Do you have a Christmas Eve dinner?

We didn’t use to, but our family loves to eat and so our Christmas Eve dinner has become just as fun as our Christmas Day dinner.

As the Christmas holiday gets closer, the presents are almost wrapped, the stockings are hung by the fire, it’s time to start thinking about how to have a Christmas dinner on a budget.

If you have company over for your Christmas dinner, then the dinner bill can begin to rack up quick.

Whether you’re short on money or you are on a tight budget, here is how you can make your Christmas dinner still magical and have your Christmas dinner on a budget. 

I spoke about this topic on my weekly Money-Saving Segment on Fox TV. Watch the Replay here:




In order to have a magical dinner without overspending, we need to talk about two separate parts: (1) staying on budget with these budget Christmas dinner ideas, and (2) adding fun magical accents that don’t break the bank.

Because saving money is important this time of year!

And who wants to blow their entire budget for just one meal?! Not me!

It’s not as hard as you think it is! Let’s just get a little creative with our resources!


Let’s Discuss How To Stay On Budget First:

Christmas Eve dinner

Make A Budget And Stretch It

If you are on a tight budget this year, you still need to make a budget for your Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner.

Knowing how much you have to work with will not just determine how much you have to spend, but also what kind of dinner you will be preparing.

Once you know how many people you’ll be feeding and how much you’ll be cooking, look for ways to stretch your budget with cheap Christmas dinner menu ideas.


Planning Is Key During The Holidays


Download these FREE Christmas Prep Cheat Sheets so you get ahead (of the spending) this year.

Christmas dinner is a big meal, and you want to look for ways to stretch each penny to the limit with cheap holiday dinner ideas.

Coupons can help you get more food for your buck, and limiting your menu can help you make a few elegant but delicious meals for your Christmas dinner on a budget.

Christmas Eve dinner

Limit Your Christmas Day Or Christmas Eve Dinner Menu

You don’t need to have an extravagant meal in order to have a great Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner!

Keep your menu simple by limiting your sides and desserts and by looking for cheap Christmas dinner menu ideas.

These items should still compliment your main dish, without crowding the table.

Not only will you save some money for your Christmas dinner on a budget, but it will keep the focus on what’s important during the holidays.

There’s no need to make 4 different pies. One type of pie will be just fine.

Also, you can limit the number of cookies you make to just one type and even make it simpler by baking a cookie that doesn’t need any extra fillings like nuts or chocolate chips. The more ingredients, the more they cost.

Christmas Eve dinner

Ask For Joint Effort

Now that you’ve decided on the menu, you can further cut the meal cost for everyone by asking your guests to bring something to dinner.

This gives everyone a chance to chip in and bring something they love, and it will save you money to keep your Christmas dinner on a budget!

Everyone loves to pitch in, so chances are they would be bringing something anyway… make it easy for them by asking ahead of time what they’d like to bring, a side or a salad? I promise they will be more than happy to oblige since you are hosting the Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner.

And this is especially helpful for the family members who have dietary restrictions (my sister eats non-diary, so it’s always nice when she brings a couple dishes that everyone will enjoy, yet I don’t have to worry that I accidentally included an ingredient she can’t eat).

Just make sure you give your guests plenty of notice, so they aren’t rushing around the last minute to accommodate you.

Christmas Eve dinner

Cheaper Alternatives

You don’t have to reinvent the entire menu to help cut the cost of your Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner.

Instead, look for more affordable options for the classics… what if, instead of doing a ham or turkey this year, you gave chicken a try?

One year we made pot-pies (my same pie crust recipe with a little sprinkle of Italian seasoning in the crust) and everyone LOVED it!

And you will especially save money if you can make the dishes from scratch and not use store-bought pre-made items (leading us to my next point).

Same goes for pies. Fruit pies cost more money than pumpkin pies. And pecan pies are even more expensive than fruit pies! It’s just one way to use those cheap holiday dinner ideas to your benefit!

Christmas Eve dinner

Make Dishes From Scratch

Store bought pies, sides, and other fixings can cost you double at the store for your Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner!

Save your money, and make as much as you can from scratch to keep your Christmas dinner on a budget!

You can buy the ingredients you need for less, and while it may be more time consuming, I promise your efforts will pay off!

It will taste a lot better, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

Plus you get the family involved, make it a math lesson, and a history lesson about how you made the same recipes with your parents and grandparents! And you’ll be passing your budget Christmas dinner ideas off to your kids!

Christmas Eve dinner

Shop Your Stock First

Before you hit the store and buy a whole bunch of food, check your pantry and cupboards for the ingredients for your Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner!

Not only will you get the chance to clear out your pantry, but you might find you have a few of the ingredients you need to put something together for your cheap holiday dinner ideas.


Planning Is Key During The Holidays


Download these FREE Christmas Prep Cheat Sheets so you get ahead (of the spending) this year.

Wanna know the secret ingredient in my homemade coleslaw? Cilantro! (I hate cilantro in anything else but coleslaw… trust me, it’s delicious.) Well, every time I get to the store and buy the bag of shredded cabbage to make coleslaw I think I need another bottle of Cilantro seasoning… but when I get home, I have a bottle (or two) already in my spice cabinet. UGH!

