Christmas budget breakdown

Christmas came and went quickly, as it usually does. I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday with family and friends. I know I sure did. We had a relatively small budget of $500 for our gift budget. Food came out of an increased grocery budget.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified purchases.*

Back in November, my husband gifted me some clothing on sale at the store he works at on weekends; this was not in the Christmas budget. He operated out of overtime and/or bonus money.  Let’s see how we did with our budget. Below is what we bought, the average cost of each, and I’ll give the final amount spent at the end!

For the kids

We spent just over half the budget, $288 and some change, on the kids’ Christmas gifts. We considered every single item and debated several different options before hitting the checkout button in the online carts. Each kid received one larger gift that was more of a need, an article of clothing, and a few fun things we felt they would actually use.


Our six-year-old received this flannel shirt (now on clearance) and new cowgirl boots to replace the ones she’d outgrown. We do not buy cheap boots because, if you will remember, Frugal Isn’t Cheap. We buy them a little big and typically get two years out of them. They’re still good enough for the resale shop or to hand down to a family or friend when she outgrows them.

We also bought her two movies that she’s been looking forward to seeing. We bought the third installment of the How to Train Your Dragon movies and the Secret Life of Pets 2. We’ve already watched both movies, and the whole family loves them!

Then there was the craft supply set, which she loves. Half the glitter glue was gone Christmas day! Safe to say she enjoyed this little kit. And, when she was done it all went back in the tube and was neatly stored. She finally got those scissors she has been asking for – we would’ve included some in last year’s stockings with some crafty stuff, but she cut her bangs at school, so we waited a bit.


Our two-year-old got a pair of overalls like his daddy’s (he isn’t quite a fan yet), this excavator toy (also now on clearance), and the book Good Night, Good Night Construction Site. For his large gift, he received a play rug with roads on it.

don’t worry, they got lots more from family

Even without all the additional toys and games from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, they seemed perfectly happy with the gifts we picked out for them.

for daddy

I spent a whopping $15 on my husband on a new pair of house shoes. It wasn’t much, but it was in budget and it was a need. I hadn’t yet decided what to get him when our two-year-old decided the holes in daddy’s old house shoes (a stocking stuffer at least 5 years ago) were the perfect place to stuff his toy cars… while they were still on daddy’s feet. The outdoor sole had detached from the cushion and the top of the shoe that they slid right in. So I knew what I was getting daddy for Christmas!

We take advantage of sales and his discount to get him clothing and other items as we can, so there wasn’t much he needed (cheaper than a tractor or shop building that is).

stocking stuffers

I spent just over $70 on stocking stuffers. Both kids got socks, my daughter got underwear, hair ties, and our son got flashcards to help him with colors, letters, and shapes as well as a little Thomas the Train that will hook onto a train set he already has.

I bought my husband the Harry’s starter set and set him up on a subscription for razor cartridges. At first, I tried to use an offer code from a favorite YouTuber of his, but it was no longer valid, so I googled a coupon! Initial spend on this stocking spender was just under $4!

Teacher gifts

I spent about $12 each on four teacher gifts of herbal tea, a citrus vitality oil, and tea bag rest for my daughter’s elementary, Sunday School, and Children’s Church teachers. I spent about $3 each for hot cocoa and mugs for the church nursery workers from my son.

gifts for the rest of the family were mostly diy-ed

I bought a set of large amber Ball Mason jars and filled them with homemade brownie mix made with ingredients I already had on hand. I paired these with a tea towel, peppermint vitality oil, and printed photo cards designed in Canva with the instructions. These then went to both sets of parents, his local sister and brother-in-law, and my sister and brother-in-law.

I also DIY-ed my teenaged niece a little spa package consisting of bergamot oil-infused facewash, a peppermint oil-infused sugar scrub, and lavender oil-infused bath salts. I topped it off with this sleep mask. Including the Pioneer Woman clamping jars I put them in,  I had less than $20 in them.

For my nephew, we went with a Barnes and Noble gift card. For my husband’s nieces and nephew, we gave them cash for skate rink passes. The local skate rink is only open evenings and I never seemed to be in town after 5 PM.

did we keep it in our $500 budget?

So, were we able to keep all of our Christmas spending in our modest budget? According to Every Dollar, we spent a total of… $509.57. I also have one extra teabag rest to return (overestimated number of teachers I gifted tea), which will bring our total overspend down about $4. I can live with that!

All in all, planning ahead, making a lot of the gifts, and making sure we had our kids covered, then family, and then purchasing stocking stuffers with what was left in the budget helped us keep mostly to the budget.

I hope you all had a great holiday! How did you do with your Christmas budget? Did you come in over or under? Did you set a budget for your holiday spending or just swipe away without a plan? Feel like you bought just the right amount of stuff or wondering how you got so carried away again? Let me know!

I’ll be back soon with a new post and will resume the weekly YouTube schedule after the first of the year. Until next time, stay frugal my friends! And if you aren’t that frugal, stick around and get caught up; I have some great tips on being frugal!


Its Christmas Eve! We are experiencing beautiful, springlike temperatures here in Arkansas! Yesterday we played frisbee and watched the kids play out in the weather just soaking up the sunshine for almost two hours.

Today, and yesterday we’ve had the windows open to air the house out! It doesn’t necessarily feel Christmasy, but we’ll still take the sunshine.

