It’s almost here: the most wonderful time of the year!
Between Labor Day and New Year’s Day, there are so many reasons to celebrate … and, let’s be real, so many ways to bust your budget.
So, to get us all into the spirit, Chime style, we asked our members how they have fun and save money during these action-packed months. Keep reading to learn some money-saving hacks — and some lovely new traditions — that you can make your own.
Want to get spooky without totally terrifying your bank account? Our members have got the tricks (and the treats!).
Tierra, 34, lives in Missouri with her husband and soon-to-be five children. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, she takes her kids to the pumpkin patch; it doubles as both a fall activity and a chance to buy affordable pumpkins to carve.
Over in Memphis, TN, Nicole, 28, brings her two daughters to “trunk and treat” events at local churches, where they enjoy free activities (sometimes even petting zoos!) and free candy.
Then, on Halloween night, many Chime members take their children trick-or-treating in downtown areas. Not only does this guarantee that their kids will fill their bags with goodies, but it also means the parents don’t have to buy expensive candy to hand out at their own houses.
- Scour the thrift store: “We do a lot of our shopping at Goodwill and thrift stores, and that’s great for Halloween,” said Mike, who lives outside of Seattle with his wife and 4-year-old daughter. “Then when we’re done, we donate it back.” To locate a secondhand shop in your city, just Google “thrift stores near me.”
- Find costumes in your house: This year, Mara’s 10-year-old son is dressing up as a hobo clown. She’ll put patches on some old clothes, use makeup to create a 5 o’clock shadow, and hang a sign around his neck that says “Will work for candy.” “We’re pretty much on a tight budget,” said the 46-year-old Nebraskan, “but it’s always fun to see what we can come up with.”
- Register for email newsletters: Tierra, for instance, is on The Disney Store’s email list, which means she usually gets a “20% off plus free shipping” code to use on her kids’ costumes. You can also sign up for newsletters from Halloween Express and Spirit Halloween.
While Halloween’s about dressing up and going out, our members all cherish the opportunity to stay in on Thanksgiving Day, enjoying good food and long conversations with those they love.
Take Mike. He and his three siblings congregate at his parents’ house, creating their own family “bubble” where nothing matters but snacking and talking and watching their children play.
“It’s just this neat kind of calm that we have that day,” Mike said. “We don’t go play touch football or any of the things you might see on The Hallmark Channel. But there’s something to be said about this interaction that you usually won’t get throughout the year.”
Mara, too, gets together with her siblings to enjoy a large sit-down meal. She doesn’t feel confined by traditional Thanksgiving foods and instead serves a duck — because that’s what she loves. She also makes the holiday special by baking her famous bread.
“For me, being a disabled vet,” she said, “a lot of a celebration for any occasion involves [asking] ‘O.K., what can we afford? How can we make this great without spending a lot of money?’” Although her homemade bread and rolls originated from a place of financial necessity, they have become a beloved staple over the years.
- Go potluck: “We figure out what everybody’s gonna bring,” Mara said. “That way, it’s not a big financial burden for any one person. Everybody can kind of chip in.” Mike’s family takes the same approach, saving them all money and stress. “You still get the full experience without anybody having to feel the entire weight of that day,” he explained.
- Keep it modest: When Tierra’s planning her family’s meal, she limits it to one entree, a few sides, and one dessert. “Food is extremely expensive and making a feast really makes it hard,” she said. “We need a turkey — we don’t need a turkey, a ham, and a duck.” Check out more ideas for Thanksgiving dinner on a budget here.
- Head to the discount stores: Tierra relies on Walmart and Aldi for her Thanksgiving groceries. A few weeks ahead of the holiday, she buys a newspaper to scan the sales and coupons and then bases her menu around them. To make things even easier, you can search a range of grocery circulars with Flipp.
- Shop online first: Nicole puts all her Thanksgiving groceries into a cart on the Walmart app and then adjusts the items until they total less than $100. Though she ultimately shops in person, this simple strategy helps her stick to her budget. “If I don’t have a list, I just go crazy with spending,” she said. If you’d like to avoid any impulse purchases whatsoever, you could even opt for curbside pickup.
Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas isn’t limited to one day for our members. Most of them celebrate the entire month of December, so they’ve come up with lots of creative ways to create cheer on the cheap.
