5 Frugal Tips for a Christmas to Remember

The following is a guest post from Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. Read more about Kyle immediately following the post.

Before I was a frugal Dad, I was a Dad who absolutely dreaded getting the credit card bill in early January. I would consistently overspend in December on gifts and eating out. Then I would try to figure out how to pay the bills. I knew there had to be a better way and it wasn’t until my first child came along 10 years ago that I took action and developed frugal Christmas spending habits. As we get close to the craziness of the holiday season, here are my five best tips for keeping this Christmas frugal yet memorable.

Gift Budget – The singles best way to keep Christmas frugal is to create a gift list of what you want to buy and how much you can afford to purchase for each person on your list. This makes you accountable to your spending. Stay disciplined in your buying and you will avoid those big credit card bills in January.

Shop All Year Long – If you start your shopping the last few weeks before Christmas the retail machine will typically have you over a barrel. They can set prices to meet demand and you have zero negotiating power. Instead, create your shopping list earlier in the year so you can shop sales and clearance racks all year long and store the gifts in your closet until Christmas. In other words, shop when nobody else is, you will be in a much better negotiating position, especially when shopping online sites like eBay.com.

Think Outside the Box – Consider making gifts this year. This can be in the form of baked goods, homemade jellies and jams, or my favorite, personal gift certificates. Do you have a talent that you can share with someone, or a skill the gift recipient would find very helpful? If so, then give them your time in the form of a personal gift certificate. Personal gift certificates my wife and I have given out over the years include babysitting, computer help, and yard work. On a personal note, my wife and I were given a babysitting certificate from some friends so I could take her out to dinner once a month for an entire year. What a great gift that was, by far the best gift I received that year.

Gifts from the Heart – If you are buying gifts for Grandparents, consider a photo gift of your children. Last year my wife and I, with our kids help, created a framed photo collage for the grandparents and it was a tremendous hit. We only spent $20 on supplies and frames to create gifts they now treasure. Also, consider sites like Shutterfly.com and Snapfish.com for some really neat and inexpensive photo gifts like coffee mugs and photo books.

Traditions That Help Others – I always try to implement new family traditions that focus on the true meaning of Christmas, not the stuff we get. Last year, I took my oldest son and daughter out to ring the Salvation Army bell. What a great experience for all of us and a great opportunity to talk to my kids about those less fortunate than us. I was blown away with the number of people who dropped their spare change in the kettle, took a candy cane from my kids, and then looked me in the eye and said how great it was that I was doing this with my kids. Truly gave me chills and is something we will do for years to come.

Do you have any tips to share on how you make Christmas frugal, yet memorable in your home?

About The Author: Kyle James owns and operate a website called Rather-Be-Shopping.com which specializes in coupon codes for over 750 stores, organized in 25 shopping categories. He also has a blog, where he writes about frugal living and personal finance tips as well as other musings about the adventures and mis-adventures of raising 3 active kids.


  1. For years, it’s been our December tradition to watch “The Homecoming”, a made-for-TV movie that first aired in 1971 and was the pilot for the long-running series “The Waltons”. Sure, it might sound cheesy and old-fashioned. I mean, with all the choices out there why do we gravitate to this film? It grounds us. In a world seized by the political correctness of Happy Generic Holidays and the commercial glitz of inflatable made-in-China yard decorations bigger than your house, this simple story of a nondescript family living comfortably and happily with next to nothing in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the Great Depression reminds us of what’s really important in this life. You owe it to your sanity to get this film, watch it, do a reality check, and absorb its message.

  2. With baby #2 coming in January, we are looking to squeeze every penny during the holidays.

    We’ve kept our eyes out for mega deals, and plan to hand make as much as possible. Grandparents love handmade gifts, they eat em up like hard candy!

  3. @ gym-mom, thanks for the movie recommendation! I will keep any eye out for it, sounds like a great family movie.

    @ Chris – Jolly Ranchers for sure 🙂

    Thanks again Jason for letting me guest post of Frugal Dad.

  4. yea, making a gift is always good. plus, it shows that you made an effort. anyone can go out and buy something, but it takes time to create a gift.

  5. I use this free Fly or Drive Calculator tool from BeFrugal.com to use when deciding on travel.

    It will calculate whether it’s better to fly or drive for your specific trip: http://www.befrugal.com/tools/fly-or-drive-calculator/

    Holiday travel by air can be so expensive! If I do decide to fly, I can just search their site for deals on Expedia, Travelocity, etc.

  6. I usually bake cookies and cakes which we give to friends and neighbors on Christmas day. And yes, I shop the whole year round. Mostly generic items that kids will enjoy, not only for Christmas but also for birthday parties where my kids are invited. This is also an easier way to “recycle” the gifts for the kids who we were unable to see during the holiday.

  7. Check Southwest Airlines web only fares, they are usually some of the cheapest fares you can find. Pack light – avoid checked baggage fees (Southwest does not charge for this) Lastly, try a red eye flight for even more savings.