How to Have a Magical Christmas When You Have No Money

It really is possible to have an amazing Christmas even if you have no money? I am here to say, yes! Just like with anything else, Christmas is what you make of it, and this is especially true if you’ve got kids. As a parent, kids so often react to a situation, whether good or bad, as you do. If you make Christmas with a tight budget an adventure, they will think of it like an adventure. Christmas doesn’t require money to make memories. In fact, making memories of any kind doesn’t require money at all.

No matter what your budget is, maintaining a strict budget during the holidays just take some effort. Christmas, even with no money will take a little bit more planning, a little extra intention, and a commitment to make the best of things.

There were three years out of the past 18 years with our kids when we faced Christmas broke. One year we hung one string of lights and a few ornaments on a large potted plant. We had $5 to spend on each of our three kids for gifts while our fourth was just a baby and didn’t need any gifts that year. The few gifts went under the plant just like they would have if there were more presents and a Christmas tree. And it was just fine.

We made some modifications to the foods we ate, too. We kept some of our holiday food traditions, but we also substituted some more inexpensive food items as well. Some of these were new foods that became part of our holiday traditions in other years, too.

We didn’t put up any other Christmas lights since we didn’t have the money for a larger electric bill. Instead, we went looking at the lights of others in our neighborhood and in a fe surrounding neighborhoods. We took hot chocolate along, and to this day our kids still want to go driving through regular neighborhoods to look at lights.

When we opened gifts, we found we appreciated the gifts all the more. In most cases we each got only one gift, and we all see the gifts from that year as a special memory.

The thing is, when you’re broke for Christmas, you are forced to focus more on people rather than things. And, isn’t that what Christmas is all about anyway?

With little to no money, you’re forced to get creative, and like in our case, you might actually try some new things that you end up loving!


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The key to all of this if you are a parent is to make this a positive thing from the get go. Christmas with a tight budget doesn’t have to be a negative. And it won’t be if you don’t make it a negative. If you do have kids who make it a negative, spin whatever they are saying right back to a positive.

Wondering how to have a magical Christmas if you’re broke? Read on!

magical christmas no money

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Keep the traditions you can

Maintain meaningful traditions to keep things as normal as possible. You could also make some adjustments to traditions in order to make them fit your budget if need be. There are often creative ways to make substitutions in some way, just keep what you can and go on with things.

If many of your traditions are costly ones, this may be a great year to try some new things. I have shared 20 of our family traditions, and many of them cost nothing at all.

Traditions are so memorable within the heartbeat of a family. This is why it’s beneficial to do what you can with previous traditions and bring in some new ones, too.

christmas cookies

Create homemade Christmas gifts

Not crafty? No worries, I’m not either. But, there are so many ways you can make Christmas gifts when you’re broke.

Honestly, there really is nothing that is more special than a homemade gift. Making things from scratch takes a ton of the thing we all need more of – time. For this reason, it really communicates how much you care about the person you are giving a homemade gift to.

It does take time to create homemade Christmas gifts, but in my experience, you feel so amazing giving someone a homemade gift that you sacrificed so much time to make. Homemade gifts simply have more meaning both on the giving and the receiving end. And when you’re broke, making Christmas gifts is the solution to not being able to give any Christmas gifts at all.

Focus on the reason for the season

It can be so hard to remember that Christmas isn’t just about all the gifts. With all the commercialism, things get so out of perspective. As a Christian, Christmas is about focusing on the ultimate gift given in the birth of Jesus. In our family, this has been a great thing to focus on when we’ve had no money to spend on gifts.

Even for those who aren’t Christians, Christmas is about being with the ones you love. It’s about making time to be together. It’s often about seeing family members and friends you don’t see very often or at all during the year.

Keeping the focus in your family on making amazing memories and just being together helps minimize the need for gifts.

Christmas is still Christmas without material gifts.

You can read a really great post I wrote about family holiday traditions HERE

Choose to serve others this Christmas

There is nothing that helps keep things in perspective like serving others. Having little to no money at Christmastime is hard, but there are always others who are struggling more than you are. I know sometimes it’s hard to recognize, but there are always others who are suffering whether financially or otherwise.

