Last Updated on 9th November 2020 by Emma
If you have no money for Christmas then it can feel like the worst thing in the whole world.
Because of the hype that Christmas gets from September onwards you can end up worried about affording Christmas for months.
Now it might be that you can’t afford Christmas in the sense that the retailers would have you believe, but you don’t need a lot of money for Christmas.
And you totally can survive Christmas with no money if you have to, trust me, I’ve been there and survived. I have absolute faith you can too.
What to do when you have No Money for Christmas
In theory Christmas is just another day so if you can afford to buy food for tomorrow then you can afford to budget for Christmas too.
But life isn’t like that is it?
You and I know that Christmas will cost more than tomorrow’s dinner so what are your choices if you can’t afford to celebrate Christmas as you would like to do?
1. Treat it like any other day, at no extra cost
2. Find some slack in your budget to cover the cost of Christmas
3. Get creative and have a no spend Christmas
This post is about helping you get creative so you can have a magical Christmas even if you have no spare money to spend.
Option 1 – It’s Just Another Day
So many people make Christmas into a huge deal.
They spend thousands on their kids, on food and on decorating their house in the latest Christmas trend.
Ignore them, they’ve probably taken out a bunch of debt to afford all of that.
You’re being sensible, you know you have no money for Christmas so you are starting from that point.
So you could choose to go with option 1, and treat both Christmas Day and the lead up to it as just normal days, going about your normal business.
But you wouldn’t be reading this if you were happy to go with this option would you?
Which means it’s either option 2 or 3.
Option 2 – Christmas on a very tight budget
Before we dig into option 3, let’s consider option 2 – is there any slack in your budget you can put towards your ideal Christmas?
Firstly, look again at your budget and see if there is any wriggle room in there to free up a little money.
If you do have some wriggle room then I’ve got lots of advice about how you can afford Christmas on a tight budget in these posts:
Pre-Christmas Budgeting Tips
- Cut back on your grocery bill
- Eat cheaper foods, the list in this post will help
- Drop any subscriptions you still have
- Take a rain check on some of your usual budget items like clothes, eating out or travel costs
- Make extra money?
If there is time between now and Christmas then look to see if you can earn some extra money.
Maybe you can take on a couple of shifts at your local store. Dog walk for neighbors. Sell some of your unused stuff on Ebay or Craigslist.
You certainly don’t want to be taking on debt in order to pay for this one day celebration.
Option 3 – You literally have no money for Christmas
Here’s the stark reality, you have no money for Christmas and nothing is going to change between now and the big day itself.
Don’t be thinking you need to cancel Christmas though.
Oh no, you might not have money but there is still so much you can do to create a magical time for your family.
The right mindset
To create a magical time even though you are feeling too poor for Christmas, you need to try and get into the right mindset.
A mindset of I can do it, not, it’s never going to work.
It’s really important that you take your focus off what everyone else is doing and buying (they’re probably racking up some debt so really don’t be jealous).
Don’t think or worry about others. Focus on you and your family and what you want to achieve for them.
A magical no spend Christmas with no debt afterwards.
This post can help you work on a more positive, money mindset:
Look at what you CAN do, not what you can’t
How To Have a Magical No Spend Christmas
Decorate for free
- Branches, boughs of pine, ivy and berries, pine cones and dried citrus slices are all extremely decorative at this time of year.
- Create interesting centerpieces with pine cones and ivy strands.
- Re-purpose existing items from other rooms.
- Grab fairy lights from a child’s bedroom.
- Move candles from the bathroom into your living room
- Cut intricate snowflake patterns to adorn your windows
- Make your own tree ornaments from anything!
I’ve had old CDs, sticky notes and salt dough tree ornaments over the years.
In fact I still have the CD decoration, it’s 19 years old and was made by DD2 so cannot be thrown away.
This post will inspire you: 21 Creative Christmas Tree Ornaments
Find free Christmas printables on Pinterest to print out and decorate your walls:
Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!
