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The winter holidays can be a stressful time and put a strain on your budget, so How to Adult put together 9 tips to make your holiday season cost less.

How to say no:

Some decorating DIY:

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Bah, humbug.

Christmas is too expensive. I can’t afford a tree—to give gifts for everyone on my list.

I’m just going to RSVP “no” to all these Facebook invites so I don’t have to get gifts for all those people or find new outfits to wear to those things. Oh, but mister, you sure can! Winter holidays don’t have to blow your budget.

Whatever do you mean, young fellow? Well just follow along for a few tips and tricks for a more merry holiday season!


 Tip 1: (0:35)

Practice the word “no”.

The holidays are chock full of ways to part with your money. There’s decorations, gifts, cards, travel, charitable donations, big meals, office gift exchanges, fancy outfits, gold-plated eggnog bottles and so on. It all adds up, man.

Take a breath, write down what’s really important to you when it comes to gifts events and donations, and then figure out how much you can spend from there. It is okay to say “no” to things that you can’t go to or afford, even if the whole extended family is really pressuring you to go on that trip to Miami with them.

 Tip 2: (1:08)

Go easy on decorations.

Festive lights and inflatable Santas are cool, but it really doesn’t take an entire catalogue’s-worth of shiny things to make your home feel festive. Thrift stores and dollar stores are actually great places to find really cool holiday decor on the cheap. It’s super easy to find Christmas lights at thrift stores, although be warned, they might be super tangled.

Maybe you’re the kind of person that enjoys that. And you can always get crafty and make things like popcorn garlands or recycled-paper trees.

 Tip 3: (1:35)

Be strategic with gifts.

Remember the O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi? Well, spoiler alert here, but in the story, a woman sells her hair to buy her husband a watch chain, and he sells his watch to buy her a fancy comb.

So on Christmas Day, they’ve both blown their “budgets” on things the other person can’t use. Awkward, right? Well... the lesson is about love transcending materialism or whatever, but at its most literal: Surprises do not always make for the best gifts.

When considering what to buy someone, take the time to ask around and find out what they really want or need. And then, if it’s in your budget, get them that. Even if you know someone really well, that doesn’t always mean you know exactly what they need, and even if you really want to surprise them, you could end up spending all your hard-earned hair buying them a watch chain when they don’t even have a watch.

It’s really exciting to give a great present to someone you love. But your loved ones also don’t want you to go broke, and hopefully, they have a few things in mind that are reasonable for your budget.

 Tip 4 (2:32)

Don’t spend too much on yourself.

Let’s be real, it’s all-too-tempting to buy presents for yourself while you’re out shopping for everyone else. Ooh, look, all these signs say that everything is on sale! Buying things for yourself totally happens, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to bust your budget around the holidays.

All that stuff will still be around next month, and many stores also offer serious mark-downs after the holidays to clear out the merchandise—also, maybe somebody’s going to buy you that thing that you just bought for yourself. So maybe put that Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle in your Amazon wish list. Who knows, maybe it will show up under the tree first.

 Tip 5: (3:07)

Comparison shop.

Don’t take your shopping list to the mall and start making purchases without checking for deals first. Ordering online too late in December can cut it real close—. And, by the way, maybe we should upload this video a little earlier in the season next year because it’s probably too late for any of that by now... but you never know what might be on eBay or Craigslist.

It’s also worth remembering that most online shopping results are sorted according to which companies bought advertising space, so you might need to dig through the Google search a little bit to really find the deal you want.

 Tip 6: (3:35)

Make gifts! If you want.

Handmade gifts are a classic option for people on a budget, and spending time making something is a wonderful way to show your thoughtfulness. If you’ve got the skills to knit or sew or bake or make candles or forge tools to fight the Zombie apocalypse, you probably already know what your best option might be for gifting.

If you’re not crafty and looking for something easy, the internet is full of DIY suggestions. You could also look around to see if any nonprofit art centers, schools or museums near you are hosting any holiday crafting events. Many art institutions offer programs where you can pay a few bucks to have access to professional supplies and classes for making cards, artwork or pottery.

But! We have some caveats...

 Tip 7: (4:14)

You don’t have to make gifts.

Pinterest is full of “Holiday DIYs” that seem fun and easy, but we are here to tell you to be careful. If your primary goal is to be efficient with your spending, making things by hand is not always cheap or easy. Also remember, if you have to send them to somebody in the mail, you may end up paying the U.S. Postal Service a great deal of money to get it to Portsmouth, New Hampshire—is a story from my literal day that I just had. If you have any experience with a handmade craft, you probably know this already, but it bears repeating.

Knitting, for example, takes a lot of time and high-quality yarn that is actually quite expensive. And it can be… sometimes somewhat difficult to knit something that the wearer will actually like. Really do the math on how much time and money it will cost to give a handmade gift.

And hey, if you want to keep your spending local, find the local artisans and crafters in your area who already are good at making things, and have maybe figured out ways to do it more cost-efficiently.

 Tip 8: (5:10)

Remember that kids will be okay!

If you’re responsible for kids this year, or just have a few on your shopping list, you might feel pressured to spend a lot of money to make their holidays the most perfect, magical experiences of their young lives. But really, most kids don’t know or care if you spent the most money on them.

They might be a little bit bummed if they don’t get the big-ticket item they asked. Santa for, but that doesn’t mean their holiday will be ruined. Kids will remember if they spent the holidays relaxing and being happy with their loved ones. Which brings me to my next point...

 Tip 9: (5:40)

Make the holidays about having fun together.

Even if you can’t spend hours and hours opening presents, you can still make holidays more fun by just spending quality time together with your loved ones. Try to find games that everyone can get out of the house and play together, or at least try moving around a little bit. It’s easy to find sporting goods like hockey sticks or basketballs on the cheap at thrift stores, and it gives everyone something fun to do outside.

It might sound cheesy, but it really does make for a more memorable holiday if you organize the Jones Family HORSE competition every year. And now that I've said that out loud I feel like you're won— are you like saying?— no like HORSE, the basketball game. A horse competition sounds, actually, quite expensive.

If the weather’s really terrible, try playing a board game or cards inside. Maybe develop some traditions, some singalongs, do some karaoke, maybe listen to your favorite radio drama. That's what probably what I'll end up doing.

What are your tips for saving money around the holidays? Leave us ideas in the comments. And if you want to gift yourself some recurring knowledge of how to be an adult, you can go subscribe to us at

[British accent] My ah—my ledger.

[British accent] Scribbling in my ledger.

Oh! But mister, you sure can... Just... you...

Oh! But mister, you sure can. Here are a few tips and tricks for... uh...

Oh, but mister, you—you—you—you... sure can... [laughter]. Fancy—fancy what? [off-screen] Outfits. Outfits. Yeah! Fancy outfits. It's okay to say n—.

Suddenly my shirt feels small. Did I get bigger? Maybe. But I don't think my arms got longer... That doesn't happen, right? [off-screen] You wash it recently? No... [laughter]. I've not taken it home in, like, two years.

...chain and he sells his watch to buy her husband a fancy what? Almost got there. But it really does— [mic falls]. Okay. Well. That happened.

Sometimes you can spend all your hard-earned hair... [laughter].