How I Spent Nothing This Christmas

The average Canadian plans to spend something like $1,500 around the holidays (between gifts, travel, food, decor, etc.). Unfortunately, the average Canadian doesn’t budget for this expense and soon find themselves starting the new year in debt.

I somehow managed to survive the holiday season without spending a dime. Well, at least not any additional dimes to what we would have normally spent over the last week or so.

In fact, because R and I both ended up working extra shifts and a statutory holiday each, we actually profited off of the holidays. (And no, that’s not including the wonderful gifts we received.)

I wish there was some super exciting secret trick or clever life-hack that no one else had discovered yet in order to make this possible, but the truth is really simple:

I spent nothing this Christmas because I did nothing this Christmas.

Okay, so we didn’t actually do nothing nothing – but considering what I remember doing every other year and what most other people I know did for the holidays, it was basically nothing by comparison.


We Both Worked

As I already mentioned, we both ended up working over the holidays.

R told his co-workers back when he first started his job in September that he wanted to work over the holidays. His coworkers all have kids or grand-kids at home (and we do not) so they were thrilled that someone was willing to cover those shifts so that they could enjoy Christmas with their families. R’s a super nice guy like that, but that stat-holiday pay certainly helped!

As for me, I’m not entirely sure how I ended up being scheduled to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, but I was. And I also worked the 4 days before and 4 days after that – which didn’t leave me with a whole lot of time to do anything. (But yay for getting more than full time hours at a part time job!) I already knew that R was working anyways, so I might as well work a stat-holiday too, right? It was also pretty cool to see how excited the kids got as Santa’s visit came closer and to hear about all the gifts that they got afterwards.


We Didn’t Buy Gifts

Yup, that’s right. I didn’t buy a single Christmas present. (Maybe I am more of a Scrooge than I thought I was after all?)

I had talked with my sisters about doing a Secret Santa or something with them and their men instead of exchanging gifts with everyone, but we were all so busy that nothing was ever decided. (Whoops!) It’s a very similar story for gifts for my parents. We had ideas but no time.

Although we agreed months ago not to exchange gifts this year with R’s side of the family, my future Mother-In-Law (who is a BIG fan of Christmas) did fill-up stockings for everyone. Again, we had talked about getting his parents something small, but never got around to it.

R and I decided a while ago not to exchange gifts either. There is nothing that either of us really want or really need, so trying to find “the perfect gift” for each other would have been more stress then it was worth.

A part of me does feel bad for not giving any gifts this year, but I really do not have the money right now or any idea of what any one would like or want or need. (Which is why I usually just end up getting every one gift-cards.) I’d much rather spend my money on meaningful gifts when I find them or think of them – and have every intention on doing just that throughout 2015.


We Stayed Home

Getting engaged meant my definition of “family” and “home” drastically changed this past year.

This was the first Christmas that I didn’t go home to spend with my family (as in my sisters and parents) because I instead stayed home and spent it with my family (as in my husband-to-be).

It would have been great if we could have somehow done both, but it would have cost too much for us to take time off work to fly down to the Toronto-area where my side of the family is basically located. (And if I’m being perfectly honest, I am scared to leave my cats home alone in their condition for long, even if we had someone checking in on them.)

Instead, we talked with my family via Skype. It was a little awkward as R hasn’t met my mom or older sister yet but they say he made a good first impression. I did miss being there, but this way easily saved us more than $1000.

We did have Christmas and New Years Day dinner with R’s parents and grandma, but we stayed home for New Years Eve, too. We were invited to a friends house, but taking a cab across town would have cost $50+ (assuming we could even get a cab). And since R started this new job, we’re in bed early and didn’t even make it until midnight! (Man, we’re old!)


In conclusion, I guess the “secret” to spending nothing during the holidays is to be a antisocial workaholic hermit. (Is that even a thing? If not, it is now.)


How did your spending fare this Christmas? Were you right on budget or did you go a little over-board?

Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN,, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.

23 thoughts on “How I Spent Nothing This Christmas”

  1. Nice work on not spending anything! What a score to pick up all of those shifts. I have been in the place where overtime pay is the best possible thing and like a gift all on its own.
    As a big gift-giver, I am amazed you managed to not buy anyone, anything. That’s a huge, huge cost savings. Plus, the plane tickets.
    Way to kick the proverbial backside of the consumer holiday!

    • This is the first job I’ve had in a long long time that actually paid time-and-a-half for holidays. I either had to use vacation days/unpaid days at the theatre, and the college was closed for the holidays anyways. I also had a chance to work new years eve and new years day, but I was too tired and there were other people willing to take those shifts.
      I started thinking about gift ideas back in November, but nothing ever came of it… So I decided instead to sort of always be on the lookout for ideas, and if I find it, I’ll send my family amazing gifts at random opposed to giving them crap just because it was Christmas.

  2. I think it’s great that you didn’t spend anything. If you have it great; but if not why push it? I have a friend who breaks the bank every year exchanging gifts with family and there are no kids involved. It just doesn’t make sense. Normally I don’t spend a lot of money christmas shopping but I did this year because I got my husband an iPad. I also bought stuff for myself as I’ve been in a no shopping kick and when it finally got cold I needed a few things. It’s all paid off though and I’ll start fresh this month.

