Holiday gift-giving, baking and decorating can be stressful for anyone. Tossing in IC adds even more stress. Pile on a slew of medical bills, and the holidays make some ICers wants to run and hide in their rooms until Jan. 1. But, there is hope. Whether you’re budgeting out of necessity or just to save money, you can still celebrate the holidays, make memories and reduce your chance of stress flares this season, especially as we approach crunch time. From gifts to food to family activities, the holiday season can not only be busy but expensive. We’ve put together a few ideas to help your budget, sanity and bladder this season.

1. Plan out gifts ahead of time.

Make a list of who you are giving gifts to, write down ideas you have and the budget you need to stay within. Having the information organized will help as you plan out what you are buying and work to stay within your budget. It also lets you be intentional in shopping, whether in person or online. If you are looking for a specific item for someone within a specific price range, it’s easier to not end up spending more money than you intended to.(1)

2. Pare down your gift list.

Of course you want to give gifts to people you care about, but there are ways to make your list a little bit less. One great idea, for example, is drawing names within a group or family.(2) Instead of having to buy gifts for multiple people, you buy just one gift for one person. And the bonus is that with only buying one gift, chances are you can spend more money and effort on that gift. Most likely your friends and family will like the idea as well because it makes their gift giving easier, too! Another option is to buy a family gift instead of gifts for each individual family member.(3)

3. Use social media to your benefit.

Social media can actually help your budget throughout the holiday season. First is by following brands and stores you love on social media where they are apt to post about sales and daily specials.(1) If you have a smart phone, consider getting the app for your favorite stores which also will notify you of sales and discounts that you might not hear about otherwise. Another way is to follow some reputable money saving blogs or websites, such as Money Saving Mom.

4. Consider shopping online.

During the holiday season, so many retailers offer free shipping on all orders or with a certain amount purchased. Combine that with various coupon codes you can find through sites like Honey, cash back offers from sites like Rakuten, not having to leave your house and not being so tempted by random other things you walk by in a store and online shopping can easily be budget friendly. In fact, a recent study from First Insight found that while 89% of women were likely to purchase additional items in store, only 77% were likely to purchase additional items shopping online.(4)

5. Put together gifts yourself.

If you’re a long-time crafter, the holidays are a great time to make gifts for family and friends. Homemade gifts really are thoughtful and lovely. If you love baking and are able to do so, make some treats for loved ones. Homemade treats are also a hit in a world where fewer things are homemade than ever. If you aren’t up for either of those things or want something to go along with your homemade item, check out these low-cost, thoughtful gift ideas:

  • Collect recipes from your family and compile them into a cookbook that you give to everyone. This can be as easy as printing the pages from your computer and putting them into a binder, report cover or even stapling down the sides. Bonus points for including a few family photos and stories about the recipes.
  • If you can crochet, put together some crocheted washcloths and soap holders with some homemade hand lotion and bar of soap.
  • Put together a snowy day kit including items like hot chocolate, a small fleece blanket and a couple of books. Most of those items can be found at a dollar store or on sale for a few dollars.  Watch out for book websites that have sale days for book for 99-cents, check the dollar store or a used book store.
  • Give the gift of a favorite snack. Put together a few favorite snack items (or multiples of the same item) in a gift bag or basket. Even better is that you know the person will use and enjoy the gift! Bonus points if you find the snack on sale and have a coupon as well.
  • You can find lots of other ideas online. Check out these 100 ideas from DIY & Crafts or these 25 easy ideas from It’s Always Autumn.

6. Get creative with wrapping.

Sometimes the wrapping paper and gift bags we put our gifts in can add up to nearly as much money as the gift itself. A little bit of creativity can go a long way, though. Paper lunch sacks, for example, are inexpensive to buy and can be decorated with some stickers, ribbons or even a Sharpie to look festive and work well as gift bags.(5) You can cut up an old sweater to wrap gifts for a cozy look or use a wrapped aluminum foil box for small items.(5)

7. Consider re-gifting.

When you get a gift you won’t use that you can’t return or exchange for whatever reason, consider regifting it. While it sounds tacky, regifting can actually make sense sometimes. Of course go for items that are brand-new and not used. But giving something to someone who will enjoy it is a win! This works for IC patients as well when it comes to some food gifts that can’t be eaten. If chocolate causes you to flare and your boss gave you a box of chocolate candy, passing it along to a chocoholic in your family works nicely.

8. Hit up the dollar store for gifts, wrapping supplies and decor.

The dollar store might not sound like a great place for holiday shopping, but it’s got a lot to offer from wrapping supplies to paper products to stocking stuffers to decor. Seriously! You can find adorable decor, some inexpensive toys and pretty photo frames to put a special photo in. Or find a cute holiday mug to fill with candy for your co-workers.

9. Make memories.

One of the best parts of the holidays is making memories with those we love. And making those memories doesn’t have to cost much — if anything! Consider these cheap or free family holiday activities:

  • Spend time together decorating, baking, making cards and making memories.
  • Pile in the car and drive around to see Christmas lights. You can do so in your PJs and even bring a mug of hot chocolate or white hot chocolate and a few sugar cookies to share as you do so.
  • Check the newspaper or Facebook Events for free activities at the local library or community centers celebrating the holidays.
  • Attend a free church Christmas program. Some churches do very elaborate productions that cost little to no money and can be a great family experience.
  • Watch Christmas movies you already own or can stream for free together.
  • Volunteer to ring bells for the Salvation Army. Be sure to bring a stool or something to sit on if your time slot is very long.
  • Go shopping in your own pantry or cupboards together to collect items for food drives.
  • Bake a birthday cake for Jesus together.

10. Make dinner a potluck.

Hosting Christmas dinners or parties can certainly be a budget strain as well. If you are the host, ask your guests to bring along items to share. Provide the main dish and let everyone else bring in sides and desserts to share. Not only will it be easier on your wallet, it will also mean less work for you and less chance of causing an IC flare as a result.



  1. Pagliarini R. 10 Easy Tips to Save Money This Christmas. CBS News. Updated June 2, 2011.
  2. Caldwell M. 5 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Gifts. The Balance. Nov. 20, 2019.
  3. Elliott C. How to Save Money on Christmas Gifts. Listen Money Matters. Updated July 11, 2019.
  4. First Insight. The State of Consumer Spending: In-Store Impulse Shopping Stands the Test of Time.
  5. Barud B. 21 Cheap, Easy, And Cute Gift-Wrapping Ideas. Buzz Feed. Dec. 23, 2016.