Mike, for example, has happily adopted his wife’s family tradition of having his daughter put her shoes in the window for the 12 nights leading up to Christmas. In the mornings, she excitedly checks the shoes to see what candy has been left for her.
Each year, Mara and her son do a Christmas craft together, usually an ornament from the blog Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls. They make several, sending some to friends and family, and keeping one for themselves.
As she pulls the ornaments out each December, Mara enjoys reflecting on years past. Her giftees love the crafts, too. “You can tell it’s homemade,” she said. “It makes it special — and the more creative, the better, without having to spend a lot of money. I feel like that’s become a fun tradition for us.”
On Christmas Eve, Tierra’s family drives to a nearby park to see a Christmas light show. It’s $20 for the whole carload, a price she feels is well worth it. When they return home, they drink hot chocolate and prepare food for Santa and his reindeer.
- Start early: Several of our members start purchasing Christmas gifts as early as July. “I don’t think it saves me a ton,” Tierra said. But “it just gives me more time to start buying things and hiding them. So [the cost] is not all so overwhelming.” (Short on time? Here’s how to afford presents in less than eight weeks.)
- Set a gift limit or budget: Most members also put limitations on their gifts: either a budget for each person or a number of gifts for each kid. Tierra’s children, for example, can each request five presents; among those must be “something they want, something they need, and something to read.” Here are more tips for setting a holiday budget or using the four-gift rule.
- Try web extensions: Mike, who said he’s “horrible” at shopping ahead of time, instead uses browser extensions like Slickdeals and Honey to track prices and snag last-minute deals on gifts for his wife and daughter.
- Go secondhand: Mike also espouses used gifts, saying: “Nothing has to be brand new.” When his daughter wanted a bike last Christmas, he found one at Goodwill that was missing a few parts. After spending a few dollars at the hardware store to fix it up, she got a great bike that she’s still riding to this day.
- Embrace the fake: Tierra’s used the same $100 artificial tree for five years. That’s $20 per use — a cost that will keep going down every year. Compare that to a real tree, which can cost $81 each time. (To lower your expenses further, consider purchasing a used fake tree on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.)
- Grab candy for future holidays: Right after Christmas, Mara buys bags of red and green candies, like Hershey’s Kisses, then separates and freezes them. She breaks out the red candies on Valentine’s Day and the green candies on St. Patrick’s Day. “That candy’s 75% off sometimes,” she said. “It’s just as good as it was a week before Christmas.”
New Year’s Eve
For our Chime members, many of whom have small children, New Year’s Eve parties are a thing of the past. Still, they all make time to hang out — even if they don’t make it ‘til midnight.
Mara and her family usually do a fun activity or craft together; in the past, they’ve popped popcorn and made straw rockets. Mike’s a little bit sneakier: He puts on a kids’ Netflix countdown so his daughter thinks it’s midnight at 9 p.m., allowing them to all hit the hay early.
In Georgia, Tara, 34, and her three daughters were our only members who try to stay awake. They eat popcorn and watch scary movies until the ball drops, and then they “scream and holler and carry on.”
The following day, Tara’s family meets up to chow on traditional southern food — collard greens, black-eyed peas, ham — and share their resolutions. This year, Tara wants to stop smoking cigarettes. (If getting better with money is your resolution, here’s our comprehensive guide to setting financial goals.)
As for Nicole and her family, they’ve recently begun a new tradition: going on a family trip around the turn of the year. So far, they’ve been to the beach in Destin, FL, and the mountains of Murfreesboro, TN.
- Stock up on party poppers around the 4th of July: “They sell those very same party poppers for New Year’s,” Mara said. “But they’re usually twice as much.” (And the good news is they take up barely any room in the closet.)
- Get a head start on saving: For Nicole, the key to affording her now-annual family vacation is to begin saving as soon as the other trip is over. At the end of every month, starting in January, she and her husband stick any spare money into their travel fund. To make things even less painless, you could also consider automatically saving the same amount each month.
Remember what the holidays are all about
Though the holidays can certainly be an overwhelming time financially, our members seem pretty good at remembering what’s at the core of this season: being with loved ones, and being thankful for all we have.
Follow their lead, and don’t get too stressed about creating the “perfect holiday.” Decades from now, you’ll remember the time you spent — the laughs, the conversations, the hugs — not the size of the feast on the table or the number of gifts under the tree.
Real Members. Sponsored Content.