What can you do when Santa is broke? How to survive Christmas with no money?

How do you explain to your kids that they may not get the big Christmas they see on tv and better yet, how do you get them to appreciate the Christmas that you are able to give them?

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to worry your kids with your financial burdens and still want them to have a Christmas full of happiness, love, and cheer.

Christmas is a holiday for giving and receiving. Everyone shopping left and right, trying to find the perfect gift for their loved ones.

Parents everywhere want to give their kids the magical Hallmark-worthy Christmas morning, seeing their kids faces light up and smiles from ear to ear. 

But, sometimes even Santa has financial issues and a tight pocketbook. 

My kids enjoying a memory making event. Breakfast with Santa, hosted by a youth group.
My kids enjoying a memory making event. Breakfast with Santa, hosted by a youth group. 

So what do we do to maximize Christmas joy on a minimal budget?

Most kids from 18 years and younger, have no idea how money works. They haven’t had to work a day in their lives, don’t pay for bills, insurance, groceries or any of the other “fun” expenses that come with being an adult.

Don’t hold it against them, when they request large flashy, expensive things. That’s all advertising companies fault for gearing commercials and ad placements for kids. Making them believe that they NEED this item to be cool, or that the item will bring them as much joy as eating a Troll. (Sorry, about that reference, I have a 5-year-old addicted to the movie Trolls; but the visual is spot on.)

If your comfortable discussing your finances with your child, find a way to do so that doesn’t add unwanted stress.

Telling your 4-year old that you have no money, and can’t buy everything they want- while it may be entirely accurate, may also end up twisted in their brain and end up with a completely different result than the one you were trying to convey.


You know your child better than anybody, so find an age-appropriate way to convey the financial situation if you choose to do so. 

If your child is young enough, you’re lucky. They can’t tell the difference between a $5 gift or a $500 one. In fact, the best part of Christmas is throwing wrapping paper everywhere and playing with the box if it’s big enough.

You could even just go that much "extra" with the presentation and then your child wont focus on the number of gifts they got at all. 3 boxes stacked with white wrapping looks like a snowman to me. A magical fun morning for no added cost.
You could even just go that much “extra” with the presentation and then your child wont focus on the number of gifts they got at all. 3 boxes stacked with white wrapping looks like a snowman to me. A magical fun morning for no added cost.

Here are some ways to make quick cash for Christmas

Getting a quick buck so you can afford to do anything at all, can help increase the Christmas morning experience.

Sell something from around the house

Selling unwanted toys and clothes in good condition can be sold to other families to be used for Christmas gifts. Second-hand gifts are incredibly common!

Sell Gold/Silver

If you have old jewelry, you can sell it to your local gold/silver jewelry places. You won’t get much money. You’re lucky to get anything with how crazy the values of gold and silver rise or fall, but it’s clearing up space in the drawer and gives you a little money to use.

Babysit a kid while their parents holiday shop

So many parents need to ditch their kids for a few hours so they can shop in peace and keep the Santa magic alive. Why not offer your child watching services to family, friends, loved ones, neighbors, church members, etc. Asking $20 to watch a child for 3 to 4 hours is a great deal for them, and for you. Not only do you get paid to let your own kid have a playdate, but you can make quick cash for gifts.

Sell Home Baked Goodies

If you have a church or community center, they often have boards that you can pin up flyers to, make a signup sheet flyer advertising home-baked pies/cookies/cakes/etc. for a set price. Different flavors, and offer delivery, meet-ups, pickup or whatever works best for your situation.

So many people love homemade foods but don’t have the time, skills or energy. Disabled, elderly, or busy working people will gladly pay for home fresh foods knowing it’s a delicious convenience and healthier than the preservative-filled store-bought treats they may have bought instead. 

Does Santa have a few dollars to spend?

Second-hand shopping– A lot of gifts given on Christmas are second hand. I see more sales of used toys and clothes during the holidays than at any other time during the year. 

