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Money-Saving Holiday Survival Guide

How Do You Stay on a Budget During the Holidays?

Real Simple readers offer small-budget Christmas-gift ideas and other insights on cheap holidays.

book with picture of christmas treeFrancesco

Coupons, coupons, coupons! I begin early, and I’m diligent. Start collecting them, make your list, then try to use at least one coupon for each person. The savings will be dramatic. The trick? Don’t buy more just because you saved money.
Donna Panzarino
South Hempstead, New York
Shop with a plan. I never leave the house without concrete ideas and a list of what I am buying and for whom. And don’t hit the stores willy-nilly. Go to the departments and aisles that have the items on your list, and do not detour to other areas of the store. You save money and precious time.
Patti Byrne
High Ridge, Missouri
My friends and I exchange birthday gifts but not holiday gifts. Instead, we get together at someone’s house to enjoy a glass of wine and wrap presents together. By limiting gift buying to family, it’s much easier to stay within my budget.
Dana Fowler
Santa Ana, California
I like to invent new ideas for saving during the holidays. One way is to come up with a theme for presents and then look for sales. One year I put together game-night packages, which included board games, dice games, or cards (and a green visor for the poker enthusiast). Another time, I created a movie-night motif. (Watch for DVD sales; some stores sell movies for $5 or $9, and you can put them together with popcorn, candy, etc.) Going with a theme helps me save money and is fun, because my whole family likes to get involved.
Fiona Lupis
Costa Mesa, California
I think back to the beloved PBS show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, when Fred Rogers once proudly displayed one of his many signature cardigans―knit by his mother. With that in mind, I focus on being thoughtful with each gift rather than mindlessly spending a lot of cash.
Melanie Kalmar
Elk Grove Village, Illinois
I always keep candles and picture frames on hand that I’ve picked up for a few dollars on clearance. These small items suit everyone, so when you receive an unexpected present, you always have something ready to toss into a gift bag.
Erin Brumley
Loveland, Colorado
To save money this holiday season, we will undergo major house renovations. Dollhouse renovations, that is. Instead of spending big bucks on less meaningful gifts for my daughter, we’ll remodel a treasured toy that my grandfather crafted for me years ago. With just a few scraps of wallpaper, cedar pieces, and carpet remnants, a dusty relic will be recycled into a bit of Christmas joy.
Beth Brady
Colebrook, Connecticut

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