Could You Pull Off a $100 Christmas?

by Julie on July 8, 2011 · 35 comments

Last year we spent $1377.05 on Christmas.

That included gifts for our immediate family of four, eight extended family members, a couple of friends, and even our dogs(!). It also included some incidentals like wrapping paper and Christmas cards.

I don’t share a lot of specific personal financial information on this blog, but I share this amount with you so you’ll understand how totally floored I was when I discovered The Saved Quarter’s $100 Holiday Challenge.

The Saved Quarter is a blog run by the anonymous blogger who goes by Penny Saver. Last year Penny was able to pull off Christmas for her family with a $100 budget for gifts.

How does she do it? By using free and cheap methods of getting gifts. She earns free Amazon gift cards (as do I) through Swagbucks. She makes use of Groupon deals. And she mystery shops, among other things.

You can see how she did it in 2010 here. In fact she didn’t even need $100. Her total was $68.75.

She’s doing it again in 2011 and other bloggers are following her lead. Some – like Cents to Save and Musings from a Midlife Mom – are tweaking it a bit and using $500 budgets.

I’m not ready to take on the challenge, and $100 definitely wouldn’t work for me. Still, I can see the value in stretching yourself and having a goal. What if I budgeted $1000 for Christmas in 2011 and pocketed the $377 I save? Surely that’s do-able.

Reading about Penny Saver’s $100 Christmas makes me want to redouble my efforts to have a more frugal Christmas this year. And in it would seem that there’s no time like now to get started, since planning ahead seems to be a big component to Penny’s success.

Christmas is a little more than five months away. Are you planning ahead? Could you pull off the $100 Christmas?

This post is part of Frugal Fridays @ Life As a Mom.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise @ The Single Saver July 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

I probably could pull off a $100 Christmas but, frankly, have no desire to try. What I love about Christmas is being able to get my loved ones gifts that match their specific personalities, interests, and needs. The perfect gift often isn’t on sale or available cheap/free methods. I find lots of ways to be frugal in other aspects of my life so I can relax during the holidays.

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Julie July 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

I hear you, Denise, and I agree. Congrats on knowing what’s important to you!

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Niki July 8, 2011 at 10:43 am

I love that Penny can pull this off. I think it is something I could maybe do at $500, but than we save all throughout the year so we can buy things around Christmas. We usually spend about the same as you.

I also really enjoy making gifts, so we are trying to have a frugal Christmas.

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Julie July 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Another vote for intentional spending at Christmas. I like it! If you pop back by, let us know what kind of gifts you make.

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No Debt MBA July 8, 2011 at 11:32 am

My family and friends aren’t big into gift giving at the holidays and we all mostly focus on just spending time together. So a $100 Christmas is definitely something I’ve done in the past.

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Julie July 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Time is really the best gift of all, NDMBA. Just curious, are there many kids in the mix? Does that change things?

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The Prudent Homemaker July 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

I can’t imagine spending as much as $100 on Christmas. Sure, it would be lovely to have that much to spend; there are certainly some clothing items that my family needs that would be wonderful Christmas gifts.

We simply don’t have money to spend on Christmas, but that doesn’t stop us from giving gifts. A couple of years ago I wrote a guest post about our Christmas gifts, entitled Christmas on a Zero Budget. We work the same way for birthdays as well.

What you spent for Christmas last year is just a little under what I spent on food and tolietries for my family of 8 last year (for the whole year).

It can be done. Many people have found that the most frugal Christmases, where you really don’t have anything to spare, are the ones they remember the most fondly.

If you have the money to spend more (in cash, not charged), then I think it’s fine to spend more. But if you don’t, you can still have a wonderful Christmas.

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Julie July 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm

It really is all relative, isn’t it, PH? Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation. And good work on not relying on money to create memorable holidays.

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jana July 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

i find that i can pull of a $100 christmas but only because i’ve spent $500 for hanukkah and birthday prior to christmas :)

seriously, though, i probably could do it again but much like denise, i like being able to give my loved ones the gifts that they want (within the 4 gift rule).

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Julie July 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm

LOL Thanks for the laugh, Jana. No doubt you could rock the frugal Christmas and I could rock the frugal Hanukkah, but doing the reverse is much harder.

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Julie July 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

And I like your four gift rule. That seems like a good way of keeping things manageable and balanced.

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Sharon July 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Hi Julie!
Thanks for the plug and your comment on my blog! I hope to reach my $500.00 goal, although there is a good chance I may go over a bit. Even so, last year I spent over $2,000 on gifts, so if I can 1/2 that amount I’ll be happy. I just recently scored $70.00 in Kohl’s dollars…I’m following Penny’s lead with getting only 5 gifts for my kids…i.e. something to wear, something to read, something you want, something you need and a treat from Santa. Makes it easier to figure out what to get too!

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Julie July 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

You’re welcome, Sharon. I look forward to following your progress. How’d you score the Kohl’s dollars?

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Evan July 8, 2011 at 11:38 pm

There is NO way I could pull it off, but even if I could I am not sure I would want to. I work hard all year, and actually enjoy the opportunity to buy a gift for someone else.

