How To Save Money For Christmas Gifts When You’re Dead Broke

Holidays Savings When You're Broke


Last year, my bank account resembled the lyric from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – 6 geese a-laying giant zeros that looked like goose eggs in my checking account.

I made enough money to pay all my bills but had little money left over to buy Christmas gifts. Somehow, I managed to cut corners here and there – I didn’t food shop for two weeks – and found enough change in the couch to get everyone on my list at least a small gift. I did everything short of trying to make money eating dog food.

Shopping this year will be much easier because of a) I’m fully employed and b) I learned the lesson of budgeting and getting creative.

With the Covid pandemic causing millions of people to be out of work, or low on funds, holiday shopping will be harder than ever this year.

Alexa Serrano is a banking and investments editor at, guiding readers to the best savings, checking and investments account for their financial goals.

Here are Alexa’s tips for saving money for the holidays when you’re low on funds.

“When living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s always trickier to plan and save. But you’ll want to start by creating a budget. Take your total monthly net income and add all your spend categories (e.g., internet, water, rent, miscellaneous, groceries, etc.),” explains Serrano.

Take a look at your receipts and bills to gather how much you typically spend every month in each category. Then subtract your total spending from your monthly net income.

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“Whether or not you have money left over each month, you’ll want to carefully consider if there are any tweaks you can make to your budget. For instance, are you spending more on a specific area that you can cut back on?”

Budgeting Is Your Friend

Budgeting doesn’t have to be tedious. And it doesn’t mean you have to give up your morning lattes. It can be as simple as setting a lower spending limit on certain spend categories.

“When budgeting for gifts, make sure you have a specific spend category for ‘gifts’ in your budget with a total spend limit. Once you set a total gift budget for the month, create a separate list of everyone you’ll be giving gifts to. Each person on your list should have a specific spend limit as well. When shopping, try to use a cashback or rewards card. That way, you can earn points or cashback on your purchases.”

Shop Early

And if you’re on a tight budget, Serrano suggests shopping earlier.

If your monthly budget is tight every month, don’t wait until December to do all your shopping. Give yourself some breathing room and divide your shopping list as you get closer to the holiday season.

Also, people who wait until the last minute to gift shop tend to spend more money.

“Most importantly, don’t get too tied up with how much you have to save each month. There’s no amount that’s too small to save. It could be as easy as saving $5 every day or week. And remember: Don’t focus on how much you should save, but focus on what you can save.”

Get Craft AF

When it comes to gifts, you can also get more creative. Consider making thoughtful gifts for your friends and family.

“In my experience, the thoughtful gifts I’ve given have been more meaningful to my family and friends than one I could have bought from the store. And when I’ve received handmade or personalized gifts or cards, it’s always meant a lot more to me.”

If time is on your side, you can also try to think about the opportunities you have to save or gain more income.

For instance, you can consider freelancing, getting a side hustle, joining a ridesharing company, selling items on sites like Poshmark, or renting space you don’t use to earn extra income.