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10 Thoughtful Tips to Save on Next Year’s Christmas Now

Soft focus, woman looking at Christmas receipts with calculator.

With inflation and rising energy costs, Christmas can feel like a daunting expense at an already costly time of year. Granted, it’s often unnecessary as celebrating the holiday doesn’t need to be done through consumerism. There are plenty of ways to join in without spending a penny.

But most of us, myself included, choose to celebrate in a way that costs money, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So, stop feeling guilty about not wanting a holiday where everyone puritanically agrees to skip the presents and decorate the house with ornaments made of sticks from the backyard.

With a little creativity and planning ahead of time, you can have a great Christmas without breaking the bank. This isn’t a list of insane ideas about coupon-clipping or clearance section shopping for gifts no one wants. It’s a list of thoughtful tips to help you save money and your sanity next Christmas and put the focus back where it belongs – on each other.

Tip #1: Do Your Christmas Shopping All Year Long

Flipping calendar pages.

The best way to keep Christmas from being astronomically expensive is to spread it throughout the entire year. Granted, this requires a slight mental shift in how you approach the holiday. You can save money and spread out the cost over the year, so you aren’t hammered with expenses in December.

For many folks, it’s not necessarily the cost of Christmas that makes us pull our hair out; it’s the cost of Christmas all at once.

Pick up gifts for friends and family as you come across them. This method of buying gifts works best for older friends and family whose tastes you know well. It’s tough to ask your seven-year-old for gift ideas in April because they will most likely want something different by December.

Mini Tip: Christmas Gift Storage

When you do your Christmas shopping all year, it helps to have a designated storage tote to keep all your finds in one place; that way, you aren’t searching for lost gifts in December. Losing gifts does not save money.

Tip #2: Hit Up Back-to-School Sales for Wrapping Supplies and Stocking Stuffers

"Back to School!" written on a little chalkboard next to a tiny shopping cart filled with school supplies.

Back-to-school shopping can also include a bit of Christmas shopping each year. It’s the best time to get great deals on things like tape and scissors for wrapping presents. It’s also a gold mine for inexpensive and useful stocking stuffers like fancy pens, fun erasers, pencil cases, water bottles, journals, fun notepads etc.

Tip #3: Fill Your Stockings Year ‘Round

Speaking of stockings. If you’ve been limiting your stocking stuffers to red and green trinkets only found in stores in December, then you’re likely wasting money on things that will be forgotten as soon as the wrapping paper has been cleared from the living room floor.

Instead, treat stockings as a way to curate a collection of tiny, fun, useful things for the giftee. Suddenly the options are limitless all year long. And with that in mind, it’s much easier to keep an eye out for bargains.

Is their favorite lip balm on sale? Great, grab a couple and toss them in your Christmas storage tote. Oh hey, that pair of socks with Captain America on them is half-off. Ooh, matchbox cars are BOGO this week. You get the idea.

Tip #4: Stop Shopping for Gifts on Black Friday/Cyber Monday

A mob of people grabbing for TVs in a store on Black Friday.

Yes, the deals are incredible, but how many people on your list need a 65” QLED Smart TV with a free Roku stick at 33% off? Black Friday is a great day to replace your broken electronics. It’s not a great day to shop for meaningful gifts for friends and family and save money.

And that LEGO kit your 12-year-old has to have? It’s probably the same price all year long, wherever it’s sold, because LEGO isn’t known for slashing prices. There are some gifts you’ll pay full price for no matter what, so it’s best to save your time by saving money on other holiday expenses.  

We’ve been suckered into believing this is the be-all and end-all time to get deals, deals, deals!

That’s because retailers know if they can get us in the store or, looking at their website, we’ll spend more on impulse buys we didn’t know we needed until they’re right in front of us.

If you’re going to buy gifts on these days, make a list and stick to it!

Tip #5: Have an Honest Conversation About Gifts After the Holidays

I’m not suggesting axing presents altogether, but perhaps there are some folks in your life where gift-giving seems silly or redundant for both of you. Have an honest conversation with them about the practicality of continuing to give gifts.

For instance, if you have a sibling for whom you spend the same amount on gifts for each other, and it feels more like a routine than a chance to show them you care, maybe it’s time to look for a better way to show you care.

I have a friend that I have lunch with once a month. This also included the prerequisite gift exchange in December. Eventually, we both agreed that the gifts were superfluous and that the lunch was important. So, we stopped exchanging gifts and opted to wear silly Christmas outfits to our December lunch instead. 

Oh, and for all you adult kids out there, as your parents, yes, we mean it when we say we would rather have your presence than your presents.

Tip #6: Homemade Gifts & Time vs. Money

A woman's hands knitting with green yarn.
“Okay, only 348,719 stitches to go before Christmas. I got this!”

As I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to see that my most important commodity is not money; rather, it’s my time. Oddly enough, some of my more creative ways to save money consumed my time and cost more in the long run.  

