated books along with a tray of cookies to our doctor’s office before. That was a blessing to all of us. 🙂 Thanks for posting this list!

    1. I haven’t either, but I used to love going caroling! We used to do it with my in-law’s and I always had fun. People should totally bring that back! Yes, I love giving and getting Christmas cookies, one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I really love your idea of donating books, that is such a great idea! Thanks for sharing and stopping by! 🙂

  6. It’s so lovely to find someone with old fashioned values. This is wonderful. I have very little so I am making cookie mixes decorated for everyone. Many of these ideas are what my own Mother did as a widow with 3 children at Xmas..

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post! We are a military family on a low budget so these are some things we do every year as well. I agree, many of these we did as kids as well. Love those memories!

  7. $50 or $100 is POOR? Geesh we must really be in the poverty stricken. We have 3 grown daughters, 3 Son’s in law, and 7 Grandchildren. I TRY to keep the cost down to $20 dollars per child and $50 per son in law and $100 for daughter’s. And per the IRS, we are more than middle class, however our budget doesn’t show it.

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