I’ve cleaned house, gotten the toddler to take a nap (truly a Christmas miracle!) Daddy took big sis to the park to ride her bike and out for lunch, and he’s currently tilling in the yard to even out some spots and prepare for a garden this spring (I hope).

Rotel is cooking in the crockpot, Alexa is playing Christmas carols, the Christmas tree is lit, and the windows are open. We don’t get many white Christmases around here but this is a bit different.

Today I write my 97th post just to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I appreciate your support for this little blog the last six months and look forward to creating more content in the new year.

My Christmas wish for this little blog is to publish my 100th post before the new year and hopefully exceed 5000 pageviews on Google Analytics! The second goal is a bit lofty, but I think I’ll come close even if I don’t hit my goal.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with your families and loved ones. For those of you missing loved ones or spending a first holiday alone I pray God makes it a peaceful time of comfort and healing.

Merry Christmas my frugal friends! I hope it’s a great one.


Last minute gift ideas

If you haven’t quite gotten it together or just haven’t started, here are a few very helpful last minute gift ideas that won’t break the bank.

On a side note, you can probably still use my previously posted gift and stocking stuffer ideas. I wouldn’t want to wait too much longer though! There are barely two weeks til Christmas as of publishing this article and the postal system is only going to get busier! Not to mention that shipping costs increase the longer you wait.

**This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.**

Last Minute Gift Ideas: Gift Cards

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; gift cards can be very thoughtful gifts! If someone on your gift list has a coffee habit why not gift them a reusable mug and gift card to their favorite coffee chain?

Know some kids who love going to a local arcade or movie theatre? A gift card makes a great gift! And by taking a little time to think about the recipients you can come up with a very thoughtful and useful gift.

A Voucher for an Experience

Want to treat someone on your list to an activity that doesn’t offer a gift certificate, say an experience together? Or maybe an experience coming up that you can’t purchase yet (or have in time)?

Not a problem at all! Get on the computer and print out a voucher good for whatever it is you have in mind and place it in a gift tin or envelope with something related.

Want to take your bestie to a concert but tickets aren’t on sale yet? Maybe a movie that isn’t out yet. Wrap up a t-shirt for the band and put it under the tree with the voucher.

Say you want to take someone hiking or camping when the weather warms up a bit. Pick up some small piece of gear to go with their voucher.

This can also be a good idea if you don’t have the money now to do what you plan. The important thing is to remember to follow through! A last minute gift idea is not a forgotten gift!

Cash is the Original Last Minute Gift Idea

And for good reason! Cash is s versatile and doesn’t limit the recipients to one store or chain. It can be set aside for a larger purpose, used for necessities, or as a special treat.

Sometimes friends and family need a little help. The offer to pay a bill or help out with groceries may be a very appreciated and needed gift. This isn’t necessarily a last minute idea, but the awareness of the need may come up last minute.

Or maybe you know someone on your list is saving up for a large purchase or vacation. Cash can help them achieve their goals a little faster.

Gift Subscription

Did you know you could gift someone a three month Prime membership? There also gift subscriptions for Audible and other services? This is a gift that keeps on giving! Best of Al it takes only minutes to prepare.

The best thing about gifts like these? No shipping is required!

Gift a Donation in Their Name

If you are having a hard time figuring out what to get someone who has everything make a donation in their name! This can be through Heifer International, Salvation Army, their favorite humane society… The possibilities are endless! Organizations no doubt count on an increase in donations this time of year.

A quick peek at their social media pages should be enough to give you a few ideas. Have they shared stories about homelessness, adoptable pets, or maybe water issues in third world countries? All of these examples have nonprofits established to address the problem/need that concerns your loved one.

Last Minute Gift Ideas: A Homemade Gift Basket

This doesn’t have to be really expensive. Baskets aren’t the only acceptable container either. This can be as simple as some homemade cookies on a pretty plate or a tote bag with a scavenger hunt kit or other activities in it.

There are local, small businesses that would love to make a gift basket special for you. Onion Creek in Farmington and Our Handmade Market in Fayetteville come to mind as great options love to me. Just be sure to tell them your budget before getting started.

Get Creative with Last Minute Gift Ideas!

It doesn’t have to be obvious you got around to shopping late if you put some thought into it. By tailoring a simple idea around the person’s interest and taste you can turn a last minute idea into a favorite gift!

Have you given any last !minute gifts that were a hit? Any that were a flop? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


upycled Christmas decor

5 Creative Projects to Stretch Your Christmas Budget

If you’re like me your Christmas budget may already be stretched just buying gifts and extra food. But what if you’re on a small budget and still want to decorate (or give decorations) for the holidays. I’ve got you covered with five upcycled Christmas decor ideas. Spread some holiday cheer around your house (or even the neighborhood) with these great ideas that are also easy on the budget!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

1. Use a Tree Stump or Log for a Beautiful Table Setting or Even Ornaments to Make Upcycled Christmas Decor

If you have cut wood for burning in the fireplace or just trim a small piece off the bottom of your real Christmas tree, you can use that for beautiful, rustic decorations!

Simply cut the diameter of the wood into slices, leaving the bark on, place on the table and decorate using greenery, holly, or even just placing LED candles on them for a little ambiance (without the obvious fire hazard of open flame on top of wood). The awesome thing about these is they work year-round!

pinecones and a fishbowl on top of a slice of wood
fishbowl not required, but the pinecones are a nice touch!