Overbuying is a sure-fire way to bust your Christmas dinner on a budget!

Christmas Eve dinner

Shop Around For Your Christmas Dinner On A Budget

While this may be a given, shopping around for your Christmas Eve dinner essentials can help you save some serious cash!

Different shops and supermarkets will have discounts and sales on everything you need for your cheap Christmas dinner menu ideas.

You may find one store with the best price on Turkey, and another with the best price for the ingredients to make your side dishes.

Make a list of everything you need for your Christmas dinner, and divide it up by the best store to buy it.

For the ingredients for our Thanksgiving meal, I went to ALDI for canned pumpkin and all my fresh produce. Then I shopped at Costco for the dairy products (half n half, heavy cream and butter). Then, my mom bought the turkey from Publix.

Obviously, we didn’t go to all three stores on the same day, but it helped to split up the list and get the items at the best prices for our budget Christmas dinner ideas.

Christmas Eve dinner

Plan For Zero Leftovers

Restaurant portion sizes have given us a skewed perception of what the correct portion sizes look like.

While we may feel obligated to load up our plate for our Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner, the truth is that it is probably too much!

Instead of over-serving and ending up with so many leftovers, serve your guest’s proper portions.

Your waistline and your wallet will thank you later.

Now Let’s Discuss How To Add The Magic:

Christmas Eve dinner

Christmas Morning “Snowflakes”

WARNING: The hardest part about this project is keeping it from (or actually, not doing it with) from the kids.

About a week before Christmas, start making paper snowflakes. I suggest you make three each night (that’s all my hands could handle with all the cutting).

Then on Christmas Eve, use all the paper snowflakes to decorate around the dining table where you’ll be eating Christmas Eve dinner.

Hang them from the ceiling, over the table and lay them around on the table… when the kids see it the next morning, it’ll feel magical.

NOTE: If you have a little more time, use some glue and glitter and make them all sparkle. I’m a sucker for some glitter. It will make your Christmas dinner on a budget so magical!

Here are some great snowflake patterns for you to try!

Christmas Eve dinner

The Little Touches Count

When you go to sit down at your Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner, after a fun day of gift giving and receiving, you want to make everyone feel like the last meal of the day is a special one.

Think about the little details, the extra “touches” that will make the Christmas dinner on a budget table slightly more special:

  • Do you have special china you could pull out to use? (If you don’t have enough plates for everyone, think of using those pieces for serving food on.)
  • Tie ribbon around the silverware to add color to the table.
  • Use extra ornaments (and any extra greenery from your Christmas tree) to decorate the table.
  • Lay Christmas cookie cutters around the table to decorate.
  • Candles always add a magical touch. Gather them from around the house and strategically place on the table to add ambiance.
  • Play Christmas music in the background.

Brighten up your table with this DIY Candy Cane Centerpiece Dollar Store Craft!

Christmas Eve dinner

Gifts At The Table

A family tradition that my mom started years ago was to save out one gift that she placed on everyone’s seat as she was setting the Christmas Eve table for dinner.

It was like a “bonus” gift when we thought we had no more presents to open.

She would give us small useful (not expensive) items that we could use right away: (Think of useful things you’d find at the dollar store)

  • Mini flashlights
  • Pencil sets
  • Stickers
  • Hair ribbons/ties
  • Tape measure
  • Holiday flavored Chapstick

Don’t forget to wrap every single item so that it extends the Christmas unwrapping fun!

Christmas Eve dinner

Use Personalized Place Cards

Nothing makes a table feel more special than to see your own name written on a place card “reserving” your very own seat.

This year, hand make place cards with names on them to personalize each seat and make your guests feel extra special.



Planning Is Key During The Holidays


Download these FREE Christmas Prep Cheat Sheets so you get ahead (of the spending) this year.

Here are a couple ideas I’ve used in the recent past:
  • Use cardstock, write names in glue, then sprinkle with glitter
  • Glue 3 Candy Canes together to hold the individual name card
  • Make a napkin and silverware wrap out of printed kraft paper
  • Tie a card to Christmas bell with ribbon
  • Small dollar store wreath with bow ad name written on gold washi tape draped across the wreath
  • Cut two twigs about 4 inches long, and glue only the ends together forming a holder for a note card. Add a sprig of greenery with hot glue.

Christmas Eve dinner

Fancy Napkins

I love origami. When I was a teen I learned how to fold a piece of paper into a ball. That was a neat trick I later used when I babysat to keep the kids occupied!

This Christmas test your origami folding skills and fold some napkins into festive table decorations.

One nice thing is that around the holidays, you can typically find a lot of great deals on everything you need to make your Christmas dinner magical.

Saving money is so important this time of year!

And since we don’t to blow their entire budget for just one meal, let’s get down to making a Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner budget.

As you can see, it’s not as hard as you think it is getting creative with our resources!

You can still have a delicious (and magical) Christmas dinner even if you’re on a budget! 


Your Turn: What dishes have you cut to trim your Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner menu? What is your favorite cheap cookie or pie to make? Let us know below!

Christmas Eve dinner
How To Have A Magical Christmas Dinner On A Budget