Tips for a Frugal Holiday Season

December. The heart of the holiday season. I love the festivities, the time with family and friends, the good food, and all the lights. What I don’t love is how commercial the holiday season has become. There is so much focus on buying gifts, spending money. Black Friday – commonly (inaccurately) thought to be named for being the day that retailers make it into “the black” financially for the year – has expanded to include pre-Thanksgiving sales, stores opening on Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. Ok, so I support Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday – shopping locally and supporting small businesses is great in so many ways, as is giving to charity – but the common theme among all of this is: spend money. I personally want to what matters most – the people. Here are some ways that I keep my holiday season frugal.

text "Tips for a Frugal Holiday Season" overlaid on an image of a reg globe ornament with Christmas lights out of focus in the background

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Frugal Holiday Tip #1: If you don’t need it, don’t buy it

“But this sale is so good!” It doesn’t matter if that TV is 75% off, or those oven mitts only cost $1. If I don’t need a TV, or oven mitts, purchasing either of those things is money wasted. While holiday shopping, because yes, I still do buy gifts for some people, retailers barrage me with “stuff”. So. Much. Stuff. It makes me feel like I need all sorts of things that I never considered even wanting!

I avoid being overwhelmed by this feeling by making lists and, for the most part, sticking to them. Sometimes, I may see something and it reminds me that it was something I had been wanting. In that case, if it is a good deal, I may purchase it. But, if it’s not on my list and I don’t need it, I don’t buy it and the money stays in my bank account!

Frugal Holiday Tip #2: Avoid purchasing low quality items

I feel like during the holiday season more than ever, I find low cost, low quality items. Things I consider cheap, “junk”. Here is one place where I can define my consideration of the difference between frugal and cheap. Cheap items are inexpensive, and quality can be anywhere from awful to good. Frugal items are good quality, and price may be anywhere from inexpensive to expensive.

An example that pops into my mind is electronics. On a recent shopping trip, I passed through the Christmas gift section. There were a lot of cheap electronics: phone chargers, bluetooth speakers, waterproof shower speakers. I own and use all of these items, but I am very discerning when I purchase them.

While I buy local and support small businesses when I can, I like to use Amazon to read reviews of items before I purchase. It is rare that I will purchase something with less than a 4-star Amazon review, and depending on the item, I will look for at least 50, 100, sometimes 1000 reviews. This gives me enough data (yup, a scientist at heart here) to have confidence that the item I am planning to purchase is good/reliable. Sometimes I will pay a little more. Maybe the item I buy costs twice as much, but if it lasts me 3 times as long, it was worth it. For example, I selected this portable bluetooth speaker because it had features I wanted, but to narrow down between a few that met my needs, I used Amazon reviews. 4.5 stars with over 4,500 reviews. It really is a great speaker.

Frugal Holiday Tip #3: Use reusable gift wrapping

reusable fabric gift bag and tag

When gifting, I opt for reusable gift wrapping, like the gift bags and tags that I make. This works best for families or friend groups that gift for each other, so the bags will keep being used over and over in the same group – it won’t be very frugal if gift bags are always given away and the maker cannot reuse them. I use these gift bags with my family and they are well-liked.

There is upfront cost and effort to make these reusable gift bags, but since they can be reused likely hundreds of times, they have long term cost savings. The fabric I used to make my gift bags was a huge thrifted tablecloth for $5, and if I used it all to make reusable bags, I probably could have made 20 or more medium-large size bags. Excluding the cost of my time, I could not have purchased that many paper gift bags for $5, and my reusable bags are much more environmentally friendly!

An easier way to reuse gift wrapping is to use paper gift bags, and just reuse them! I did this for years before I began making fabric reusable gift bags, and I still do.

Frugal Holiday Tip #4: reuse holiday decorations year to year

This tip applies for all seasonal decorations. Buy (or make!) at least decent quality decorations. I take care of my decorations, wrapping as necessary and packing them up at the end of the season. Rather than replacing an entire set of lights, I replace light bulbs and fuses in light strands when they blow. I reuse garlands and ornaments for my Christmas tree. I very rarely purchase new holiday decorations. When I do, it is thought out (I do not allow myself impulse purchases), and either to replace something that is very worn, or to add decorations to an area that previously had none.