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Julie July 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

I enjoy gift buying too, Evan. I like it much better than getting my own gifts, in fact.

I believe the value of the gifts that Penny buys far exceeds $100. She’s just creative with finding ways to get them for less.

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Justin @ Money Is The Root July 9, 2011 at 10:42 am

I would luv to pull off a $100 xmas, but that would be pretty much impossible. But as you said, it would be great to stretch the money. I thought about aggressively buying discounted gift cards online and using those to purchase gifts this year.

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Julie July 9, 2011 at 11:23 am

Justin, that’s a great idea.

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Marissa July 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

The last 2 years, my mom had set a budget of $500 for our extended family. She comes in under every time. The most important thing I learned from her was to make a list of everyone and buy gifts throughout the year. Gift papers and such always go on sale in January so she stocks up and and is usually done shopping by July.

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Julie July 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for sharing your mom’s wisdom, Marissa. I’ll be she enjoys the holidays a lot more too, since she doesn’t overspend and isn’t shopping last minute.

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Carla July 9, 2011 at 6:22 pm

If I were in dire straights and HAD to pull off a $100 Christmas, yes, I could do it. However, we’re not, so I won’t. ;) I have cut my budget in 1/2 this year though, down to $1200. Even this is going to be a challenge!!! lol!

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Julie July 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hey, run your own race, Carla. I always hesitate to post dollar figures on the blog, because the same amount will be a lot to some people and very little to others. Cutting your budget in half is a success no matter what the number.

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Jan F July 10, 2011 at 5:00 am

I think I could definitely get away with $100 Christmas. We are DINKs and my nieces & nephews are getting older, so I really don’t spend anything on them. My siblings & I have pretty much stopped buying gifts for each other, and last year we all just chipped in on a really nice, nice dinner. I just have DH to buy for and since we are at the end of our debt snowball this year, we are going to make it a ‘lite’ holiday! Great challenge!

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Julie July 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Just curious, Jan, how old are the nieces/nephews? I find that as my kids got older, their gifts got a lot more expensive.

Congrats on your debt snowball success! This week I’ll be putting up a post about debt success stories and I’d love it if you’d comment on it.

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Freddie @ Invest With Passion July 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Not sure how, but I guess I would be able to do xmas for $100. Not very confident in this, but it has to be possible. I want to leave that door open.

Good luck to those that take on the challenge and you as well. Cutting almost $400 off of your last years budget is a great start, so I say go for it!

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Julie July 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Thanks for the encouragement, Freddie!

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The Saved Quarter July 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I was taking a web break this week and missed that you wrote about my holiday challenge!

I do get gifts that the receivers want to receive. My son got a transforming robot/car last year that he loves, and I got it for free by combining a grocery store deal and clearance sale. My daughter got handmade doll things (blanket, diaper bag, etc.) made with things I had on hand, along with a doll cradle I bought secondhand for $4, and she’s played with them over and over. Even my parents and husband got nice gifts with retail value far above what I spent on them.

I enjoy finding the perfect gift and was pleased to find gifts that were nice, fit those on my list, and didn’t break my budget. By starting early in the year and finding deals on the things my family enjoys throughout the year, I can avoid paying full price and can still give nice gifts.

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Julie July 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Penny, thanks so much for commenting. I should have done a better job making the point that your gifts are worth more than $100, but your out of pocket costs are less than that. I think a lot of readers misunderstood.

It’s obvious you enjoy shopping for others and finding the perfect gift, which is an important part of the holidays for a lot of people.

Good luck with the challenge! I’ll be watching for inspiration.

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Chelle July 12, 2011 at 3:15 am

I have done Christmas for less than $100 a few times, though when I did it prices were a lot lower and I only had 1 kid (as opposed to three!) so it was probably a lot easier then than it would be now!

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Joslyn August 5, 2011 at 10:52 am

I would love to do less, and am trying to this year. I am making a lot of gifts (I knit) it’s something I enjoy doing, so it’s fun for me to do through out the year. We have three kids (at chirstmas they will be 3, 6, and 10) and are budgeted to spent at max $120 on each of them. I know the two younger ones will be fine with that, but my oldest I don’t know. I need to find some good deals on stuff he would want, video games etc. I think this is the last year I can really buy him gifts and not just start handing out the gift cards/cash! Doesn’t help that his bday is two weeks before Christmas!

Enjoyed this blog post!

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lana August 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I’m working on it now. Buying in advance works for me. Shipping adds quite a bit too, so I’ve been working on buying flat stuff or
going to websites that offer free shipping.

When I first got married, I went to Crate and Barrel and bought 25 sets of four Christmas glasses and had them all boxes separately. We used to have to buy for 43 people. There are ways to show generosity without going broke.

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Julie August 26, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Free shipping are two of my favorite words!

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Sheila October 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Do you have a follow-up post for this? Hope your decreased budget is working great!!

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Julie October 22, 2011 at 6:47 am

Sheila,

I haven’t started Christmas shopping yet, so I don’t have anything to report yet. Thanks for the comment and encouragement, though. :)

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