Christmas Shopping on a Budget 3
Frugal Living

How to Buy Lots of Christmas Gifts on a Budget

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In the spirit of getting ready for Christmas, my December posts are going to be centered around how to make the most out of the holiday season without overloading yourself or your budget.

Check out the Table of Contents at the end of this post for more posts in the series! I’ll add them as I get the posts up.


As we head into the final weeks of Christmas shopping (or, let’s be honest, some of us are just starting), you might be wondering, how can I buy all the Christmas gifts I need without going over budget?


In my experience, this fear comes from one thing: Expectations

Expectations of how many gifts each person will get.

Expectations of how big each individual gift will be.

Expectations for each Christmas being “better” than the last.


When it comes to Christmas shopping, these barriers keep us from fitting the gifts we buy into our budget, so we end up fitting our budget to the gifts we want to buy, even if it means going into debt.

Whether you’re short on cash, trying to pay debt off quickly, or just trying to be frugal, these tips can help you make the most of your money this Christmas season.

Lower your cost by buying fewer gifts

1. Manage expectations

I think one thing that breaks our Christmas budgets is the feeling like we have to get multiple gifts for each person.

This is especially for parents with young children, since kids see the amount of gifts as mattering way more than the quality.

If they’re old enough to understand, explain to your children that Christmas might look a little different based on your current budget. While they might still be slightly disappointed, your kids will go into the holiday season with realistic expectations.

Focus on quality, not quantity

When you’re looking for gifts, choose items that have meaning and will last. Don’t just fill your cart with random toys you just found simply to make sure that each child has the same amount of toys.

Also, you don’t have to get a gift for every single extended family member. If you have something particularly meaningful to give them, by all means go ahead!

But if you’re just finding random knick-knacks for the extra people on your list (that they probably won’t use anyway), you can save lots of money by not buying those.

I’m sure that might upset some people, but if your goal is to save money, you’re going to either have to get fewer gifts or spend less on average on each person you’re shopping for.


2. Limit the number of gifts

One way to reduce the amount of gifts you’re buying is to not get everyone multiple gifts.

Stick with one or two gifts that are meaningful to the recipient and that they will actually use.

If you usually try to make things “even” for people like kids or siblings by getting everyone the same number of presents, focus instead on getting them quality gifts. They’ll probably enjoy a meaningful gift more than something random you found to finish out your shopping.


3. Do a gift exchange

This is something we’re doing this year with my husband’s side of the family, and it’s really nice to only have a couple people to shop for. This way, the two of us are only finding gifts for two people instead of a dozen or so.

This also has the result of meaning that we can spend more money on those two people’s gifts if we choose because we’re not having to buy lots of small gifts.

It also means we won’t be opening presents for over 5 hours this year, which I’ll admit felt a bit overkill last year.

By doing a gift exchange, you can put all your focus on getting something the other person will love and people won’t be overloaded with dozens of gifts that cost a couple dollars that they may or may not even use. Yay for minimizing things coming into our homes that will just end up as clutter!

Lower your cost by spending less on each gift

4. Seek out sales

If you can’t reduce the number of gifts you’re buying, the next stop is to spend less to get those gifts.

One of the best ways to do this is to keep an eye out for sales. Lots of store have them around this time of the year to encourage you to buy your Christmas gifts at their store.

You don’t have to do all your Christmas shopping at the same store, or even all in the same town or day. It can be helpful to check out stores based on who is having a sale on what you need to buy.

Not only will buying something on sale save you money, but you will get the same quality as the full price because you’re buying the same product (as opposed to buying a generic item and getting what you paid for).


5. Shop around

If you can’t find a sale on the item you need, check its regular price at other stores, including online ones.

This can help you save money because different stores mark up the price of the same item by different amounts. By shopping around, you might even be able to find a gift at one store for a cheaper amount than its sale price at another store!


6. Do It Yourself

Depending on the gift, making it yourself might be more cost-effective than buying it already completed.

Yes, you’ll have the cost of materials, but you’ll save on the cost of labor (especially when compared to handmade items). Plus, you’ll have something unique that’s customized to you and/or the person you’re giving it to.

If you need ideas for gifts you can make and give to your friends or family members, check out my list of Homemade Christmas Gifts you can Start Now (also linked in the table of contents at the bottom of the post).

How Christmas shopping within your budget can lead to a simple holiday season

7. Don’t try to “outdo” yourself

There is no rule anywhere that says you always have to go “bigger and better” than the previous Christmas. And doing so can cost hundreds of dollars.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make an effort to make Chrismtas special, but you don’t have to spend more on gifts or have more gifts than you did last year.

Just make sure the gifts you do buy are meaningful and/or useful to the recipient.


8. Focus on what really matters

I personally think that putting the focus on making Christmas “better” every year in terms of gifts received puts the focus too much on material items instead of the real reason for Christmas.

We can do our families a service by making Christmas simpler and more peaceful instead of it being a hectic season with lots going on. Less stress for you means more fun times for making Christmas memories.

Paring down the amount of Christmas shopping and gifts can help that. Instead of coming up with things to give our kids that they don’t even really need, focus on giving them meaningful gifts and Christmas memories. Those memories will last for years, and you don’t need to go over budget on gifts to make them possible.


Simplifying Christmas – Blog Series

Homemade Gifts You Can Start Now

How to Buy Lots of Christmas Gifts on a Budget (you’re here)

Stay tuned for more!


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  1. These are all great tips, and much needed during a year like this one. My husband was laid off due to COVID-19 in our area back in September, and we have three kiddos to buy presents for! We have always been a quality over quantity family, and we’ve worked on managing expectations this year.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that! Christmas is such an exciting time of year for kids, but it sounds like yours are handling it pretty well. Plus, there are so many fun things to do with kids that don’t require buying a gift, like baking cookies or watching Christmas movies.

      I’m sure they’ll have some fun Christmas memories from this year to look back on and they’ll probably remember those more than the number of presents under the tree.

  2. My biggest hurdle is #7! I feel like I’ve set expectations for gifting based on previous Christmases, and if I don’t meet those expectations again then there will be disappointment. 🙁

    1. It’s so hard, isn’t it? We set a budget and try to stick to it, but then we feel like we have to hold ourselves and our Christmas gifts to a certain standard and we end up blowing the budget.

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