  3. My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas (and we had an especially quiet Christmas this year with everyone sick) but I did end up spending about $500. That being said, most of that was charity donations. The rest of the money was due to get-togethers and meals out with coworkers and friends who wanted to catch up before Christmas holidays.

    • That’s awesome that you spent your money on a good cause, though! I talked with some friends and colleges about having a little get together, too, but we couldn’t get it to work out. Sorry that every one was sick… that doesn’t sound fun!

  4. Good job on not spending anything! It was a fairly frugal Christmas for us as well, thankfully. We did have to spend some money to travel to Wes’s parents for Christmas, but we used credit card rewards to cover most of it.

  5. I had a virtually no-spend Christmas like yours a few years ago too and, you know what? Not having any debt after Christmas actually felt amazing! I should really do it more often 🙂 Like you and R, I had work and, while I didn’t get any overtime pay (salaried worker – pros and cons to that!), I didn’t really mind it.

    Like R noticed, people seem to appreciate you a lot more when you offer to work and they can go home with the kids/grandkids. I actually really like being able to do that for people… because that means when I want to take off for my birthday in March, no one can get grumpy at me! 😉

    Happy New Year! 🙂 Way to start it off right!

    • Thanks Melissa, and Happy New Year to you, too!
      It is/was pretty amazing to not have to venture to the mall in December, stress over shopping and booking travel accommodations, traveling and then trying to figure out how to pay for it all! And I really didn’t mind picking up the extra shifts at work. I’m still in my 3-month probation period, and still getting to know my coworkers, so it definitely made me look good 🙂 And like you said, now when I want to take off, no one can be grumpy with me either.

  6. Pretty frugal if you ask me! We headed home for the holidays and even though we drove and stayed with family it cost us a decent amount!

    • Traveling ALWAYS costs more than you think! If R and I did go to southern Ontario, we’d also have to get a hotel room, possibly rent a car (or chip in for one with my sister), plus food, etc. in addition to the flight. Everything adds up so fast.

  7. That’s great that you didn’t spend anything on Christmas this year and still got to have a nice dinner with your fiance’s family. It sounds like you had a relaxing holiday season minus the work of course. I ended up spending quite a bit on Christmas but my total was actually lower than expected. I agree that sometimes it’s hard to not get all caught up in holiday gifting spirit and just start blowing money on random meaningless gifts for everyone. This time I tried to focus on what my parents and family members truly needed and kept the gifts low cost yet very meaningful.

    • Thanks, Chonce. There’s been far too many birthdays and Christmases in my recent past that included “gifts for the sake of having gifts”. Sure people like getting gift cards, but where’s the thought in that? I’m gad you spent less that expected to spend 🙂

  8. That’s a great way to save some money! Some people spend so much money it doesn’t even make sense the next month! I was able to use a lot of my credit card rewards to pay off the gifts, so I guess that is money saved!

    • Absolutely! I was trying to reach “cash-out” points with some of the survey sites I use, hoping to get “free” money/gift cards in time to spend on gifts, but I didn’t quite make it in time. Maybe next year?

  9. I too could have had a much less expensive, even a no-spend holiday season if had accepted “wonderful” gifts but not reciprocated. Seriously, as much as I dread and deplore the inevitable spending that goes with the holidays, I want to participate in the spirit of giving with my friends and family to the extent that I feel financially able and comfortable doing so. Since you stated that you plan to spend money in the new year on “meaningful” gifts when you find or think of them, it appears that you just skipped the hassle this Christmas.

    • Hi Susanna,
      I too want to participate in the spirit of giving, but I’m not going to get into debt buying gifts just for the sake of buying gifts. I do not feel financially able or comfortable doing so at the moment, so I didn’t.

  10. Your Christmas sounds lovely especially being able to spend time with your husband to be, when you live near family you usually don’t get to enjoy that special time together on your own and those are lovely memories. I hope you have a great 2015!

  11. We spent this Christmas, when you have kids its hard not to, but everything I bought was on sale and we didn’t go overboard like we did last year. Next year I’m aiming to spend zero dollars on all of the Christmas gifts for my two sons and other family members. I still plan to buy, but I plan on using the gift cards I earn from Swagbucks to pay for everything. I figure since I have a whole year to do it, I’ll have plenty to save and then spend.

    This is my first trip to your blog and I just wanted to let you know I’m loving it!

  12. I can’t say I had a no-spend Christmas, but it was a more frugal Christmas in which my side did a gift exchange and my fiance’s side did a gift exchange with half of the family. (The other half is REALLY into giving gifts. Lol). We were under budget, I say we spent about $300 together.

    I didn’t end up working on the statutory holidays, but I did work on the days in between. I would have preferred to have it off like everyone else because I didn’t end up making any extra $. I was pretty exhausted and felt I could use some real time off.

  13. Hey,this post made my day.There was one christmas wherein even my family spent nothing and that day i made a promise it won’t happen again.So till this date,i have never let that Christmas repeat it.Thanks alot for this post…


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