4 Ways to Enjoy the Winter Holidays More When on a Budget

(Image credit: Michaela Cisney)

Even when you’re on a budget, the holidays can still be enchanting—and delicious. The trick to staying out of the red (and still feeling festive) is to shave dollars while traveling, menu-planning, and hosting.

1. Plan Ahead

Whether you’re hitting the road or an airport this holiday season, always pack your own travel snacks and a reusable water bottle. Airport foods are way overpriced and gas station snacks not much better; and you can save a good amount of money by not buying canned or bottled drinks every time you’re thirsty.

Bonus: by packing your own, you’ll be less likely to buy junk food and sugary drinks—pack whole foods and protein to keep your energy up, and stick with water to stay hydrated in transit.

2. Be a Local

For longer trips, where you’re staying in a hotel or resort, ask the locals for quality affordable restaurants to avoid tourist traps and room service costs. If you can, lodge somewhere with a kitchen and get friendly with the nearest grocery store. I’m not saying you should cook all your meals—holidays can be stressful enough without that—but at least stock your accommodations with grocery store snacks and simple breakfasts.

3. Host Smart

If you can, host pitch-ins or potlucks for holiday parties to lighten the load on your own wallet. If you’re having a big Christmas dinner, prioritize your entrées and sides and buy just enough ingredients for the dishes that really matter to you. As always, steer clear of pre-made and packaged holiday foods, which are usually pricier per unit than basic ingredients.

4. Keep Moving!

My number one tip for managing the stress and abundance of sweet foods during the holidays is to stay physically active. You’ll be more likely to eat moderate portion sizes rather than overindulging, feeling sluggish, and eating sugary and fatty foods to compensate for feeling tired. You’ll make better choices at the grocery store and be more likely to eat well.

What are your budget-smart and health-smart tips for the holidays?