5 Ways to Make the Holidays Special When You’re Broke

To say that I love holidays is an absolute understatement. While I wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas, I am in the spirit right around the time of Halloween (frankly, I’m in the spirit year-round, but have to contain my crazy).

As much as I love Christmas, it can also be one of the most stressful times for me too. When you live on a strict budget, it feels like any added expense will just make the house of cards fall down. I’m practically a miracle worker when it comes to using money-saving apps, but the holidays can still pose a huge financial stress on just about anyone. Luckily, I have five ways to make the holidays special on any budget…

5 Ways to Make the Holidays Special When You're Broke

Movie Night

I looooove Christmas movies. (And Hannukah, I mean Eight Crazy Nights is great). We have a fair collection of holiday movies, but you can easily rent on Amazon, at Redbox (just remember to return it…it’s an issue for me, haha), or from your local library. So, we pop some popcorn, make my mom’s yummy No Bake Cookie recipe, cuddle up in blankets, and watch a movie together. Low key, low to no cost, and one of the easiest ways to get in the spirit.

Christmas cookies

A lot of us have our favorite family recipes around the holidays — one of our’s is mentioned above – no bakes! Yum! If you don’t have any family cookie recipes, don’t worry — Pinterest has you covered. You can get as basic or as ornate as you want. It’s crafty, fun, and gives you an opportunity to make cheap gifts for your neighbors. 😉

Christmas lights watching

Z and I could literally go out every night to look at Christmas lights. Sometimes I’ll make some hot cocoa to put in travel mugs, get in our comfy pjs, and just drive around until we find good neighborhoods. We’ve stumbled upon some pretty amazing houses, and when E is with us, we have a grading system. Easy, fun, can be spontaneous, and FREE (okay…you use some gas, but totally worth it).

Create a Holiday Playlist

It’s no secret that I love a good playlist. I can’t go a day without music, it’s true, and around Christmas time is no different. Ask your family what some of their favorites are, so everyone is “in” on the tunes.

Holiday Books for Each Day

So, there’s a thing on Pinterest that has an Advent Book calendar tradition. As much as I loooove this idea, buying 25 books is tough for anyone on a budget (heck, buying one is hard enough). How can you still embrace this great idea without breaking the bank? THE LIBRARY. Seriously, if you’re not using your local library, what are you doing with your life? Bring out a new holiday themed book each morning or evening. Not only do you get some reading time in, but it’s centered around the season and FREE.


Listen, I know the holidays can get you down when you’re not “equipped” financially. It’s tough, but it also gives you a chance to focus on your family in the present moment, and isn’t that what the holidays are really about anyway?

What are some of your cheap or free holiday traditions? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

What Being Broke Taught Me About Money….



Since I’ve been out of the military, living civilian life, with a young daughter, I’ve learned a lot about finances. It has been a struggle these past 4 years, and I’ve had to make a lot of choices financially that have been really hard (or even embarrassing). Being broke isn’t fun. In fact, I have had many restless nights, trying to figure out how to stay afloat. I know a lot of people who have been or are in the same boat as me, and I wanted to share what being broke has taught me.

1. It’s taught me that money really isn’t everything. – I often have felt guilty for not being able to get Zoey the things she “wants.” But I started realizing after saving money for some really expensive things for her, that she’s more amused by the cheap stuff. The things I can find at the dollar bin in Target or at The Dollar Tree. And making her feel special means spending time, not money. So, I’ve become much more content with getting an ice cream from McDonald’s than spending $60 for sub-par food at T-Rex.

2. Money can show you what your priorities, and that can be humbling.

3. Always carry cash. Always, always, always. Or if you don’t carry it, at least have a stash. I used to think that cash burned a hole in my pocket, but it’s turned out to be quite the opposite. It’s so easy for me to swipe my debit card over and over, getting ahead of myself, but if I have a set amount of cash, it helps keep better tabs.

4. Save $1 or $2 every day, and it will accumulate fast!

5. If you can’t change your financial woes right now, come up with real solutions for how you can fix them in the future (and it will take some time…a lot of time, in my case).

6. Don’t stay in denial too long. This has been my biggest problem. I get so easily overwhelmed when I see how far behind I’ve fallen or how long I have to go, but I could’ve prevented a lot of these issues if I wouldn’t have tried to sweep them under the rug. The bills won’t suddenly disappear, so you better figure out a way to handle them, or you’ll end up paying more in the long run. <—This one is something I’m battling with currently. It’s tough, but I’m making some progress.

7. And lastly, being broke has humbled me. A lot. I have learned to keep myself in check when I start judging those with money troubles. It is really true that you never know what situations or hard times could’ve fallen on people. I’m glad that I’m not living in a small-minded bubble anymore. People are more than the money they make…or don’t make. And struggling can sometimes give you a much clearer picture of what’s truly important in life.