7 Big Holiday Expenses (and Their Thrifty Alternatives)

You can ditch the costly cookies and expensive ugly sweaters!
Christmas Expenses

The holiday season can be a fun time filled with parties and gift-giving, but those same joys can put stress on your wallet. Avoiding such expenditures doesn't mean you have to be a Grinch, though! With a little foresight and creativity, you can enjoy all the holidays have to offer without getting a loan from Santa.

SEE ALSO: One for You, One for Me: The Best BOGO Gift Card Freebies

Below are some common holiday expenses and their less-costly alternatives.

7 Holiday Expenses to Avoid

Christmas Cards

Seasonal Skinny: For many, the spreading (and receiving) of Yuletide cheer via Christmas cards is an annual tradition. But at $1 to $2 per card when you figure in postage, these tidings can take a toll on your pocketbook.

How to Save Instead: Go digital! Cut out the expense of Christmas cards altogether by sending eCards, trying a digital newsletter service like MailChimp, or writing personal emails to those on your list. If you must send something physical, use a template and printing service like Vistaprint to print your own cards. Or if you're graphically inclined, design one yourself!

SEE ALSO: How to Save Money on Vistaprint Business Cards (and More!)

Christmas Treats

Seasonal Skinny: Buying baskets of treats for family and co-workers — like this box of 12 holiday cut-out cookies ($26.99 at Cheryl's Cookies) — will quickly take a big bite out of your budget.

How to Save Instead: One alternative is to bake cookies yourself. But unless you have a team of elves to assist you, making the treats from scratch will take up a lot of your time. Instead, call on your friend the Pillsbury Doughboy and buy premade cookie dough (about $4 to $5 for a package that makes 29 cookies). Package the cookies in plastic bags tied with ribbon for a festive, frugal touch.

Holiday Parties

Seasonal Skinny: One of the great joys of the holiday season is being surrounded by family and friends. But if you're hosting, the cost of entertaining can put a crimp in your personal merriment.

How to Save Instead: Host a potluck instead of footing the bill for cocktails and canapés all on your own — which would probably be at least $200, depending on how many people you invite. Your guests will likely enjoy showing off their culinary skills, and trading recipes can be part of the fun.

Holiday Clothing

Seasonal Skinny: Who doesn't want an excuse to buy new clothes? But you might want to reconsider before you buy that reindeer-patterned sweater (like this one for $49.50 at Nordstrom) or a red velvet dress (like this one retailing for $89 at Macy's) that you'll only wear once a year.

Opt for an accessory or tie that can make your existing wardrobe look more festive.

How to Save Instead: Instead of buying an entire outfit that screams "holiday wear," opt for an accessory (like this brooch for $6.99 at Macy's) or tie (like this candy cane–striped tie for $25 at Ties.com) that can make your existing wardrobe look more festive.

Gifts for Friends and Family

Seasonal Skinny: Sure, 'tis always better to give than to receive — or at least, let's assume it is. However, buying something for each of your family members and friends can quickly exhaust your credit card limit.

How to Save Instead: Host a potluck party (see above) and initiate a Yankee swap. You'll only have to buy one gift while still being surrounded by the generosity of your loved ones.


Seasonal Skinny: We've all seen the houses with every square inch covered in lights, so we know how easy it is to go overboard decorating your home.

How to Save Instead: Despite the seeming impressiveness of an extravagant light display, simple ornamentation can prove to be just as effective. Go with some candles (a bag of 100 tealights is just $5.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond) and simple garlands for a tasteful touch.

SEE ALSO: 9 Things You Should NOT Buy Before Christmas

Gift Wrap

Seasonal Skinny: Gift wrap probably isn't an expense you think too much about, but the cost of bows and fancy paper (like this roll with gold foil trees, $6 at Target) can add up quickly.

How to Save Instead: If you can, reuse the gift bags in which you've previously received gifts. And wrapping paper that doesn't scream "birthday," "baby shower," or another occasion can be used instead of buying new paper. Also, plan ahead for next year and get gift wrap when it goes on sale after the holidays.

Readers, how do you save on expenses during the holidays? Share your tips in the comments below!

Former Senior Staff Writer

Stephen has been writing for such national and regional publications as The Village Voice, Paste, The Agit Reader, and The Big Takeover for 20 years. He covered consumer electronics and technology for DealNews from 2013 to 2018.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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tips are goos if you have no family and friend!!!!!!!!
Making chocolate chip cookies from scratch is neither expensive nor time-consuming, and we can all taste the difference. If you're going to be so gross as to use premade cookie dough please save everyone a trip to the trash and buy a $5 Starbucks card instead. Same $$ but something everyone can use!