According to a survey conducted by LendEDU, in 2019, Americans plan to spend, on average, about $100 on Christmas decorations. This year, I spent about $3, on bows to spice up a lighted garland. Everything else is reused. My wreaths are about 10 years old. Lights are about 5 (I upgraded to LED when some of the stores were recycling incandescent light strings several years back). Other decorations were slowly acquired over the years, many from when I was a child, and several others, given to me as Christmas gifts over the years. I am quite happy to have an extra $97 in my bank account this year, next year, last year, and all the other years I choose to carefully take care of my decorations so they will last for years, save me money, and stay out of the landfill.

Frugal Holiday Tip #5: make instead of buy gifts

handmade crochet trivet and wooden spoon.

I know a lot of people who really appreciate handmade gifts. Even (especially?) as a crafty person who can make a lot of things myself, I truly appreciate the thought, time and effort that goes into making handmade gifts. For people who have hobbies creating things, creating handmade gifts can be easier, but there are still things that anyone can do!

Note: not all handmade gifts are inexpensive to make, as supplies can be very costly! Additionally, what handmade gifts save in money, they cost in time. This is a trade-off that needs to be considered. For example, one year when I had lots of time, I crocheted trivets for many of my family and friends and gifted them with a wooden spoon that I wood burned. This year, when I have less available time, I have elected for less time-intensive gifts, which sometimes do cost more.

This post from The Spruce has 100 DIY gift ideas. While not holiday themed, it gives an idea of all of the different types of things a person could make! Not crafty? No problem! There are plenty of ideas that would work, like soup in a jar, cookies in a jar, homemade limoncello, and more.

Another idea that costs next to nothing but time t make – a coupon book! This could be things like doing chores that another person in the household normally does, giving a shoulder massage, taking someone out to lunch (different than a gift card, this includes quality time together), or anything else that the gift receiver would appreciate. This “coupon book” could be printed, or hand written, and stapled or paper clipped together.

However you spend your holiday season, I hope it’s a great one!

Do you have any frugal holiday tips? Please share in the comments below!

Rothy’s – Quality, durable, washable shoes

Tomorrow is Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year!  In honor of the kickoff of the big holiday shopping season, I thought I would share about a product that I really like: Rothy’s shoes. 

Rothy's shoes - Quality, durable, washable flats

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

The opinions about Rothy’s presented here are entirely my own.  I am not being compensated by Rothy’s in any way for this post. 

A couple years ago my coworker asked me, out of the blue, “Have you heard of Rothy’s?”  I had not.  “They’re these expensive, washable flats made from recycled water bottles.  My wife says they’re awesome.”  While the “expensive” part was really a turn off, the “washable” and “made from recycled water bottles” really piqued my interest.  I went home that night and investigated.

Rothy's shoes on feet, front

My shoe troubles

I had been on the lookout for comfortable flats.  It seems like in the past 5-10 years, cute flats have become less and less common.  Or maybe I’m just getting old, and what was cute and appropriate for an early 20-something to wear just doesn’t feel right anymore.  Anyway, I had found some comfy flats at Payless Shoes and wore them all the time.  They cost me about $20 (frugal me liked that), and were super comfortable.  BUT, they got really gross and sweaty if I didn’t wear the little liner sock things that fall off all the time, and cleaning them was a pain.  They were so thin and cheaply made that I expected they would completely fall apart in the wash.  So I hand washed with castile soap and an old toothbrush which worked but took forever.  They were also a thin fabric material and after about 6 months of 2-3 days/week wear, they were nearly worn through.  By the time I realized how much I loved these flats, but also how quickly I would wear through them, they were no longer available.


Enter Rothy’s.  First: let’s avoid the potential elephant in the room.  These shoes are expensive.  Literally the most expensive shoes I have ever bought.  Maybe twice as expensive as the most expensive shoe I had ever previously purchased.  Full priced, these are $125-$165.  I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that.  But, hear me out because when I break it down, it’s not so bad in my opinion.

Rothy's flats

1: There are discount codes available. 

Anyone with a current Rothy’s account can send a referral code for $20 off a purchase of at least $30.  If the person referred makes a purchase through that link, the person who sent the referral also gets a $20 off discount code.  If you want a referral code, send me a message using the contact form on this page and I will send a referral code to the email you provide.  I have 2 pairs of the The Flat and got $20 off each by using referral codes.  And, if you’re a teacher, Rothy’s offers a 20% discount on select styles.  Check out the details here

2: Rothy’s shoes are high quality. 