If you have a branch or log that is not as large in diameter drill a hole toward the top and hang the slices as ornaments! Stencil some initials or brush on some glitter for a little extra detail. They’d be adorable with snowmen, stockings, deer silhouettes, or stars painted on them! This is a simple, oh so easy form of upcycled Christmas decor! If you have kids this would make a great craft to do over the break! Have them help paint the ornaments (maybe not cut them). Gotta keep them entertained for two weeks after all…

Related: For more Christmas craft ideas see my latest YouTube video: Episode 108: Christmas Crafts featuring my sister, Cara Davis, and two of the crafts from her Etsy Shop!

2. Wreaths Made of Grapevine or Tree Cuttings Make Great Upcycled Christmas Decor

I was literally just in Goodwill today and saw a substantial grapevine wreath for $5.75. Alas, I was there looking for counter height barstools and don’t have a wreath in the budget, but my point is these can be picked up cheap! My frugal instinct tells me $2 can probably score a pretty good one at a yard sale or other thrift store.

You could even pull the sunflowers off an old summer wreath stored in the attic and upcycle yourself some great Christmas decor! Or, save yourself some trouble, head to Dollar Tree, and pick up a wire wreath form. They even come in 3-D! If you use a real tree and have to trim a few boughs use the greenery to fill the wreath! It’d make a beautiful advent wreath or look great on the door. The best part – you only have $1 in it!

3. Upcycle Pinecones as Ornaments!

Several years ago I made ornaments for a church Christmas bazaar using only pinecones and ribbon. They sold pretty well. Amazingly (to me) they held up pretty well also; I still have a few on my tree! Simply make a loop to hang from the tree out of ribbon, hot glue it to the top, and fashion a simple bow out of ribbon to hide the glue. Easy peasy lemon squeezy as my six-year-old says. And very neutral; it could go with several color schemes or tree themes.

pinecone ornament hanging in a tree as a piece of upycled Christmas decor

4. Make a Christmas garland with old cards for Upcycled Christmas decor

I used to make gift tags and scrapbook pages out of old card pictures. It was fun, economical, and they were all one-of-a-kind. Even if you’re sentimental about cards, you can still keep the message! Even just hanging them by clothespins on a line of jute rope would be a pretty way to make a blank wall feel festive.

stack of Christmas cards

5. Repurpose Some Childhood Favorites

This requires zero effort and has all the nostalgia. If like me you were allowed to pick out an ornament a year as a child (I picked very random ornaments) why not pull them out and use them with your kids? We have two small trees we use in our kids’ rooms. There was nowhere “safe” to display the tree in our toddler son’s new room this year, but next year I will find a spot for it. He’ll likely have a different furniture arrangement by them.

Most if not all of the ornaments on the tree in our daughter’s room were ours as children! She loves that. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to go through a box of old ornaments with my sister. Some of the wood ones are now on our tree in the living room.

My kids will grow older, be safer around baubles, and our tree will eventually get fancier. For now, I like being able to look at almost every ornament on the tree and have it mean something. Most of the ornaments on our tree were made by yours truly or someone I love; I have ornaments from my sister in years past, ornaments we made together (see the link above), ornaments my kids made, some my mother made, and a few that were made by ladies who were very special to me growing up who have since passed.

Do You Have Favorite Items to Upcycle for the Holidays?

I love finding new uses for things in general, but there’s something really magical about the holidays. Anything that adds to the magic without upsetting the budget is just grand in my book.

That’s one of the reasons I love upcycled Christmas decor; it saves you money and keeps items fresh and in use. I’d love to hear your frugal and upcycled decor ideas in the comments. Do you have any special ornaments that you hold dear? Tell me about them! Until next time, and stay frugal this holiday season my friends!


inexpensive stocking stuffers

Inexpensive Stocking Stuffer Ideas for the Whole Family

Stockings are fun. I remember them being a particular specialty of my mother’s: the stockings could’ve been the whole gift! It is fun filling my kids’ stockings (and the hubby’s) with useful, fun things for Christmas morning. I always have fun picking out what to put in them but do not like allocating a huge chunk of the Christmas gift budget for them. For this post, I have compiled a list of inexpensive stocking stuffers your whole family will enjoy emptying on Christmas morning that won’t leave your wallet feeling empty!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified purchases.*

First, a Small Admission…

I must confess that this year we do not even own stockings! In my YouTube Episode 107 Pre-Holiday Decluttering, I mentioned that I would probably donate quite a few holiday decorations that didn’t go with the color scheme of our new house. The stockings didn’t make the cut!

In an attempt to buy more “adult” looking stockings our first year married I bought really formal, dark-colored burgundy and sage-ish stockings. After having a child I bought two more similar color schemed stockings on sale in preparation for the second child we planned. After not seeing them last Christmas (we lived with my dad in between selling and building our new house) we realized… we don’t like them!

I’d rather not have a nonessential item (I am a minimalist now after all) than hold onto something I don’t like, so they went into the donation box along with a few other breakable decorative items.

In case you’re new here, we are trying to keep glass to a minimum around the house after our son’s injury this summer.