Create fun food memories without the cost
- Save up your reward points between now and Christmas and use them to buy your Christmas dinner
- Have a pudding as a starter
- Insist on everyone drinking out of wine glasses (or plastic) even the kids
- Decorate the table with a tablecloth (I’ve used a white bed sheet in the past)
- Insist everyone tuck their napkins into their collars, even the adults, and pretend you are in an exclusive restaurant
- Present meals in different ways. Serve all your food as separate tapas
- Have a picnic in the house
Find free things to do
- Watch free Christmas movies
- Listen to Christmas music
- Sing some Christmas carols
- Have a family board game night
- Play charades
- Look up free Christmas events in your locality
- Walk your neighborhood looking at the Christmas lights
- Talk about your favorite memories of Christmas past
No money for Christmas gifts
Giving gifts without spending any money at all takes creative thinking.
Firstly you need to think hard about who you are going to give gifts for.
Given you have no money for Christmas, it makes sense for this to be the year you have those conversations with family members about not exchanging presents.
You’re all adults and they will understand when you explain how this year there cannot be any gifts.
Don’t let them brush off your discussion with one of those throw away comments:
“Oh we don’t need to spend much on each other, it’s the thought that counts”, or
“I’ve already bought yours so it would be nice to get something”.
I find these the most frustrating things to hear when you have no money for Christmas gifts, what bit about having NO money do they not get?
Be honest with them, and if you have to be, be brutally honest.
Tell them that you have no money and you are NOT going to go into debt just to buy gifts that are not essential.
Don’t shy away from your truth.
Christmas Gifts on the Cheap
For those who you are going to try and buy a little something for, remember that it’s the thought that counts.
You can find plenty of useful or fun things at the dollar store and pound shop, even if it is just a bar of chocolate!
Side note: I would seriously happy if my family members each just bought me a chocolate bar, nom, nom!
Consider doing stocking stuffers only, if it doesn’t fit in the stocking, it doesn’t get bought.
You could even set a limit per item, a dollar can buy all sorts of interesting, fun and practical things.
Buy practical needed items.
If you’ve got unused gift cards, use these to buy gifts.
Check out how the Festive Money Binder can help you here:
Talk to your children
Children understand more than you think.
Be honest with them about your financial situation.
Tell them there is no money for Christmas this year but it doesn’t mean that there will be no Christmas this year, just a somewhat different festive time.
If your finances are going to change for the better in a few months then you can delay gifts until then.
Ask them what they would like that doesn’t cost money.
Kids are very creative, let them help you make a no spend Christmas special.
No spend Christmas gifts
Gift your skills.
You don’t have to be an expert to offer up your skills as a gift.
We all have skills and experiences that can help people and be a wonderful gift.
As much because its about giving the gift of your time as much as your experience. How about:
You can extend these gifts to children as well.
A week without chores will go down a treat as would having a batch of their favorite cookies made exclusively for them.
An afternoon trip out somewhere free means quality time they will enjoy.
Make homemade gifts, ideally with things you already have.
Make up gifts in a jar like some of the ones in these posts:
Bake cookies and gift wrap them – you can freeze these up to 3 months ahead so no need to be rushing around in December
Getting Organized To Survive Without spending Money
The secret sauce of surviving Christmas with no money is being organized.
I don’t mean becoming someone who has a million lists and a clipboard.
But spending time now thinking about what you can do to make the festive season a magical one without money, is time well spent.
Tips to get organized:
- Check your budget again, if you can find $10 then that’s $10 more than you thought you had
- Buy something for your Christmas dinner every week as part of your regular grocery shop
- Instead of buying cards, send e-cards instead – for free!
- Check your grocery store for loyalty rewards or if they have a saving scheme that you could join
- If you are having visitors on Christmas Day (or any day) suggest they bring a course or dish (e.g. a starter or dessert) – they will be glad to help out
How to survive Christmas with no money
You can make Christmas special without spending any money at all.
You need a positive mindset, a can do attitude and time to be creative.
Don’t wait to get your no spend Christmas started.
You CAN survive Christmas with no money and the time to start is now.
Prove to yourself that there are preparations you can make that are free and start ticking them off your to do list.
You might have no money for Christmas but that doesn’t mean Christmas is cancelled, far from it.
Check out how the Festive Money Binder can help you here: