Holidays on a Budget are Always in Style


Journal cover made by Sarah Trunkey, sold on

Holidays on a Budget are Always in Style

It’s official. If you’ve been to any restaurant, supermarket, or mall, you know that Christmas is here. And I don’t know about you, but I didn’t save up for all the expenses that come our way during this time of the year, so it’s time to think, how can I make it all work? There’s presents for family and friends, decorations for the house, side dishes to bring to different events, planning outfits for said events, Christmas cards, getting haircuts and mani/pedis to look nice for all the events, and it goes on and on. Well, here’s some ideas to help with a few of those.

Dressing for holiday parties:
Let’s be honest, it’s nice to show up to an event with family or friends and look great! (Especially if we haven’t seen them in a while.) So, who doesn’t want to look great? But it can be really pricey to buy a new dress or outfit every year, just so we don’t wear the same Thanksgiving outfit every time we carve the turkey. Or the same red dress to the company Christmas party that they’ve seen the last two events. Well, do you have a friend who is your size? Trade! Borrow! Shop in each other’s closets for the main outfit, or even just accessories. It will bring something new to you, without having to spend any money and everyone will think you did!
Polite note: Be sure to have it cleaned before returning it. (Come on, you got a new outfit to wear, five bucks for cleaning is nothing.)
Special note for guys: You’re a little easier. If you wore your only suit to last year’s party, you can wear it again, just change it up. Do the jacket with jeans instead. Or instead of a tie, wear a button down shirt with a vest over or colored tee under.

These are everywhere, sometimes you just have to look a little.
-Check out websites devoted solely to helping you find coupons: and for example.
-Go to the websites for stores you frequent and sign up for their regular emails, which often include coupons. I was recently visiting my friend, Sandi, who gets regular emails from New York & Co and had received an offer where if you spend $75, you get $25 off, spend $150 and get $60 off, and so on. She was able to print one for herself, AND one for me. (More a little later on how we maximized these!)
-Ask in the store when you are shopping if they have any coupons available. Stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Michael’s frequently send out coupons for $5.00 off your purchase or 40% off any one item, and they usually keep a stack for customers to use. Little hint, talk up the person ringing you up, smile, and ask politely. If you treat it like a favor, and not something you’re entitled to, people will frequently go above and beyond. Plus, our friends who work retail need some extra TLC at the holidays. If you’ve done it, you know.
One word of caution: Retailers do the coupon thing to get you to buy more, sending you the message you are saving money, when maybe you won’t. Don’t buy something you don’t need just to get the deal. Really think about if it’s something you need/want and if you’ll actually be saving money by taking advantage of their “buy one, get the second at 50% off” offers. Do you really need two holiday cardigans?

Gift shopping:
For many people I know, this is the most stressful part about the holidays. It can be a challenge buying for someone, finding something you know they’d love. And isn’t it so much easier to part with our hard earned income when you know they’ll love it, rather than just grabbing something because you drew their name and you’ve gotta put something in that box under the tree. The best reminder I can offer is think about who THEY are, what they are passionate about, and move in that direction.

Also, consider supporting fair trade businesses (if you google “Fair Trade”, you will see a ton of options, like and, or individual artisans who are handcrafting items (try

Here’s one more thought…does our gift have to be something that can go under the tree? What about a donation? Or spending time together? One year, my friend Erin and I got together during Christmas time, drank hot chocolate, listened to music and made Gingerbread houses together. The Gingerbread house kits were around $10 at Costco, and the few hours we got to spend together at such a busy time were priceless.

Team Up with a Friend:
There are a number of reasons to shop with friends (it’s more fun, they give great shopping advice, you need someone to share a pretzel with), but I’ve discovered in the past week that you can also get more shopping and savings horsepower if you work together.

-I had to hit up the local beauty supply to restock my shampoo and conditioner. I will admit that I go for the good (otherwise known as expensive) stuff, but don’t have to buy often, so that helps. The local beauty supply does the frequent buyer thing, you know, when you spend up to a certain amount then you receive $10 off your next purchase. If you frequently shop somewhere, do this, it will save you money. On this day, they were also handing out promotional coupons, the peel off and see what you win kind. I peeled mine off, and won a pink compact mirror with the store logo on it. Meh. My friend Steve happened to be with me, and so he asked for one too. Now, keep in mind, when they do a promotion like this, no purchase is necessary to win. So even if your friend is not buying, they should also ask for one. It will double your chances to save, and that’s what happened! Steve’s peel off was Save $10 on your purchase, which I was able to use right there, and would not have gotten without him. Friend power!

-Second story, was at the mall with Sandi over the weekend. We hit up New York and Co. to use the coupons she received by email during the week. Now, keep in mind, this is a store we both like to shop in, so we weren’t going to spend money to save money on items we don’t actually want. Use the deals, coupons, and specials, but in places you like. It’s not a bargain unless you love it. So Sandi picked out her items she wanted, I had mine, and we got in line together. The key to this working, is to stick together and do the math.

I’m gonna throw out some numbers here, but stay with me. Sandi’s total was $113. She would have saved $25 (with the spend $75 and save $25 coupon), or she could have grabbed another sweater or top, taking her up to $150, so she would have saved $60 (making her new total $90). But she didn’t need another sweater or top. It would have been a rushed grabbing of something just to get the savings. Which is the point of these coupons, because then the retailers are pushing volume. I was right behind her in line with a $43 sweater in my hand. So…we put my sweater on her bill. The sweaters happened to be on sale, so we were only at $143, still not enough for the extra savings. Which would have been fine because one sweater was still 50% off, however I had been eyeing a necklace that I really liked, and had put it down because to me it was not worth the $20 it was selling for. Well, Sandi had one necklace, and they were buy one, get the second at a discounted price. My necklace pushed us over the edge for the spend $150, save $60. Our total bill was $109 dollars ($4 less than Sandi’s original total of $113) and I handed her the cash for my items, making her new total less then $80. She saved over $30, I saved over $20 (and still got the necklace I wanted), and neither of us had to buy things we didn’t want in the name of getting a “deal”. Friend power!

Be mindful this season, don’t pay full price for anything, and mostly remember to enjoy your family and friends!



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Filed under Holidays, Winter

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