For the Kids

I like to keep stockings fun and simple for the kids while still making the contents useful and not just something that will end up thrown away or donated in short order. Luckily my kids are young enough that saying no to most electronic items is still really easy! Here are a few examples of inexpensive stocking stuffers I have included or plan to include in my kids’ stockings:

Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers For Him

I’m not going to lie; these are ALL things my husband has or suggested! A lot were gifts from previous years and one or two were just ideas he gave me. The names of some of these products are funny, but they really are good products. In years past I was guilty of going to Lowe’s on a lunch hour and shoveling random stuff in my basket for stocking stuffers for the hubs and my dad. Not so much anymore. Here are some inexpensive stocking stuffing ideas based on what my man already owns and loves.

  • A good stocking cap – my husband is still sad he’s misplaced his Carhart cap somewhere in the move to our new house.
  • a good Mag Light because what man doesn’t appreciate a great flashlight?
  • a big a$$ bar of soap- I bought this as a joke one year for my husband, but he is a Duke Cannon convert now! They have scents anywhere for everything from beer to different military branches. They even have a soap on a rope pouch that is hubby approved.
  • Duke Cannon solid cologne – my hubby wears Redwood. I am in no way affiliated with Duke Cannon (I wish) but I LOVE their products! You can google the ingredients and not worry! I’m all about that nontoxic life on a budget!
  • Beard oil – Whether it’s Duke Cannon Big Bourbon or Young Living’s Shutran Beard Oil, you can’t go wrong with an all-natural product!
  • Harry’s razor starter kit – Give him a great shave at an even better price! Set your subscription and get blades delivered to your door when you need them!

For Her

This is the hardest one for me to write and you’d think it’d be the easiest! Here are some items I wouldn’t mind finding in my (nonexistent) stocking this Christmas. Hopefully, I am not the only one. This isn’t the longest list on this post, but I do hope it is helpful. Since my mindset has changed to a more minimalist one it is harder to think of a number of smaller things. I envision clutter. Maybe it’s just me. Please let me know in the comments if that’s how you feel as well!

  • a pretty mug, like in this Pioneer Woman set. You can call me weird, but I do not like drinking hot tea in a stainless steel cup or mug.
  • a bath bomb, plus the guaranteed time to enjoy it
  • lipgloss, not just any lip gloss, but a clean beauty brand
  • a good lip scrub
  • a ponytail beanie hat – I didn’t know these existed, and I’m already in love! Keep your hair up AND your head warm. Brilliant!
  • Smartwool socks – I own a pair from Duluth and I love them. I believe they are worth every penny.

There You Have it

I do not advise going overboard with stocking stuffers, especially if you have younger kids. Once everyone is older smaller, more valuable gifts may be more appreciated, but when they’re younger I prefer to keep it simple. I do believe I’ve added a stainless steel mug or pair of house shoes to my husband’s stocking in the past, but those were probably the most substantial items I’ve purchased to make their way in a stocking.

Do you use stockings at Christmas? I’d love to hear what you stuff them with! Let me know in the comments! Be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel! Fun things are coming later this week! And I’ll be back on the blog in a couple of days with more helpful holiday-themed tips. Until my next post, stay frugal with your holiday shopping my friends!


thoughtfully thrifty Christmas

25 More Thoughtfully Thrifty Christmas Gift Ideas

A couple of weeks ago I published a list of 25 Thoughtful Ideas for Handmade Christmas Gifts. Maybe you’re all for a thoughtfully thrifty Christmas, but not so much handmaking it yourself. No worries! Here are 25 more thoughtful gift ideas that will still fit nicely in your budget with no hot glue or needles required on your part! If you’re on a really tight (or nonexistent) budget you might also want to check out these Five Helpful Tips if You Haven’t Budgeted for Christmas.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified purchases.*

1. Have the Kids Help You Make a Masterpiece

Get some art supplies from Dollar Tree and set the kids loose with markers or washable paints (depending on their age) to gift Grandma and Grandpa an original piece of art! Kids also love to paint items they find for special collections. This gift is thoughtful, thrifty, and handmade – just not by your hands!

2. Get the Journaler/Planner in Your Life a Great Notebook Set

If you have someone on your list who is big on making lists, journaling affirmations, or keeping life neatly organized in a great planner“>Erin Condren has the perfect gift! You can even get it customized with their name or initials! There are lots of great accessories for sticker lovers as well.

3. Scrapbook or Photo Album (Physical or Digital)

If you want to share the memories without taking up a physical hardbound album or wall space a digital photo album may be a great option for a thoughtfully thrifty Christmas gift! It may cost a bit on the front end, but imagine NEVER having to print pictures again! Just share them instantly via WiFi! It’s the gift that keeps giving.

4. Diffuser Necklace

Know anyone who could use the power of aromatherapy everywhere they go? Who doesn’t?! This beautiful tower-shaped pendant is very striking and doesn’t look like most diffuser jewelry. It has a daintier feel and can be dressed up or down.

5. Memory Jar

If it’s someone you’ve known a long time fill in a few of the 180 included tickets in this Top Shelf Good Memory Jar with your favorite memories with them. If it’s someone special you’re just getting to know better fill one or two out and explain that you look forward to adding to it together.

6. Personalized Jewelry

A beautifully engraved necklace or bracelet doesn’t have to break the bank! This nameplate bracelet can be engraved with a favorite phrase, name(s), or even the latitude and longitude of somewhere special. Sterling silver options can be found under $30 as well!

