How to Afford Christmas With No Money

how to afford Christmas with no money
Depositphotos ID: 134875464 Copyright: ArturVerkhovetskiy

There’s no getting around the fact that buying Christmas presents can be really expensive. If you have kids or a large family, it can be even more difficult. So, if you find yourself in the position of needing to give gifts and not having any money, you may be wondering how to afford Christmas with no money. Here are a few helpful tips that should get you through the season.

Ways to Afford Christmas When You Have No Money

Hey, I’ve been there. There was a time I had a whole $17 dollars to my name. Needless to say, paying the bills was difficult enough. There was no way I could buy Christmas gifts. (You can read how I got myself drowning in debt here and how I got out of it here and here.)

I’m lucky, I guess, that I don’t have a big family or children, so I didn’t have two many people to buy for. In fact, it was just my parents and my sister and brother-in-law.

Even so, that wasn’t happening. 

My family knew I didn’t have a lot of money, but I don’t think they realized just how desperate the situation really was.

Regardless, I didn’t want to show up for Christmas empty-handed. It would have been embarrassing. I’m sure you know what I mean.

I like to think I am fairly creative, so I put my head down and came up with a few ways to be able to show up and have something to give to each one. 

Here are a few ways you can do the same.

1.Go Outside

Depending on where you live, it may be really cold and snowy around Christmas or it might be warm. I’ve lived in both.

Either way, you might be surprised by what nature can provide

If it is warm, you might find some wildflowers that can be given as a gift. (Put them in a nice vase you have around the house.) Or, they can be used on the package as decoration.

Pine cones are also a great find. There happens to be a fir tree a half a block from my house that has pine cones that fall off of it all season long. I pick them up from time-to-time to save them for decorations. 

Add a little glitter and they are great on Christmas packages.

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Speaking of packages, use newspaper to wrap them instead of expensive wrapping paper. The newspaper looks cool and if you add some of the pine cones covered in glitter, it looks really nice and a bit different from everyone else’s gifts.

For mother’s day once (I know it’s a different time of year) I picked lilacs and gave them to my mother instead of spending money on flowers at the store. She loved them.

The point is, if you go outside and look around, you might be surprised by what you find. 

You might also enjoy:

6 Crazy Simple Ways to Save Money During the Holidays

How to Afford a Car When You’re Poor

How to Turn $10 Dollars into $100 Dollars – 5 Embarrassingly Easy Ways

31 Life-Changing Tips on How to Survive on a Low Income Budget

14 Mouth-Watering Ways on How to Save Money Feeding a Family

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2. Turn Food into a Gift

My mother loves bacon. She could eat it every day and still want more. So, for Valentine’s Day (I know it’s a different holiday.) I cooked some bacon and turned it into roses. 

It’s pretty easy, I just rolled it up and baked it in the oven. Once it was done, I took some stems from some old fake flowers I had, cut the flower off and washed the stems, and then inserted them into the bacon roses.

They really did look like roses. It’s pretty amazing, and my mom loved them. She still talks about them. I think it might be one of the favorite things I ever gave her.

The point is, find something the person you are giving a gift to loves to eat and make it. Chances are you have what you need in your kitchen anyway, and as they say, food is love and they will love you for it.

Other food-related gifts you could consider include:

  • A teacup or mug with packets of peppermint tea
  • A container such as a vase or small tin box filled with candy or cookies
  • Homemade bread or sweet rolls
  • A container or gift bag filled with trail mix

The options are only limited by your imagination.

For example, my aunt Sarah used to bring by homemade cinnamon yeast rolls on Christmas Eve still warm from the oven.

It was one of the things we looked forward to the most, and it didn’t cost her anything except some time and ingredients she already had.

3. Make Your Christmas Dinner a Pot Luck

If you plan to have company over for dinner, let them know they need to bring a dish. Most people want to bring something anyway and some will even if you tell them not to, so make the dinner potluck.

You can supply the turkey and assign a dish to each of the guests. The meal will be great and it won’t cause your budget to fly out the window.

If a turkey is out of your reach, ask a family member to supply it and you can do something like mashed potatoes which is a lot less expensive. 

4. Sell Unused Items on eBay

If you’re looking for extra cash for the holidays, look around your home. They say that most people have about $3,000 worth of stuff in their house that they don’t use and could sell on eBay.

I know that sounds high, but when I started looking around, I realized I had some things stuck away in my closet that I don’t use and never will that could bring in some money.

On eBay, you get the first 50 listings for free. So, it won’t cost you anything to list items you already own unless they sell. 

