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Planning to Party Over the Holidays? 8 Ways to Celebrate Without Going Into Serious Debt

The holidays are a joyful time, but they can be expensive. Here’s how to maintain a holiday budget, avoid debt and still enjoy yourself!

November 19, 2021

The holidays are known to be filled with joy — but they can also be filled with a whole lot of spending. 

While buying gifts ranks fairly high on the list of holiday expenses, other costs can start to creep up — like going out with friends, hosting fancy dinners, donating to charities and more. 

Scrooging around too much can make the holiday season dull, but you might be wondering if it’s possible to maintain a holiday budget that cuts down on debt but not on fun. 

Keep reading to learn eight simple ways to celebrate this holiday season without overspending. 

Make a holiday budget — and stick to it

Holiday budgeting involves figuring out how much you expect to spend on various activities and gifts before the holiday season begins. The concept may sound a bit simple, but it’s actually quite effective when implemented properly. 

Sit down with pen and paper and make a holiday budget for:

  • Gifts

  • Charitable giving

  • Meals out

  • Drinks out

  • Fancy groceries (special items you wouldn’t normally buy)

  • Alcohol for gatherings

  • Transportation costs (flights to see family, Lyft for a night out, etc.)

  • Holiday decorations

  • Costumes and holiday clothing 

You can budget each item individually, or start by establishing how much you can spend total  then working your way backwards. 

For more tips & tricks, see our guide to Christmas budgets

Shop smart

If you’re stocking up on alcohol, decorations, treats and fancy food items for the holidays, it pays to shop around. If you pick everything up at the grocery store on the way to your family’s gathering, you’ll probably be stuck paying full retail price. 

On the other hand, if you shop at a discount store or wholesale outlet like Costco or Sam’s Club, you can score great deals on holiday must-haves. 

Pay cash

When you attend events, hit the bar with friends or treat your family to a nice dinner out, it can be tempting to reach for your credit card. But with your entire credit limit at your disposal, it’s easy to overspend and worry about the consequences later. 

If you stick to paying with cash, however, you can avoid overspending — and keep to your holiday budget. 

If you already have credit card debt to pay off, you can check out Tally — a personal finance app that may help you pay off your credit card debt faster. 

Opt for happy hour

If you’re meeting up with friends or family to celebrate, consider hitting up a happy hour instead of a full dinner. Many restaurants have substantially lower prices during happy hour, and if you time it right you can have a full meal, just a few hours early. 

Skip the drinks

When hitting the town during the holidays, alcohol adds up faster than anything else. Drinks at bars or restaurants can easily double the cost of a night out. 

If you skip drinking, you can save money on alcohol and drive yourself and your friends home to save on Uber costs or cab rides.

Refresh your holiday wardrobe on the cheap

Whether you’re going to an office holiday party or an ugly sweater party, the temptation can be strong to go out and buy new clothes. Fortunately, there are a few ways to refresh your wardrobe without spending too much money:

  • Set up a clothing exchange with friends

  • Go thrift shopping

  • Make your own ugly sweater (trust us, you can make it truly ugly without spending much!)

Don’t be afraid to say no

It’s completely okay to skip an event or gathering at times. The holidays can be hectic, so people will understand if you’re unable to make it to an event. 

Skipping a party or get-together can help save both money and your sanity, particularly if your holidays are extra busy this year. 

Find joy in the little things

Finally, remember that the holidays are about spending time with the people you love and care about — not about spending a bunch of money. In fact, some of the most enjoyable holiday traditions you can partake in don’t necessarily cost a lot of money (or any money at all). 

Some new traditions you can try:

  • Bake and decorate holiday cookies with your family

  • Go to a U-Cut tree farm and find the perfect holiday tree

  • Decorate the tree with your family or friends

  • Host a holiday-themed game night 

  • Read classic holiday stories to your kids

  • If your family celebrates Christmas, set out milk and cookies for Santa 

  • Learn about holiday traditions from other cultures 

  • Go caroling in your neighborhood

  • Have a dessert party, cookie swap or community potluck  

Ultimately, the holidays are about love, togetherness and spending quality time with one another. 

Whatever your household’s holiday traditions might be, enjoy — and happy holidays! 

†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. Based on your credit history, the APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% - 29.99% per year. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.