Simple Ways to Save Money and Reduce Waste During the Holidays

older gentleman wrapping a Christmas present

You don't need anyone to tell you that the holidays are a costly time of year. It turns out they're costly in more ways than one.

If you're enjoying the holidays with some shopping and gift wrapping and perhaps a fresh Christmas tree, you’re also contributing to the 25 percent surge in waste that's generated in the United States between Thanksgiving and the New Year. All told, Americans create about 25 tons of extra waste during the holidays.

No need to feel ashamed. Instead, this year is a perfect chance to do a little better. And here's the good news: reducing holiday waste can (and will) save you money. Here are a few of our favorite tips for saving money and the environment during the holidays. 

Reuse and repurpose gift wrapping materials

My family's been saving Christmas bows since I can remember. In fact, that's probably the reason I've always been a bit of a careful and gentle gift opener. Bows, ribbons, and even large sections of wrapping paper can be salvaged for future gifts.

Taking it a step further – do you even need to buy wrapping paper in the first place? Brown paper bags, newspaper pages, and other reclaimed materials can do the same job (making it look good is another challenge). Need filler to support breakable items? You could buy tissue paper or you can shred your (free) junk mail. 

Go Digital

It's never been easier to send gifts, cash, and well wishes 100% digitally. And when you think about a lot of materials that are dumpster-bound come January, quite a few of those items, how many could be replaced with something digital? 

At the very least, try to replace physical gift cards with digital ones. Similarly, you may want to simplify your holiday card sending and switch to e-cards. Gifting digital versions of media (books, music, games) can be cheaper and definitely cuts done on waste (just make sure it's something the recipient wants). 

Shop local and batch online orders

Online shopping is hugely convenient, but not always great for the environment. It may be hard to move away from online shopping completely, but it's worth it to buy local whenever possible. If you're buying from a big box store anyway, you may be able order what you want from your local store and then go pick it up directly, cutting down on shipping costs.

If you are shopping online, though, it can help to consolidate your orders whenever possible. Cutting down on freight trips and shipping boxes helps the environment and may help cut costs for you. 

Unplug your holiday lights

Look, we both know you did an amazing job getting that life-sized Grinch inflatable up on your roof, but when it comes to showing off your masterwork, consider the less is more approach.

Limiting the amount of time your tree, lights, and other decorations are plugged in can do wonderful things for your electric bill. If you have a timer connected to your decoration, use it. Otherwise, just make sure your lights don't stay on all night (and day for that matter).  

Regift!

Regifting is a great way to save money and the environment during the holidays. Just make sure you follow the basic rules of regifting:

  • It should be valuable to the recipient. Just passing on something you didn't want to someone else who won't want it isn't exactly in the spirit of the season.
  • It should be unused (or very lightly used). Items on the verge of retirement aren't often super appreciated.
  • Don't regift to the original giver. That's a bit awkward. 

You don't have to use every one of these tips, but implementing one or two is a great way to start doing your part (and saving money).

Article updated November 2020

Tagged in Christmas, Holidays, Reducing expenses

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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