Homemade-  Making homemade gifts and distributing them gives a great sense of personalization. Incorporate the kids into the gifts by using a foot or handprints. Or gift homemade items to your kids by making a blanket (fleece tie blankets are cheap) or give them sew them up a new piece of clothing. 

Pick the most inexpensive gifts from the kids wish lists- If you’re in a financial spot to get the cheapest item off their list, you’re doing good. They’ll be happy they got something they really wanted, and you’ll be happy you met the wish. 

Keep stockings filled with practical items– Stockings don’t need to be filled with hot toys and gadgets. So many homes keep fresh fruit and nuts in them and keep them humbled with needs like toothbrushes, body wash, Chapstick and hair ties. These are easily available at Dollar Tree.

Limit the cost of gifts– By doing a white elephant gift exchange or having names drawn from a hat, you can reduce the number of gifts needed to buy down to  1 or 2 gifts.

Santa has ZERO dollars, Here’s how to survive Christmas with no money

Free ideas-

If you’re on Facebook, check to see if you have a local Buy Nothing group. People gifting away items all the time, at no cost. You could find clothes, toys, and any number of items available near you.

Check Craigslist for things people are giving away. You never know if you might find something you can either gift or sell for a quick buck.

Introduce the idea of a homemade Christmas to your children. Have everyone make something for someone else.

 Look for local Pantry’s, groups or charities offering free Christmas help and support.

Increase the spirit with these ideas

Make the eve night be a family together night. Make your own pizzas, or have a full ham dinner. Your children won’t remember what they ate on Christmas night. But if it’s not in the budget to do something then make the evening gear towards time together. Watching a movie, playing board games and leaving cookies out for Santa. 

Stretch out Christmas morning. Have everyone wake up, stay in their pajamas. Wait to open gifts until after breakfast. Have a full breakfast(French toast, eggs, bacon, orange juice.) Hang paper snowflakes from the ceiling and take a few ornaments from the tree to decorate the table (your kids won’t notice) By dressing up the meal, you add to the spirit of the day and make the moments last longer. 

Watch Christmas movies together as a family. Snuggle up on the couch with your blankets, hot cocoa, and popcorn. Watch movies in the dark and let your Christmas lights illuminate the room as you all sit there enjoying each others company. 

Bake Christmas cookies and gift them to family and friends. Frosted, baked and decorated cookies, are all things that can be made with the simplest of pantry ingredients. Family time making cookies and then giving them away, brings the spirit of giving and kids LOVE it!

Or donate them to a fire station!

Cut out paper snowflakes and hang them around the house. This is a fun and cheap idea to bring the winter fun indoors.

Make and send out Christmas cards. Kids have fun crafting, and love sending cards as much as they like getting them. 

Go to a Christmas parade. A lot of locations have Christmas parades. Taking your kids to see one is a great way to get out of the house and spend time together. 

Visit Santa for free. Some stores and locations have a Santa that you can visit for FREE, Bass Pro Shop is a big one. Taking your children to meet the Holiday Hero is a great way to check off a “normal” Christmas tradition from the bucket list. 

Write a letter to Santa. This only costs a postage stamp! Mail away a handwritten letter to Santa, while at the same time, taking note for things your child wants for Christmas. 

Spend an evening teaching Christmas carols to your kids. Pick a Christmas Music station to tune into or set up YouTube to show a specific video with lyrics and sing along. Your kids can sing and dance and play, getting the best family moments together while wearing them out before bed. 

Whatever you choose to do, Santa can still be a part of Christmas in your home.

His financial burden can be used as a positive way to bring the family closer this Christmas.  

View 30 Kid Friendly Christmas Activities That Don’t Cost a Dime.

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What to do when santa is broke and has no money. How to make a budget friendly christmas even if you have no money. Magical memories can still be made without costing much or anything at all and let me tell you how!
What to do when santa is broke and has no money. How to make a budget friendly christmas even if you have no money. Magical memories can still be made without costing much or anything at all and let me tell you how!
What to do when santa is broke and has no money. How to make a budget friendly christmas even if you have no money. Magical memories can still be made without costing much or anything at all and let me tell you how!
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