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10 Festive Season Hacks for Cash-Strapped Parents 
Family Finance

10 Festive Season Hacks for Cash-Strapped Parents 

This has been a tough year for many people and even tougher on parents because of the challenging economy. With your kids depending on you and many financial obligations to attend to, your budget might be restricted. You might be forced to limit how you spend money, especially over the holidays. 

But kids may not really know about your financial struggle, especially if they are still young. They expect you to go over the board to spoil them and make this festive season more memorable than the last one. They expect you to uphold traditions and come up with new ones. And as a parent, in as much as you are cash-strapped, you want to use the holidays to bond with your children and create long-lasting memories.

Can you have a memorable festive season without stressing about money? Absolutely! This article will help you do that by exploring seven-holiday hacks that parents on a budget can use to make their family's holiday magical.

Read Also: 5 Smart Ways to Survive the Tough Holiday Season Ahead

Only Spend What you Can Afford

You first need to calculate how much you can afford to spend on all holiday expenses without going into debt or digging into your other savings. Once you have that figured out, you must create a budget that will help you make use of that. The budget will guide how much you will spend on each expense, help you separate your needs and wants, and prevent you from going overboard. 

The benefits of a holiday budget are often underestimated, especially by people who need it the most. With so many festivities in the air, it's easy to get distracted by others or even your emotions into overspending. There are holiday sales with enticing discounts calling you by your three names everywhere you look. And when you know what you can afford and what you can't, you will learn how to turn a deaf ear.

When you know what you can afford, you will learn how to cut costs. You will know the discretionary spending you need to cut off and the essentials you need to prioritise to give your family the holiday they deserve, even when things are tight.

Read Also: 8 Reasons Why Your Budget Isn't Working

Have Safe Expectations on Gifts

The holidays are around the corner, and your kid's gift list is ever-expanding. Any new toy they see and any new electronics their friends get, they'll expect you to buy it as well. As much as you would like to give your child their desires, it's crucial that you manage their expectations early to avoid disappointments, especially if they're pre-teen or teens.

You can manage their expectations in two ways. One, you should avoid over-promising. They'll try tempting you into buying something and when you can't afford it, ensure to give a counteroffer. If your child asks for the Playstation, for instance, offer to buy them a bicycle or postpone it and say you'll buy one for them at a later holiday.

Second, if your child is old enough and understanding, you can let them know you are cash-strapped, but you will make it up to them. You even use the opportunity to teach your child about money and why people have to cut expenses sometimes.

Don't be Afraid to Say "NO"

There are a lot of expectations and traditions for every family during the holidays. Whether it's your parents pressuring you to visit them or your kids asking for the most expensive toy in the store. All this can set you back when operating on a tight budget, so you should be prepared to say "NO" to requests you can't afford. 

You should also be ready to give an explanation to follow up with your "NO." How you say no to a party invite from your friends will be different from how you say no to the kids when they want to go bowling. To the friends inviting you to a party, you can say, "Sorry I can't make it, spending time with family this weekend," and to the kids, "No, no bowling this holiday, but I will take you to a picnic instead."

When you say yes to everything that's suggested to you because you don't want to inconvenience your friends or disappoint your children, you might end up spending more than you can afford. You can break long-time traditions by saying no but remember you are the only one who knows your finances and what's good for you. 

Read Also: How to Diplomatically Say No to Money Requests From Friends and Family 

Take Advantage of Early Holiday Deals

The holiday season is filled with mega deals, with some retailers offering as much as over 50% deals. And most of these deals come early: on Black Friday (25th November) and Cyber Monday (28th November.) If you time these two dates, you can get quality holiday products at competitive prices, including gifts for your children.

Apart from the discounts, most retailers will also be offering other deals. Be on the lookout for online or in-store competition. The most common ones are treasure hunts and flash sales. If you win, you could walk away with expensive products for almost half the price.

Finally, if you have been loyal to that one supermarket or shopping mall and have their card, it's time to redeem your loyalty points. You can cash in your loyalty for the most important holiday stuff you need.

Read Also: 10 Mega Holiday Discounts you Must Take Advantage of Now

Gift Only the Kids

Gift-giving is part and parcel of the festive season and one of its most expensive traditions. With many dependents from your kids, partner, siblings, parents to friends expecting something from you, the costs can add up to astronomical numbers. And that's why you must make a sacrifice and gift only the children expecting gifts from you. 