7. Coupon Book

take a stack of notecards, punch a hole, and use a metal ring to hold together a one of a kind creation from the kids. Coupon ideas can include help unloading the dishes, doing their least favorite chore without complaint, a hug… let the little ones come up with a few of their own. This gift is thoughtful, thrifty, and coupon ideas can come completely from the kids’ imaginations.

8. Buy a Good Pair of Slippers for a Thoughtfully Thrifty Christmas Gift

Some people appreciate a quality slipper but never fork over the money for a pair themselves. I am in that category as well; time and time again I have to throw out ratty slippers and tell myself I’ll buy better quality ones. Time and time again I go to the store, see the price difference, and go for the cheap two-pack. Frugal isn’t cheap and I know this, but man is it hard to spend money on this sort of thing for yourself.

If you know someone who may have cold tootsies while at home and would appreciate a good pair, there are several good options for men and women. I particularly like these soft slip-ons for women and classic Dockers for men.

9. Stainless Steel Razor Gift Set

Upgrade your loved one’s shave game with a durable and eco-friendly stainless steel razor set like this Bigfoot Shaves kit for men. There are also some traditional Harry’s gift sets with aftershave skincare products included.

10. Letterboard Photo Frame

It’s a slightly different take on the current letterboard craze; include the latest picture of the kids with a sweet note or share the big news with the letterboard in the middle. This is a thoughtfully thrifty Christmas gift that’s also on-trend!

11. Stocking Cap

Buy a Love Your Melon beanie and 50% of the proceeds go to nonprofit therapeutic experiences for families affected by cancer. There are lots of color and style options to choose from. These are also 100% cotton and made in the USA!

12. Gift Cards Can Make a Thoughtful Gift Too!

Gift cards are a lot more thoughtful than they get credit for! Have a coffee addict on your list? Get them a card to their favorite coffee shop! Know some frazzled parents who would love to have a date night? Get them a gift card for one of their favorite restaurants. Maybe throw in a coupon for free babysitting that night?

How about gifting that college student on the list a gift card for a sandwich shop near campus or grocery store. The possibilities are just about endless! Just consider the recipient and buy a gift card or certificate you know they will enjoy or find useful.

13. Handwoven Serape That Gives Back

Wrap your loved one in the warmth of this authentic Benevolence LA Mexican Serape. Benevolence LA has a mission; So far, according to the product page on Amazon proceeds from purchases have “provided 4 villages with clean water for the very first time. More than 2,500 Africans no longer suffer from the debilitating water-borne disease.” That’s not all these blankets do. Check out their purpose by clicking the link above. The packaging is also eco-friendly!

14. Heifer International

Make a donation in the name of someone who doesn’t need or want anything at the moment. Shop the Gift Catalog to provide farm animals to help lift families out of poverty. Gifts start at around $10 for a share in a larger animal. You can donate as little as $20 to donate a flock of chicks to provide eggs and a source of income.

15. Skip the Gift Exchange with a Friend and Perform an Act of Service Together

Make this year more memorable and instead of exchanging gifts spend time with a particular friend or relative volunteering somewhere together. All it will cost is your time and it can be a much more rewarding experience! You can volunteer together helping at a local animal shelter, serving a meal to the homeless, or just take the money you would’ve spent on the gift and purchasing supplies or making a cash donation to a local food bank.

16. Commemorative Ornaments

Keepsake ornaments can be a very special way to remember a special trip taken together, baby’s first Christmas, couple’s first Christmas, you name it. Just please, please, please give a Christmas themed gift to someone a little early. It’s not really fair to give someone Christmas decorations shortly before they get packed up.

17. Lava Diffuser Bracelet with Empower Charm

This adorable minty charm bracelet does a lot more good than just carry your favorite scent all day all proceeds from sales of this little beauty go to benefit the Young Living Foundation. Empower is exactly what your purchase will do the foundation makes a point to empower people in underserved communities around the world.

18. Find a Thoughtful, Handmade Treasure from Amazon

Shop from Amazon’s small business gift section under handmade gift items and find that perfect gift for someone special on your list. There are truly unique artisan-made finds in this section. From jewelry to bath bombs to beard combs you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

19. Give the Gift of an Experience Together for a Thoughtfully Thrifty Christmas Gift

This one doesn’t actually have to cost anything! You can decide to finally take your friend on that hiking trip you’ve always talked about and call that their gift! Pick an activity you both enjoy and do it together. The cost can obviously vary quite a bit on this one, but quality time with the people you love is always a plus be it hiking, wine tasting, a tea party, or a road trip!

20. Write a Poem or Short Story

If you have a flair for writing why not write your sweetie a love poem or the kids a one-of-a-kind story? There are lots of ways to present it; have the book printed at a photo kiosk or online, or the poem or shared phrase printed out on canvas in a color scheme fitting with the decor.

21. Give the Gift of Softer Lips with a Lip Balm Set

Chances are you know someone with dry lips (or a little girl who just loves lip balm). Why not gift them with an all-natural gift set of essential oil-infused lip balms? The Yule Love Your Lips lip balm set comes pre-wrapped!

22. Have Fun with the Thoughtfully Thrifty Gift of a Caroling Kit in a Box

If you live in a neighborhood or visit someone who does this can be really fun; print out some carols, drop in a few mugs, some cocoa powder, marshmallows, maybe even throw in matching scarves and spread some Christmas cheer throughout the neighborhood! As an added bonus leave a treat of peppermints or homemade cookies at each stop!