You could easily raise all the money you need to buy gifts and have a great Christmas dinner.

Just be sure to do this a couple of months ahead of Christmas as it can take some time for things to sell.

5. Use Your Creative Skills

Yes, you can certainly make Christmas gifts. I do this every year and did it a lot more when I was super short on money. I can crochet pretty well, so everyone knew they were getting a scarf from me for Christmas.

Making gifts is great for your kids as well. They can get into the fun of gift-giving and at the same time, learn that Christmas is about more than just spending money.

However, my real point about using your creative skills is to make things you can sell.

You could sell them to people you know or put them on Etsy and sell them there.

One Christmas when I was in college, I made crocheted necklaces. I even died the beads to different colors. That’s not necessary now as beads come in lots of colors besides white.

Here’s a picture of the necklace I made and sold.


Back then, there was no Etsy, so I sold them to people I knew. They loved them and I made some money to spend on Christmas.

6. Offer a Service

Is there something you’re good at? Are you a good organizer? Do you like kids? Do you enjoy gardening?

If you don’t have money to buy gifts, consider giving them yourself. Make a gift out of something you’re good at and enjoy and that you know your family member or friend could need.

A couple of nights of free babysitting can be a real blessing for a mom and dad that never get out of the house.

Weeding a neglected garden can be a great service to a family member that can’t do it themselves. That goes for lawn mowing or shoveling snow as well.

I’m sure you get the point. This type of gift won’t cost you anything but your time and it will provide your loved one with something that is better than money.

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7. If Push Comes to Shove – Just Be Honest

The truth is, most of your family just wants to see you and spend time with you during Christmas. They aren’t really concerned about the gifts. 

Chances are they already know you are low on cash, so just be honest and tell them you can’t afford the gift-giving or making a big meal for a bunch of people.

They will understand. They love you. In fact, they might even help you find ways to make ends meet during this time of year.

I realize this is harder if you have kids that are expecting gifts. 

So, instead of gifts, make a tradition of helping others during the holiday season. If you teach your kids that giving your time and helping others in need is more important than expecting a pile of gifts, then you have really given them the best gift possible.

Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Project Linus – they give blankets to less fortunate children. You can make and donate blankets to the organization. Find a local chapter to donate blankets, your time, and/or other needed materials.
  2. Meals on Wheels – Meals on Wheels delivers meals to homebound seniors. You can drop off a meal and spend a few minutes making a senior’s day a little brighter.
  3. Better World Books – You can donate your unused books to help fund nonprofit literacy organizations that teach children, build schools, and fill libraries.

You can also check into charities in your town that might need help during the holidays.

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What if You Have a Little Money to Spend?

If you have a little money to spend on Christmas, then the best thing you can do is head to the thrift store. It is always my first go-to place when I have to buy Christmas gifts.

You’d be surprised what you can find there. I typically buy clothing and jewelry as gifts, and everyone I’ve given a gift to from a thrift store has been completely happy with it.

While a lot of what you will find is pre-owned, you can also find the clothing or other items new with tags.

And, if you are picky, you can find pre-owned items that look completely new. 

A couple of years ago, I spent about $25 or $30 dollars at a thrift store and got my mother a really nice sweater set, a couple of other tops, and one piece of jewelry. I also got my aunt a couple of tops and two pieces of jewelry.

They loved everything. 

The trick with thrift stores is you have to go often and start looking early. You won’t necessarily find what you’re looking for if you just go one time. Try to go once a week or once every other week.

Also, be prepared to dig a little to find the best items.

Related Questions:

How Do You Tell Your Family You Can’t Afford Christmas?

Tell them early on, so everyone has a clear expectation of what to expect when Christmas arrives. 

Just be honest and say it isn’t in your budget this year to do much of anything for Christmas. Chances are they already know you might not be in the best financial situation, so this won’t be a surprise for them.

How do You Buy Christmas Presents on a Budget?

There are a number of ways to do this.

  • Shop at thrift stores (my personal favorite)
  • Never buy anything at full price – watch for sales
  • Use only cash – you will spend less and buy less
  • Have a list before you go and don’t buy anything, not on the list
  • Give gift cards so family members can shop after the holidays and things are on sale

To Sum it All Up:

It’s tough when Christmas rolls around and the people around you have high expectations of you. That’s why it is important to change those expectations as early as possible and let them know that Christmas this year might be a little different. 

Then you can use some of these tips like taking advantage of nature for Christmas decorations, sell stuff you don’t use on eBay for extra cash, use food as gifts, and even make things you can sell for additional Christmas funds. There are ways to make Christmas bright and merry without spending any money.

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