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9 Strategies to Holiday Budgeting on a Shoestring in 2022

3 min read
Use holiday budgeting tips to save you money this season.

If your finances have taken a significant hit due to the pandemic, or you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck, it may feel overwhelming to budget for the holidays. But you absolutely can—and should! In fact, the tighter your finances, the more you’ll benefit from a holiday budget. 

1. Rework your budget categories (then do it again).

Once you’ve calculated your spending limit, list out your budgeting categories as you normally would. Then, work and rework your allocations until everything fits. “If you’re working with a super tiny budget, then trying to include everything in your holiday spending plan might not be realistic,” says financial blogger Rebecca Lake. “So, make a second list but this time, only include those expenses that are non-negotiable for your family to enjoy the holidays. For example, you might narrow it down to gifts, food, and one or two activities.”

2. Use budgeting tools & apps.

When planning a budget, the right app can make all the difference. In addition to apps like Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB), there are now budgeting apps that are specially designed for the holidays. Santa’s Bag, Gift Planner, and Christmas List Snowball can all help you allocate your spending and stay in control of your holiday shopping. 

3. Save on shipping costs.

Search for retailers who offer cheap or free holiday shipping to avoid needless charges on any items you’re having delivered. Also keep an eye out for limited-time free shipping codes or special events like National Free Shipping Day, which takes place on Dec. 14.

4. Opt for a Secret Santa with your family.

If you have a large family, buying gifts for multiple relatives can add up quickly. Suggest a Secret Santa gift exchange where every family member is assigned one person to purchase a gift for. Not only will you and your family save money, but you’ll also have the opportunity to focus on finding that one special gift that your recipient will truly enjoy.

5. Entertain at home.

With pandemic-related rules still impacting much of public life, why not skip the holiday parties and prix fixe dinners and entertain at home this year? Grab some bulk supplies and throw a cocktail party on the cheap, have friends over for a gift exchange, or host a potluck and invite everyone to bring a favorite dish.

6. Buy supplies in the off-season.

One way to get lower prices on holiday items is to shop for seasonal merchandise during the off-season—particularly in January when retailers are having holiday clearance or end-of-season sales. You can find toys, wrapping paper, decorations, and just about anything else if you know where and when to look. 

7. DIY your gifts.

Whatever your talent may be, there’s a good chance you can parlay it into meaningful gifts for your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to get creative and put your own spin on it. For example, if you make amazing chocolate chip cookies, why not whip up a few batches and bottle the mix in mason jars to give as gifts? Your giftee can refrigerate the mix and bake the cookies whenever they like. The options for homemade gifts are endless—you just need to find what works for you. 

8. Join a Buy Nothing group.

Buy Nothing groups are local Facebook groups that let members exchange goods and services without exchanging money. These community-based groups have become wildly popular over the last few years, encouraging people to rethink consumption, reduce mindless spending, and make use of the treasures their community has to offer.   

9. Give the gift of you.

Get into the holiday spirit by giving friends and family something only you can: the gift of your time. Whether it’s free babysitting for your cousin’s kids, volunteering for your best friend’s favorite charity, or making a long drive to see a distant relative who’s never forgotten your birthday, giving of yourself just feels good—and doesn’t cost a thing.

The novelist John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Applying that mentality to the holiday season will certainly keep your spirits bright. 

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