23. Professional Massage

This isn’t the thriftiest gift idea, but it is almost always appreciated! Trust me!

24. Buy a Childhood Favorite and Make it a Tradition with Your Family

Was there a movie you watched every year? Did you get matching pajamas on Christmas Eve? Why not keep the tradition alive? It can be a special game, movie, matching slippers or mugs…

25. Adopt an Angel

The deadline for turning gifts should be coming up fast. If you have any money left in your budget I highly encourage you to adopt an angel from the angel tree or see if your school district has a program. Include the kids if they’re old enough too! I believe generosity should be taught from an early age. It’s so much easier to appreciate what you have when you help someone in need.

That’s 25 Thoughtfully Thrifty Christmas Gift Ideas

I’ve given you 50 gift ideas total now! What are you waiting for? Make that list, check it twice, and be sure to stay in budget! I’ll be back later in the week with stocking stuffer ideas for the whole family! Until then, as always, stay frugal my friends!

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haven't budgeted for Christmas

What to do when you haven’t budgeted for Christmas and it looks like you may need to skip it…

While skipping Christmas is certainly an option, there are a few more options available. If you’re still in baby step two the last thing you want to do is add to your existing debt. If you currently have on debt don’t go back into it just to put a few presents under the tree. Don’t be like the 769 consumers polled after Christmas last year who averaged over $1000 in holiday debt with 42% saying they had no plans to pay it off within three months. Here are five tips to try if you haven’t budgeted for Christmas but still want to spread some holiday cheer without going into debt.

See Related: Holiday Debt Could Take Years to Pay Off from CNBC

Go Minimalist and Cut Back on the Yule Tide Celebrations if You Haven’t Budgeted for Christmas – Way Back

This involves skipping a few things. The optional gift exchanges at the office? Probably not happening. All the party invitations? You’ll need to decline any and all you can that require money being spent.

This is one of those times minimalism comes in really handy; if you remember from Minimalism and Christmas: 5 Tips for Minimalist Holidays, that it can be very beneficial to keep the calendar from being too full will save you some time, stress, and money. That last one is crucial! If you haven’t budgeted for Christmas then you’re going to need to make every dollar count, now more than usual!

You could even totally rethink the annual Christmas dinner with friends and family. Change it up and have fun making new memories while saving money at the same time with these 3 Frugal Holiday Dinner Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank.

Get a Side Hustle

If the idea of skipping Christmas or cutting back the gift list isn’t appealing at all or an option you would consider, there are still a few weeks to get in a side hustle and make some money for Christmas. You’ll want to be sure you will be paid before the actual holiday in order to make this work.

I have 6 Legitimate Side Hustle Ideas to help you get your hustle on. So check them out, get hustling, and make some bank to finance a little Christmas generosity.

Give Handmade Gifts if You Haven’t Budgeted for Christmas

These can be much more thoughtful than store-bought presents, and done right they can also be much less expensive. Here are 25 Thoughtful Ideas for Handmade Christmas Gifts to give you some inspiration. Also, be sure to check out a Life on a Dime’s YouTube channel weekly between now and then for some DIY videos that would make great gifts.

If you do choose to go the handmade route you’ll want to get your list together and get started sooner rather than later. Also, be sure to go over your November and December budgets now to see what you can cut from your budget now in order to have money to buy needed supplies. I have lots of suggestions on budget cuts and how to save money on the blog if you need more ideas than the ones linked here.

haven't budgeted for Christmas

If You Do Have to Skip Christmas…

There is no shame in admitting you can’t afford to do something. If buying gifts this holiday season or hosting the big, party you traditionally do is simply not an option make sure to let people know as early as possible.

And please don’t think that the fact that you aren’t buying gifts for anyone means you’re confined to your house while friends and family are gathered to celebrate. Chances are someone else in your family is preparing to spend money they don’t have this holiday season. They might breathe a sigh of relief when you come forward to say you won’t be participating in gift exchanges this year.

So go ahead, attend the family dinners and church pageant without reservation. Christmas is about love and family and sharing the news of the greatest gift we could possibly receive. No need to lose sight of that with all the consumeristic trappings that have become standard. It may turn out to be one of the best Christmases ever! At the very least it will help serve as extra motivation to get your finances in order in the new year.

Have You Ever Simplified or Skipped Christmas?

I’d love to hear what you’ve done to ease the financial burden of the holidays. Do you save year-round but still keep it simple like we do? Are you like the shoppers polled in last year’s post-holiday survey who admitted to going into debt for the holidays with no game plan to pay it off? Have you skipped Christmas before or plan to this year?

To me, the holidays just feel different when the focus is not on gifts. Family is so much more important. And all you have to budget for with family is time!


minimalism and Christmas

Minimalism and Christmas may not seem like they belong in the same sentence, but I believe they do. The holidays are stressful enough. Why do we make them even more expensive? You don’t get much more minimal than the first Christmas if you think about it. Save yourself some time, stress, and money with my five tips to keep it minimal this holiday season.

**This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.**

Minimalism & Christmas: Opt for Experiences instead of Items as Gifts

When it comes to gifts, experiences are a wonderful idea! Instead of giving stuff that may go unused in a closet (or just donated if you’re like me) or put a lot of strain on the budget. Avoid all that and give the gift of an experience; this can still be just as if not more thoughtful than a store-bought gift.