They last. I’ve probably put the equivalent of 8 months of 5 day/week wear on my favorite pair, and they still look perfect.  No visible worn areas outside, no fraying.  The insoles are a little worn at the outer stitching, but that’s because I accidentally washed with something velcro and velcro does not play nice with really any fabric.  These shoes are going to last me  a long time, saving me money and reducing waste.  

Rothy's flats on feet, side view

3: Rothy’s shoes are machine washable! 

It’s really simple, I just remove the insole and place the shoes and insoles in the washing machine.  I am always careful to use cold water (heat can damage them).  Then I air dry.  My shoes usually dry overnight, except on very humid days when it takes closer to a day.  But most of the time I can wash after work and they’re dry before I leave for work the next day.  I usually wash the insoles after about a week’s worth of wears (maybe more often if it’s particularly hot and my feet sweat a lot), and wash the shoes after 2-3 weeks worth of wears.

4: Rothy’s are made from recycled materials.

Rothy’s shoe uppers and insoles are made from 100% recycled materials – the upper made from recycled water bottles, and insoles from recycled shoes.  Other elements of the shoes and packaging are also made with sustainability in mind.  You can read more about Rothy’s sustainability here. The tree-hugger side of me really likes this part.  

5: Rothy’s are vegan

While vegan shoes is not a requirement for everyone, it’s valuable information for some folks out there!

Rothy's flats front & back

6: Rothy’s are recyclable.

When I no longer want my Rothy’s, if they’re worn out such that they’re not in a condition to donate, they can be recycled!  PLUSfoam makes foam, plastic, and rubber materials from recycling other materials, including Rothy’s.  At the time of the writing of this post (November 2018), Rothy’s pays the shipping to recycle shoes; here’s the link.  PLUSfoam recycles products from other companies (current list here) and overall looks like a pretty cool company that is trying to reduce and recycle waste, and help the environment!

7. Rothy’s are cost effective

Hear me out here.  I know they are expensive, but taking into account how durable and long-lasting they are, Rothy’s are cost effective for me.

Here’s some cost comparison from my experience with previous shoes:

My previous flats cost about $20, and if I wore them 5 days/week, they would have lasted about 3 months.  With week-daily wear (I like to make up words, here I mean that I wear them every week day), they cost about $80/year. 

Prior to that, I had a $50 pair of Clark’s.  I wore them 5 days/week for about 6 months, then about 2 days/week for another 4 months or so before I considered them completely worn out (sole separating from upper, stitches coming undone, no padding in the insoles so my heels hurt, & went through a couple pairs of gel insoles).  Assuming they lasted about 9 months of week-daily wear, these shoes cost about $65/year. 

I have owned my favorite pair of Rothy’s for  14 months.  I wear them about 5 days/week for 6 months of the year, and 1 day/week during the other 6 months.  Which means at this point, they have the equivalent of about 7.5 months of week-daily wear.  Honestly, I wear these even more often.  Not just to work, but out in the evenings and on weekends.  And the shoes are showing almost no wear!  From the outside, they look almost exactly like the day I bought them.  The bottom of the shoes do show very slight wear, but NOTHING compared to most shoes.  These shoes could easily last me 5 years or more.  Let’s just assume they last 3 years, to be conservative.  I paid $105.  That’s only $35/year!  If I paid full price for the most expensive option ($165), that’s still only $55/year.  Which is still less expensive than my past favorite (Payless) and longest lasting (Clark’s) flats!

Rothy's flats being modeled

8. Rothy’s are comfortable.

Have I mentioned yet that Rothy’s flats are comfortable?  I love them!  The first day or two they felt a bit snug as my foot shaped the shoe around it.  The shoes did not stretch, just kind of molded themselves to my feet.  Which makes them feel pretty great after those first couple days.  

9. Advice

If you’re looking to purchase Rothy’s shoes, here is my advice:

  • Get a referral code and save yourself $20!  Message me using the contact form on this page and I can send you a referral code.   Or, if you’re a teacher, you can follow their instructions to verify this and get a 20% discount on select styles. 
  • Consider ordering 1/2 size up.  I normally wear an 8.5 (regular, occasionally wide width), and I ordered size 9.  They fit great.  My coworker’s wife also ordered 1/2 size up and says they fit great.
  • Once you get your Rothy’s, wear them inside for several hours, maybe for a couple days, to make sure you’re happy with the fit.  Rothy’s offers free returns and exchanges if you need to try another size!


Do you have a favorite brand of high quality shoes?   Tell us about them in the comments!