14 Money Saving Holiday Hacks For MilFams

December 01, 2015

Don’t let the holiday rush get the best of your wallet. Spend smart with these tips from MFAN advisors.

1. Plan ahead

If you’re playing host this year, plan out your menu and create your shopping list in advance—that way, as sales start rolling in you can buy items on sale. Check out to find savings near you.

2. Consider layaway when paying for gifts


Rather than putting pricey items on your credit card, you can pay for the gifts in installments.

3. Opt for online greeting cards


Snail mail can get expensive, especially if you have a large family. Instead, check out the free online holiday card selection at Paperless Post. Or send some love on social media, with a childhood memory or family photo on Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday.

4. Make your holiday gathering a potluck


Host a holiday potluck instead of providing all of the food yourself. With all the special diet and food considerations, you’ll save money and a lot of worry if you let the guests bring the food. Encourage guests to bring copies of their recipes with them to share, so everyone leaves with a collection of new dishes to try.

Bonus: People tend to bring their best dish so they can show off a little. Everyone’s best dish is definitely better than a table full of mediocre dishes.

5. Visit military friends when you travel


Got a long distance road trip coming up? Consider staying with friends who are still at a previous duty station you’re passing through. You’ll save money on a hotel and get to catch up.

6. Skype home for the holidays

If you’re unable to travel home for the holidays, use Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts to video chat with friends and family. Also, consider traveling in January or February when fares are lower.

7. Organize a holiday gift exchange

Instead of purchasing gifts for all of your family members, propose a gift exchange. Draw names out of a hat and keep the assignments a secret until the big day. You could even do one for adults and one for kids.

8. Give the gift of time


Give gifts that focus on quality time, like treating someone to an outing at a new coffee shop or restaurant so you can spend time together. Also, consider donating your time as a family to a charity or service organization close to your heart.

9. Purchase wrapping supplies from a local dollar store

Purchase gift bags, tissue, wrapping paper, and other gift wrapping items from discount stores like Dollar Tree or Big Lots. Better yet, reuse gift bags that you’ve received (and save the ones you get this year!).

10. Use local base rentals

If you’re traveling long distance to visit friends or family, consider renting a Recreational Vehicle (RV) from your local MWR instead of flying or driving and staying in hotel rooms. Also consider renting holiday supplies—this can help you avoid making unnecessary or one time purchases.

Bonus tip: When traveling by RV or car, pack snacks, sandwiches, and drinks in a cooler. You’ll save money by not buying these items at gas stations or fast food restaurants.

11. Search the Internet for military discounts

Lot’s of major retailers offer discounts for military families. Checkout to find participating stores.

12. Make a holiday fund


Kick off the New Year right and start a holiday fund this January. Put a little aside each pay period until next November when it’s time for holiday spending again.

13. Stock a gift closet


Buying gifts year round and storing them until the big day will lessen the financial blow from shopping for everyone over a few short weeks or months. If you’re tight on space, consider purchasing gift cards through out the year. When the holidays roll around, you can gift the cards or use them at the issuing stores to buy different gifts.

14. Shop later

During the week of Christmas, stores often have sale discounts similar to those on Black Friday to prolong the shopping season. So instead of doing it all in one early morning on Black Friday, sleep in and shop during other days that may offer even better savings.

Looking for more financial tips? Check out MFAN’s finance pages.