Examples of experiences include a gift certificate to a favorite activity such as an indoor sports place (TopGolf, ax throwing) for a more active individual, skating rink or indoor trampoline park for kids, or a certificate for mini-golf or bowling for the entire family. Just keep the recipient in mind. Know someone with a creative flair? What about a gift certificate to paint their own pottery?

Keep the Calendar as Simple as Possible

When (if) the party invitations come rolling in don’t feel the need to RSVP yes to all of them. If the holiday season typically includes a lot of social invitations have a family meeting prior to the deluge of mail and agree upon a set number of social events to attend or discuss which annual gatherings are the highest priority.

Keeping the calendar as clear as possible will save a lot of time, stress, and might even reduce your potential exposure to a few winter bugs. It’s cold and flu season folks and you never know who’s been sick or is coming down with something at large gatherings. Be sure to bring some hand sanitizer.

It’s also worth noting that it is not very minimalist to buy a new outfit for every function you plan to attend; if you have room in the budget for one fancy outfit to wear and most social events you plan to attend include different social circles then guess what? That same outfit will be “new” for all events. Even if you’re seen in the same dress at more than one event does it really matter?

Minimalism & Christmas: Opt for Couple or Family Gifts Instead of Gifts for Each Individual

This is something we’ve chosen to do on my husband’s side of the family and it just makes life easier. There are a lot of kids on his side and they all have a lot of stuff already. Thankfully, nobody truly needs much of anything, and most of us have made efforts to pare down our possessions so adding a lot for everyone in the house seems counterintuitive at this point.

We’ve also all pretty much asked each other exactly what they want or need or if something from a general category would be alright. It helps a lot. Our Christmas savings account check was cut this week and I’m just patiently waiting for it to show up in our mailbox so I can start checking items off our list. Our gift shopping list is about 75% done at this point. I will tally the approximate total against our budget (the amount of the check) once I have it in hand and make adjustments where necessary. Our total Christmas budget this year is $500. I have added about $30 from the monthly budget to round this number out. The goal is obviously to come in under budget. This may feel like a lot to us, but it is below the average of $727.90-$730.70 National Retail Federation predicts American households will spend this year.

See: NRF Forecasts Holiday Sales Will Grow Between 3.8 and 4.2 Percent

minimalism and Christmas

Or Draw Names for a Gift Exchange

In the years past we did this with my dad’s family as it is quite large and it was always so fun; different family members live in different states, so it was always exciting to see something picked out for you that wasn’t necessarily from a store we have here in Northwest Arkansas. Granted, this area has grown significantly, but I remember when it was quite exciting to get gifts in boxes from stores I’d never been to!

This can obviously save a lot of money in larger families but admittedly isn’t for everyone. We considered it last year for my family, but we’re not really big enough. It’s not quite as fun when the odds are high you’ll be drawing the name of someone in your house.

Also with gift exchanges, this is something that the family needs to agree on fairly early as some people like to get shopping done early to save themselves some stress. I actually prevented a gift exchange from happening a few years ago because I had taken on a rather large handmade gift project and started it well in advance of Christmas.

Minimalism & Christmas: Keep it Simple with the Kids

As in years past, we plan to keep it pretty simple with our kids this year. Last year was the first my daughter could read. It was also the first year we forgot to label anything as specifically from Santa. She was so caught up in the excitement she didn’t notice!

We typically buy the kids a few things they need (this usually means there will be socks and underwear in stockings), an experience or larger want (by large I mean around $75- they’re still little and we operate on a budget), and a few smaller things. I will probably opt to skip on the few smaller things this year just because stuff for the sake of stuff isn’t very minimalist.

This year their large gifts are mostly things they need or have wanted for a while; my daughter is a boot girl and she finally outgrew the cowgirl boots we bought her two years ago for Christmas. When it comes to boots we buy quality ones from Cavender’s; they always hold up better and fit longer than tennis shoes or dress shoes. For our son, we will buy a plan rug for his bedroom floor with roads and such. He loves to play cars on the rugs around the house. I can’t say I blame him; tile is cold to sit on!

Related: You can find all Christmas posts published on a Life on a Dime by searching the Christmas category!

minimalism and Christmas

What About You?

Do you plan to incorporate minimalism into your family’s Christmas this year? Do you already keep it pretty simple for the holidays? This is how my family continues to use minimalism and Christmas is much less stressful (and expensive) as a result.

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minimalist's pre-holiday to-do list

With Halloween this week I am reminded how time seems to speed up this time of year. With the holidays comes lots of company, special meals with family, and if you have kids… usually more stuff. Even if you keep it simple and minimal-ish around the holidays there are a few very minimalist things to put on a minimalist’s pre-holiday to-do list that can make this season much less stressful. Here are tree things I’m doing to prepare my house, and in turn myself for the holiday season.

**This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.**

My Minimalist Pre-Holiday to-do List

1. Declutter

Decluttering seems like a never-ending process, and if you have kids, chances are it is! They grow, tastes change, kids on the bus send them home with random stuff… Then there are birthdays and holidays when people who love your kids shower them with presents.

We have this pretty well under control, with family and friends understanding our minimalist approach to things and offering the kids more experiences than things (and sometimes money, which we deposit in their savings accounts).

By decluttering clothes and toys I can make room for the new. I also rotate out where toys are stored so they get more use. I also sort out artwork in my daughter’s room. Some get scanned or photographed, but eventually, most of it goes to the recycle bin. The really special ones I keep.