I went through a phase where I was going to save our family oodles of cash by making all of our Christmas presents! (Yeah, I see that knowing smile, you know where this is headed.)

In the end, I had no free time from November to February, and I was biting my family and friends’ heads off because I was so stressed. To make matters worse, I had to purchase last-minute gifts (on top of the expense for my materials) because I ran out of time to make everything. It took me three Christmases to figure out this plan was fatally flawed.

I’ve also spent hours making beautiful or tasty handmade gifts only to discover that the recipient never used them.

I remember visiting a friend’s house and seeing a jar of jam I made sitting in their pantry unopened…four years after I gave it to them. After I got over the sting of my gift not being appreciated, I thought I really liked that batch of jam and would have rather had it for our family to eat if I had known it would go to waste.

So, I stopped making homemade presents.

Take a good hard look at your motivation behind homemade presents; if you want to save money, it’s unlikely that you will.

You’re better off purchasing a small, thoughtful present. If you want to share your skills and time by making a homemade gift for someone who will appreciate it, then, by all means, get making.

Tip #7: Take Advantage of Post-Christmas Sales for Seasonal Items

After Christmas sale in Target.

Is your cache of wrapping paper looking a little depleted? Did you run out of curling ribbon at the eleventh hour? Did the cat knock over the tree, destroying half of your Christmas baubles? How about that string of lights that only half the lights work?

Now is the time to get some great deals on seasonal items.

For as long as I can remember, the day after Christmas, my mom, grandma and I would hit the post-Christmas sales. Mom would buy all her gift wrap and accessories on December 26th and put them in a closet for the following year. It’s a tradition I’ve stuck to, and it’s saved me plenty over the years.

Mini Tip: Get The Cheap Stuff

Skip the expensive, thick wrapping paper. I remember one year, I decided to purchase the “good stuff.” I bought some nice, heavy wrapping paper. And come Christmas morning, we had the hardest time opening presents. That beautiful, quality paper was ridiculously hard to rip. Anyone under ten needed an adult’s help to open their gifts that year.

Part of the excitement of Christmas morning is ripping the paper, especially if you’re under ten. Opt for the cheaper stuff; it’s way more fun.

Mini Tip: Grab That Half-Off Chocolate

Our family loves having all those fun Christmas chocolates on hand. (My waistline…not so much.) But it’s crazy how quickly a few bags of chocolate can add up.

Take advantage of after-Christmas sales by snatching up chocolates at half-off or better. You can freeze chocolate for next year.

Before you give me that look, yes, you can freeze chocolate for a year without it tasting like it’s been frozen for a year. But there’s a trick to it.

You first need to take the chocolate out of the big bag it comes in and vacuum-seal it. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, use a freezer-safe zip-top plastic bag and straw to remove as much air as possible. Double bag for the best results. This keeps the chocolate fresh and protects it from picking up any funky smells or flavors while it does its time in cryo storage.

Next, refrigerate your chocolate haul for 24 hours before you freeze it. When you take the chocolate out of the freezer, let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before letting it come to room temperature.  

Tip #8: Buy Decorations Second-Hand or Pick Them Up for Free

Some of my favorite Christmas decorations have been picked up at yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets. And I usually find them in the middle of the summer. Facebook Marketplace is fantastic for finding free or cheap Christmas lights and outdoor decorations.

Tip #9: Switch to LED Lights and Smart Plugs

Soft focus LED Christmas lights.

Yes, this requires an expenditure up front, but it pays for itself in the end. I can’t even begin to tell you how much less expensive LED lights are than the old incandescent lights. (Not to mention safer.) I just remember being floored the first year we got our electric bill in January after we bought LEDs; there was no spike in the December bill from our Christmas lights.

If you want to save even more, use a smart plug and set a schedule for your lights, so they come on and turn off at the same time each day.

Tip #10: Learn to Guard Your “Yes”

 Graphic, two Christmas trees and text that reads "'Tis the season to say no thank you."

Most of us don’t like the word “no.” We don’t like hearing it and don’t like saying it, especially when it comes to family and friends. But all those things we say yes to – parties, Secret Santa gift swaps, cookie exchanges and drinks with friends add up quickly. Before you know it, you’ve got a full calendar and an empty wallet, and you’re stressed to the max.

‘Tis the season to learn to say, “No, thank you.”

People pleasers take note: saying no makes us uncomfortable, so instead, say, “I’m not sure, let me check my calendar, and I’ll get back to you.” This gives you extra time to decide and submit your no without feeling pressured by the person standing before you.

You may have noticed how many of these tips also focus on saving you time.

That’s because there’s a direct correlation between wasting time and wasting money. When you slow down, you have more time to make better decisions, which usually leads to saving money.

View of two pairs of feet on a coffee table in front of a fireplace. Mug and gift on the table.

By spreading out your expenses over the year and shopping for certain items before December, when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll find more cash in your pocket, less stress in your life and more time to enjoy the season. Because if you aren’t enjoying it, it kind of defeats the purpose of spending all that time and money in the first place.  

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,