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Our Best Tricks For Staying On Budget For Christmas

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our best tricks to budget for christmas — Golden Chocolate Santas

Are you ready for Christmas?

I know you’re reading this headline thinking, “Christmas?! We haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet… or even Halloween for that matter!” but trust me, there’s a method to the madness. It’s not a secret that holidays can be stressful, so having a plan BEFORE they come around helps alleviate the chaos.

Here are some of our best tricks to make our holiday budget go further that we use all year long.


Download apps designed for mindless saving.

our best tricks to budget for christmas — digit app rainy day fund

Start by looking into apps like Digit, Qapital, or other budgeting apps that can link to your checking account and save bits of money here and there without you even realizing it. They only take a couple minutes to set up, and they do all the work for you! I signed up for Digit in February and have already saved over $1,200 by having the app automatically transfer money from my checking to my savings — so easy! 💰

Hip Tip: You can also check out rewards apps that will earn you cash back for your everyday purchases!

Set up automatic bank transfers.

our best tricks to budget for christmas — saving money in a jar

If you like having more control, look into automated transfers between your checking and savings. You could also ask your employer to send a portion of your paycheck to a special saving account for your holiday spending. It’s the same theory of saving without having to manually complete the process, except you can control the amount and the frequency.

“Our bank does the Christmas fund so it automatically transfers over $25 a paycheck from each of us, and that helps out a lot! I love the automatic feature because I’m just not disciplined enough to do it myself.” — Alana

Buy clearance items when you see them.

jcpenney shopping tips — clearance section with sale signage

It’s no secret that you’ll save a ton by purchasing gifts on clearance, but don’t think you need to wait until December to start buying! Search for marked down gifts that typically don’t require gift receipts such as candles, beauty products, or housewares, to ensure your recipient won’t have to worry about exchanging for another size. You can also check out clearance from stores with generous return policies like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Target just in case you think your giftee may want to return the gift.

“Buy all the clearance things! Just kidding — but really, I buy throughout the year whenever I see things that I think would make a good gift. Plus, if by the time Christmas comes and they’re not interested in that anymore, it’s a great donation item!” — Alana


“Buying throughout the year has SAVED me! I remember a friend telling me in like July that she had all her Christmas shopping done — I freaked out. Ever since I have been trying to do the same thing. I am nowhere near done, but I have gotten better. I used to be a Christmas Eve shopper! Oh, and don’t forget about Black Friday deals!” — Jessica


“I buy throughout the year when things are easier to locate and easier to find a deal on. That way I’m not scrambling at the last minute and spending more than I should. I’m usually done with Christmas shopping by August! This also prevents impulse buying. Don’t get me wrong; we spend quite a bit on high-quality items the kids want… I just don’t spend too much since I know my buying cycles.” — Jamie


I make gift baskets for people with their favorite things and gather the supplies throughout the year. For example, my mom gets a book basket, my sister-in-law gets a Joanna Gaines basket, etc. You can give huge baskets of stuff for less when you shop clearance and sale items!” — Michelle

Use discounted gift cards on gift purchases.

our best tricks to budget for christmas — discounted gift cards on a smartphone

If you aren’t using discounted gift cards yet, what are you waiting for?! We like purchasing from Raise.com because of their user-friendly platform, 365-day guarantee, and good customer service. If you’re still on the fence, see how Jamie at Hip2Save has already saved over $2,000 using this website!

Switch up the tradition.

our best tricks to budget for christmas — a globe, vacation money, and a piggy bank

Instead of buying the latest toys and tech, consider gifting memories instead. If it’s a warm-weather trip, you can buy a couple of gifts as hints, like bathing suits, towels, or beach supplies which are on clearance right now! Gifting memories and experiences are also great ways to help lessen the feeling of entitlement in children.

“This past Christmas, we gifted our 3 kids a family vacation to Hawaii for Spring Break! To make it extra fun, I created a scavenger hunt on Christmas morning with tropical-themed clues like sunscreen, bathing suits, pineapple candles, etc. The kids had a blast solving the scavenger hunt and then really looked forward to the trip for 3 months — it was fun counting down the days. The trip itself was awesome! We created so many memories and really connected as a family!” — Bryn


How do you save for gifts and other holiday expenses?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!



Written by Emily for Hip2Save. Emily lives in Buffalo, NY where she spends her time drinking lots of coffee, scouring the internet for deals, and tackling DIY projects. She’s a big believer in self-care and living the fullest life possible, all while saving money of course.

Join The Discussion

Comments 29

  1. Nancy

    I buy gift cards to Target, Walmart etc… each month, all year long.
    When Christmas or other gifting occasions arrive I simply dip into my stash of gift cards and go purchase gifts. When Christmas comes and goes I don’t feel like I overspent because I gradually built up to the spending spree. It’s a system that works well for me.

    • jess

      Awesome idea Nancy and no worries about returns!

    • CarrieL

      Ooh, yes! I can see this working out with gift card deals that come up throughout the year!

    • Kate+4

      GREAT idea!! As our grocery store has the 4x’s the fuel points at least for buying gift cards! THIS ONE I will do 4 SURE!!

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I love that idea, Nancy! Such a clever way to save up for the holidays. And those are great stores since the gift options are nearly endless! Thank you for sharing 😃

  2. Susan Crawford

    I do erewards for the surveys, and I buy Macy’s gift cards, I also get Fanatics for sports themed items, and I can also get other gift cards. I also do Kelloggs Family Rewards for Penneys gift cards for clothing for my nieces and nephews. And I am trying to get a part time job at Target for the holidays. Plus, now I will start buying baking supplies to make Christmas trays for a few of my neighbors. I usually get glass trays at Goodwill on a 50% off day for the baking. And I save my soft fruit to make freezer jam to give away. I have learned how to pinch pennies when it comes to giving presents.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I might be borrowing your Christmas trays idea, Susan! I normally put holiday treats on a festive plate but using the bakeware instead is a such a practical and thoughtful gift. I would know since I never buy trays but desperately need to replace my cookie sheets. 😆 Thanks for the great tip!