2. Deep Clean

I need to get on this. Minimalism isn’t necessarily about cleaning, but it sure makes it easier to clean! There are fewer surfaces to dust and steam mop, but sometimes I forget to do it often enough. I plan to spend a good day or two scrubbing the place for my fall cleaning in order to make any cleaning required for entertaining over the holidays that much easier. This makes it a must on my minimalist’s pre-holiday to-do list.

3. Take Inventory as Part of Your Minimalist’s Pre-Holiday to-do List

I do this for my own shopping needs, but also for when people ask what they can buy the kids. What do I know they want/need that we haven’t gotten? This makes it really easy in general to know what items are needed for season changes and age-appropriate activities, but it is especially handy around Christmas and birthdays. I don’t have to get back with someone when they ask what the kids/need want if I already have a list made.

This also helps to prevent duplication of items with everyday shopping. It helps stay in budget and ensures purchases are necessities and not just things you think you may need.

Related Video: See how I take inventory of our family’s wardrobe to determine clothing needs.

minimalist's pre-holiday to-do list

What’s on Your Pre-Holiday to-do List?

It’s not about the gifts, the lights, or even the food! And I love traditions centered around food! We’ve already been given the greatest gift ever, so let’s focus our time on what really matters; the people we’re blessed to have in our lives. I don’t want to be busy cleaning and prepping and tidying while memories are being made in the next room. Thanksgiving is about focusing on and truly appreciating what you have. I think if we spent more time on that mindset Christmas would look a lot different!

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I hope that by doing these three simple things memories of our first Christmas in our new house will be filled with fun, love, and special moments. Mostly I don’t want to look back and have a list of things I wish I had done differently. You’ve seen my list, now what’s on yours? Continue the conversation in the comments or head on over to my Instagram, where I’ll share your answers in stories today!

Related Post: 25 Thoughtful Ideas for Handmade Christmas Gifts


frugal holiday dinner ideas

Try these frugal holiday dinner ideas and shake things up a bit while saving money!

Holidays can be expensive. Hosting big family dinners can also be expensive. But they don’t have to be! Save yourself some time, money, and stress; try these frugal holiday dinner ideas this Thanksgiving and Christmas and have a great day with your family and friends, instead of stressing in the kitchen or over your budget.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified purchases.*

1. Have a themed holiday meal

Don’t think you have to eat the traditional turkey or ham dinner when the holidays roll around. Eat what you want! If you like spending all day cooking and look forward to it every year then, by all means, cook the bird and have the traditional meal, but you don’t have to. Why not have a different theme? You could do a taco bar, your own version of never-ending pasta, appetizers… Think outside the frozen poultry aisle and have some fun planning a frugal holiday dinner.

One fun thing to do would be to celebrate your heritage and try sampling dishes. Have Italian roots? Plan a taste of Italy! Irish? Whip up a stew, roast some potatoes… try a bread pudding. Irish Christmas meals aren’t that different from American turns out… Unless you’re in the mood for goose instead of turkey or ham. German? Try your hand at some apple and sausage stuffing (sounds interesting) or some Christmas Stollen. I’m really curious about that one now.

If you have French ancestors be sure to bring your appetite. You definitely have lots of menu options to choose from if you’re going the traditional holiday dinner route. Whether you go all out with the theme or keep it simple the point is to have fun with it!

2. Make it potluck for a truly frugal holiday dinner

I’m from the south and it’s just pretty standard to ask what you need to bring when you’re invited over to eat. If your guests offer to bring sides/salads/desserts, let them! Better yet coordinate it and say, sticking with this theme I will provide the main dish of (insert dish of choice). Heck, come up with a suggested menu for people and suggest/ ask them to bring something specific. It’s fun, frugal and a little different for Thanksgiving dinner.

You can create an event on Facebook, set up a meal on SignUpGenius, send out an evite… There are lots of different ways to organize a potluck. Just try to be sure it’s somewhat organized and everybody doesn’t show up with salad and rolls. Again, refer back to my first tip and keep the potluck meal more cohesive by establishing a theme ahead of time.

3. Make it a progressive dinner

Have a large group of people to get to and not a lot of space? It’ll take some coordination for sure, but make it a progressive dinner. Start a little early, and show up to one house for appetizers and conversation. Another house can host the next course. You may choose to have a soup course, salad course, main course, and final stop dessert and coffee (to stay awake after all that yummy food).

Just match the number of houses participating with the number of courses (or throw in a house you just play games and drink another coffee). End the night with a bonfire and smores. Make it fun and memorable by totally changing things up.

If you have small kids I would advise keeping the number of stops to a manageable number of stops to avoid some overwhelm. Or maybe have the kids stay at one house after say the main course while adults go on to the next for coffee and dessert. The kids can have a dessert and unwind without being drug off to another few stops. If they’re old enough maybe make it a slumber party.

frugal holiday dinner ideas

Make the Holiday Yours with a New Tradition

Not only can starting a new tradition liven things up a little, if you use these frugal holiday dinner ideas it can also make it easier on everyone’s wallets, which is sure to be appreciated. Holidays should be about spending time with the ones you love creating memories. So switch it up and make some great ones!

What are your favorite non-traditional holiday dinner plans? Frugal doesn’t have to be any less fun. It can even mean having fewer dishes to wash! Who doesn’t love that?!

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