The ways to serve others are endless, and it can be an amazing gift to yourselves and others to do this as a family. You could make homemade gifts for neighbors or your mail carrier. Perhaps you could all help an elderly neighbor with yard work. You could serve together at a homeless shelter out other outreach ministry in your community. With so much hurt and need in the world, the possibilities are truly endless here.

Any time we take the focus off of ourselves, it helps us to be mindful of the ways that others struggle as well. Everyone faces trials in this life, no matter their financial situation.

Personally, I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a sick and suffering child in the hospital during the Christmas season. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have my entire family together as someone was spending their holiday in the hospital. It would be so hard to carry the stress and strain of a sick loved one, especially during this time. Finding a way to serve these families must be so well received during the holiday season.

There are also retirement communities filled with people who have no family nearby. There are college kids who might not be able to go home this Christmas. See what I mean? The list really could go on and on.

If you’ve got a tight Christmas budget, really spend some time thinking of some creative ways to serve those who are so often forgotten.

Decorate your Christmas tree with blessings

Create blessings tags to hang on your Christmas tree

Create some smaller squares on card stock paper, punch a hole in one end, and hang them on your tree among the ornaments with the many blessings you have as a family written on them. This is especially meaningful if the presents will be a bit lacking under your tree this year. Again, it helps keeps the focus on the things you do have to be thankful for – and we all have them!

christmas tags

Focus on the beauty of the season

There are so many ways to do this. You could drive around looking at Christmas lights, take in a high school holiday performance in your area, or just stroll through the mall looking at the beautiful decorations.

Handbell performances are beautiful, and some malls have string quartet is playing this time of the year. Churches often put on beautiful choir concerts, Christmas performances, and even have live nativity scenes.

Many view this as the most beautiful time of the year, and I. If you’re are looking closely, you can see some beautiful personalities, too, since people are more focused on helping others.

With a tight Christmas budget or even know holiday budget at all, you can still have a very beautiful time filled with countless memories would loved ones.

Give love, not gifts

Okay so this might sound a little cliche or corny, but it really is nice to feel extra loved. This is especially true during this busy and hectic time of the year.

For instance, when my kids make me a coupon book of special things they will do for me when I give them a coupon, I feel more loved than when they buy me a gift. This could be because my love language really is acts of service, but I do think everyone likes to feel appreciated and loved.

How special would it be to leave a family member a quick note about something you love and appreciate about them for every day in December? I would love that.

You could also offer to love you sister by babysitting her kids for her. You might show your grandmother some extra love by sitting down and looking through old pictures with her.

Your opportunities are endless, but taking the time to show love to someone rather than buying a gift is irreplaceable.

Don’t underestimate the power of this when your Christmas budget is tight.

Make some great holiday dishes and holiday treats

Food is such a great way to bless others. Have some fun in your kitchen. Make some new dishes together. Create things that are a feast for the eyes as much as they are for your taste buds. Take some extra time to create some beautiful holiday dishes and sweets – perhaps that kind you always purchased in the past.

I love chocolate covered strawberries. They are probably my most favorite sweet treat in all the world.

When we were broke one Christmas, my husband made them for me rather than buying them. Those were an unexpected surprise and so special to me because he made them.

It is amazing what you can make from scratch. Chocolate covered pretzels, all kinds of fudge and candies, and more, thanks to Pinterest.

Having a meaningful Christmas doesn’t require an enormous budget. In fact, you can have a meaningful Christmas while spending no money at all.

If you’re struggling financially this year, you don’t have to give up Christmas. If you’re truly struggling with money, I know it can be hard to find the joy in anything. I know, I’ve been there.

But, the most amazing thing happens when you choose to find joy in the season. It’s like your struggles and money worries become a bit lighter, which is an added gift for you.

Whether you’re really struggling with money or just want to learn some new ways to keep more of your money in your own pocket, our money saving community, Thriving on a Dime, is the perfect place for you. I teach everything I learned about how to save money in our 20 year journey to becoming debt-free.

You can join us for the first month totally free. Find out more HERE

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