The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives, from our health to our finances. It’s quickly changed the way we live — and it will change the way we celebrate the holidays, too. But that doesn’t have to mean skipping the festivities.

Whether you’re on a new “quarantine” budget or you’re simply more money-conscious these days, there are plenty of ways to trim your expenses without sacrificing fun.

In fact, embracing some simple changes can help you create new holiday traditions that won’t break the bank. Try these tips to stick to your budget and make the most of your quality time at home this season.

1. Set limits on holiday gifts and get creative with DIY gifts

Gifting is likely the biggest holiday expense this year. So the best way to stick to your budget is to set limits with friends and family.

Once you've settled on a spending limit, make the most of your budget by taking a DIY approach.

With a little creativity and craftiness, you’ll still have plenty of options. For example, you can:

  • hand-dye some white cotton fabric to sew into fabric napkins,
  • whip up homemade lip balms, body scrubs or hair treatments for a self-care-inspired gift,
  • mix up some homemade granola, or
  • buy a set of mason jars and share jars of cookie, brownie or soup mixes for all the foodies on your list.

2. Save money on your holiday light bill and enjoy DIY decorations

‘Tis the season for decorating — and if you want to avoid a sky-high hydro bill, lose the light show. Scale back your lighting to just the tree, and set the mood with homemade holiday decorations instead.

Try old-fashioned crafts like making popcorn and cranberry garlands. Or, you can dry out thinly-sliced oranges in the oven, then hang them in your windows for festive “stained glass.”

You can also trim the tree with homemade salt dough ornaments. All you need is flour, salt, cookie cutters and glitter or paint, which makes them the perfect budget-friendly holiday craft.

3. Celebrate with socially-distanced festivities

Holiday get-togethers look a little different this year due to COVID-19. So try to keep your holiday bash limited to a small group of people within your social bubble or circle. Be sure to follow your government’s recommendations for maintaining social distancing during gatherings.  

Even if your holiday interactions are limited to a small handful of people, there’s still plenty of budget-friendly winter activities for everyone to enjoy.

For example, you and your loved ones can make a family of snowmen on your front lawn for (free) festive decor. Then take a drive or walk around the neighbourhood to see your neighbours’ decorations.

You can also take the opportunity to get active while socializing safely. Rent snowshoes or skis for a budget-friendly staycation. Or, borrow a nature or bird-watching guide from your library and head out on a winter hike.

Finally, take your budget-friendly family fun inside. Make a hot chocolate bar with hot cocoa, marshmallows, chocolate chips and flavor extracts (try orange, mint and raspberry). Then settle for a cozy night in with your favourite holiday film.

4. Try a budget-friendly holiday dinner

It’s the perfect time to try new, budget-friendly forms of holiday dining.

For example, you can make your holiday meal more budget-friendly by hosting a potluck. Or, forego a pricey turkey in favour of more affordable meals. Try serving beef stew, a dish that transforms cheaper cuts of beef into a tender, cozy dish. You can even try roasting a turkey breast, rather than the whole bird.

While this year’s celebrations may look unconventional, they’re also an opportunity to try new things. And no matter what your budget, you’ll be able to throw an unforgettable celebration filled with holiday joy.