You can talk to the adults and tell them not to expect a gift from you this holiday due to personal reasons. Additionally, to level the field, you can request them not to offer you any gifts as you are not in a position to reciprocate. But this is not an invitation to turn down gifts, as that could be rude. 

Read Also: 8 Questions You Must Ask About Your Finances Today

Do Not Travel (and Skip Other Traditions to Save Money)

Travelling upcountry to see the grandparents or catch up with the whole family is an astute Kenyan tradition. But as you know, it's not a cheap one. Forcing yourself to take that road when you are cash-strapped can cause you to spend more than you can. If the economics doesn't make sense, you can stay away and postpone your travel when you are financially ready.

And suppose you have other expensive family holiday traditions like going on vacation or going hard on charity during the festive season. In that case, you might want to cancel them and replace them with cheaper options. If you typically go on week-long vacations, substitute that with visiting a game park and making it a worthy family event. And if you were feeding a children's home and you can't afford it, you should contribute what you towards a cause you believe in.

Read Also: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make if You Want to Save Money

Shop Second-hand at Thrift Stores

Mourine, 34, is a high school and the current breadwinner in her household. Her husband was laid off two months ago and hasn't been able to find a new job. The holidays for the parent of three won't be the same this year. They need to buy clothes and gifts for the holiday and are still expected to pay school fees. Even their lastborn will be starting school next year.

Even though they didn't achieve their goal, the couple has been saving for the holiday since January and managed to hit 65% of their goal. They can buy all the things they had planned without breaking the bank. Instead of taking out a loan or digging into their other savings, they went secondhand shopping instead of buying brand-new products.

The couple has everything planned out:

1. Take the kids shopping at an open-air market and buy "camera mtumba" (quality thrift) clothes for the whole family. 

2. Visit an Ex-UK shop and buy a secondhand bicycle gift for each kid. 

3. Visit a second-hand gift shop and buy a holiday gift for all their friends and extended family 

Read Also: 13 Pro Tips for Shopping Second-Hand 

Find Free or Affordable Family Activities 

Trips to the mall, eating out at fancy hotels, and taking the kids to water parks, amusement parks, and ice skating are all great family activities but expensive. Lucky for you, there are many fun family activities you can do on a budget. This includes visiting public parks to have a family picnic, attending free sports games, or attending family activities organised by the community.

Another way to save money on activities is by exploring your kids' passions. If your kids love drawing and painting, you can take them to art galleries which are often free to enter. Additionally, you can ask your kid what fun activities they'd like to have at home. Listen to their ideas and pick the ones that are within your budget. 

Skip the Name-Brand Products 

Name-brand products are often marketed as luxury and superior quality products, but in most cases, they're just selling the name. With a lot of shopping to do over the holidays, it is imperative that you go for the lesser-known budget products if you want to save money. When in the supermarket, for instance, you can talk to an attendant to recommend budget alternatives to the consumer goods you want. 

Finally, consider buying products within your budget when buying new clothes, shoes, or other festive goods. You might not be able to afford the latest sneakers from international brands, but you can walk to a local Bata Store and get an alternative at a lower price. 

Talk to Family and Friends 

When struggling, the people who are most likely to come to your aid are the ones closest to you. Talk to your loved ones that you trust and let them know you are experiencing small financial hardship, and let them help you in any way they can. This can be in the form of giving you hand-me-downs, offering unutilised presents you can re-gift, or inviting you and your family to their holiday activities.

Family members can also help you settle pressing bills so that you can free up your budget to be able to afford extra holiday essentials for the kids. 

Read Also: Are You Progressing Financially? 4 Questions to Ask


While you cannot keep money discussions out of the festive seasons, remember it is not all about money. It’s about how you spend time with your loved ones and create memories. Thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas to help you stay on a budget is the first step to ensuring that you meet your primary goals.

While temptations can be high, restrain yourself, stick to your budget and avoid getting into debt to impress your children. Finally, ensure that you create a 2023 holiday saving account early to avoid being caught up in the same scenario.

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Farah Nurow is an experienced Content Writer who enjoys writing creative and educative articles meant to provoke readers' thoughts. He loves sunny weather and thick books. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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