How to Enjoy the Holidays When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Kelsey Clark

Despite the $200 drinks charge currently taunting you from your credit card bill, it is possible to come out on the other side of the holiday season with your checking account, budget, and dignity still intact. While my personal financial experiences heretofore lend damning evidence to the contrary, I believe that a little self-control and a lot of passive-aggressive Venmo requests can go a long way.

On a serious note, the holiday season is basically a two-months-long episode of Survivor for your financial self-control: Can you and your wallet make it to January 2 without digressing into a pile of impulsive credit card charges and regret? If you decided to click on this article (which it seems you did), I'm assuming your answer to that question is a resounding no. Welcome, my budget-challenged friend; you're in the right place. In the spirit of outright refusing to skip holiday parties in a last-ditch effort to save your finances, the team here at MyDomaine assembled a few realistic ways to balance celebrating with spending this holiday season.

Whether you're attending a holiday gift exchange, reuniting with old friends back home, or attending any one of the 15 holiday parties on your social calendar, there are small ways to cut costs that don't involve opting out of the holiday festivities. Without further adieu, here's how to handle three familiar holiday scenarios like a financially responsible adult:

at holiday parties

As any holiday partygoer can attest, swigging cinnamon-spiced cocktails with 100 of your closest friends or colleagues isn't exactly easy on the bank account. Between hostess gifts, festive appetizers, and the possible cost of alcohol, a holiday party can run you anywhere from $25 to $100. Multiply that cost by 10, and that's where the trouble begins. Fortunately, a little pre-planning can help you stick to a party budget. Try bringing vegetable-based appetizers and budget-friendly beverages to each party, like oven-roasted tomatoes and gin and tonics. Bonus points for being healthy.

As for the hostess gift, inspiration struck during a recent sit-down with interior designer and lifestyle blogger Emily Henderson, who generously shared her unique hostess gift idea with the MyDomaine team. Henderson recommends creating a mini cocktail kit (like this one) including all the necessary ingredients (a mini shooter, a mixer, any bitters or herbs) and a handwritten drink recipe card. Not only is this gift inexpensive and unique, but it's also adaptable—you can tailor each cocktail kit to each hostess's drink preferences.

When buying gifts

The bulk of holiday spending concerns are derived from gift-giving. When you consider the fact that the average American shopper spends roughly $830 a year on holiday gifts, this is understandable. The first step in taking control of your holiday spending? Set a strict budget, and divide that number by the amount of people you intend to buy gifts for. "Most people go about it all wrong," Ric Edelman, author of Financial Security in Troubled Times, told Bankrate. Rather than coming up with a budget like they should, he said, "the first thing they do is come up with a list of people (to buy for)." Don't forget to budget for the little things too, like wrapping paper, holiday cards, stamps, bow, etc.—those seemingly frivolous expenses are what can set you over the edge.

When reuniting with friends

If I had to guess, I'd say that catching up with friends and family during the holidays rivals that $830-per-year figure mentioned earlier. Between expensive dinners out and celebratory nights traversing the town, it's common for entertainment budgets to balloon around this time of the year. To offset some of the costs, try building out a social calendar prior to heading home for the holidays.

That way, you can save up some money to compensate for additional costs before they happen, avoiding transitioning from frugal to cheap at the expense of your loved ones. It's also important to live within your means and only RSVP yes to the dinners and parties you can actually afford to attend. That or endure the awkwardness of asking the waiter to split checks according to individual meal for a party of 15. The choice is yours.

How do you cut costs during the expensive holiday season? Share your tips with us below!

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