  3. JES

    I stalk things on Amazon for weeks, sometimes months. I add items to my cart, save them for later and watch the prices. Sometimes it backfires on me, but most of the time it has worked to my advantage.

    I also start shopping as soon as Christmas is over for that year. Especially ornaments, which are given to each child in my family every year.

    • Lauren

      You should check out camelcamelcamel.com it allows you to check the price changes of items on amazon and set up alerts so that if it reaches a certain price or discount amount it will email you. It’s saved me quite a few dollars!

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Post-Christmas clearance is the BEST! I totally agree with shopping all the steals right after the holidays. The ornament gifts sound like such a sweet tradition in your family too!

  4. mica478

    I signed up for the Amazon STEM club for both of my kids. The cost is $19.99 per child, but I routinely receive toys that are up to $40 if I would have purchased them myself. Also since the toys are STEM related I feel better about them than the usual filler that I would buy. We started this mid-year, but by Christmas each kid will have 10 toys from the STEM club (we will probably hold some back for birthdays) and then we will add one or two special things that they specifically request.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      What a great idea! The amount of different toys available on the market is endless, so I love that you opt for STEM-related gifts. So thoughtful and still so fun for the kids!

  5. Julie

    I purchase gift cards from Kroger, especially when they offer 4 times the fuel points. I use those gift cards to purchase toys, clothes, gifts for family and friends. I start toy buying the week before Thanksgiving. I purchases clothes, household items, dvd’s, big ticket items (TV, dvd players, other electronics) on Thanksgiving day and black Friday. I was completely done shopping by black Friday last year. I saved a ton of money and saved at Kroger gas station with all my fuel points!

  6. Jodi P

    I save money by just not buying gifts for everyone. My family FINALLY stopped buying gifts for adults. Some years ago we had started drawing names among the adults, but decided that it was so lackluster that there really wasn’t a point, LOL I give my neices and nephews gift cards to the movie theater, and that’s it.

    It’s so great to not be in the stores, or spending hours online shopping, during the holidays. I bake a few more things, and since the rest of the family isn’t doing much shopping, either, we actually get together another time or two, instead.

    • Kathy

      We did the same thing about 6 years ago. I thought was perfect idea as husband and I are older. Grown grandkids and 8 great-grands. Once we stopped buying or giving money to everyone they stopped coming for Christmas . We have one son and granddaughter that still come .☹️

      • animity

        Kathy that is horrible. I am so sorry. Maybe you could start a tradition of game nights or share treat nights or even favorite movie nights. We just love to get together to play games and eat yummy food. We don’t care about the presents. That is my most favorite part of Christmas. Snuggle up for favorite movies, good food and a ton of game playing!!

      • Dealzgurl

        Aw man, I’m sorry to hear that. Christmas can bring out the best and the worst in people sometimes.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Time > Gifts. I love that, Jodi! We’re at that point where we do a gift swap for the adults, but I’m sure as more kiddos come into the family, we’ll eventually focus on them rather than buying for each other. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Ann

    I just finished our Christmas shopping last week. Found bird feeders reduced at Tractor Supply for our 2 5-year old great nephews so they can enjoy feeding the birds this winter. The rest of the gifts for all our great-nieces and great-nephews are picked up during the year when I find something they will enjoy on a great deal…some of them for future years and/or birthdays.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Congrats on finishing up your shopping, Ann! I wish I was as diligent as you. I’m about halfway done with my shopping but I know I’ll end up buying some gifts last minute anyway — it’s the procrastinator in me. 😆

  8. Teresa

    I run the apps Viggle and Perks and earn point for watching TV and before Christmas come I get all kinds of giftcards for different store for free and go shopping… 5 grandkids can get expensive

  9. Julia

    It’s simple. I just follow Hip2Save all year and get in on the savings quickly before the deal expires.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Sweet and simple, Julia! So glad you’re able to save on your holiday shopping with us! 😁

  10. Joanne

    Our health insurance has a wellness program where you connect your Fitbit/Apple Watch/step counter and earn points for steps and other healthy habits. We save ours and get several hundred dollars in Amazon or Target gift cards to buy gifts during the holidays. So easy!

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      SWEET! What a great program, and an even greater reward (between the gift cards AND practicing healthy habits)! Thanks for sharing, Joanne!

  11. Stephanie

    Memories!!! Like Disney on ice, Paw Patrol, waterpark, etc.. (3 year old) …..then a couple small toys…..Memories are so much better than toys!

  12. acgold

    We stopped giving Christmas and Chanukah gifts to all the nieces and nephews and g-d kids. They all have 2 sets of grandparents and 3 sets of aunts and uncles and get way too much. We spend the holidays with them and they don’t miss our not giving gifts. For one friend who refuses to abide by no gift giving and is always over the top and gives tons of junk- we now decided only Dollar Tree little things. I bought cute night lights, candles, etc. Let’s see if she keeps her end of the bargain.

  13. Mraascho

    I buy those gift cards and gas gift cards to save even more on fuel.

  14. LadyB

    I spend a set amount per month. I also start buying after Christmas. I also firmly believe that everything is bought by the end of September, so that I, too, can enjoy the season and not fret about presents. What I’ve learned is that most of the time, the items I buy in the early part of the year are still cheaper than when closer to the Holidays. One year, I saved over a $120 on a single item just by buying something in July vs. Nov/Dec.

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