Tip #20: Change the date of Christmas

Ramit Sethi

This is Tip #20 of of the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge.

This is a guest post by Erica Douglass, who blogs at She recently sold her web-hosting company for over $1m.

I really hate traveling during the holidays. Packed airports, delayed or cancelled flights, bad weather, and miserable attitudes — if this isn’t Hell, I don’t know what is!

This year, my parents asked me to come back to Indiana. Having been snowed in for five days the last time I flew back — eating canned food and being stuck for days on end with no escape, since eleven feet of snow was blocking our driveway! — I adamantly refused.

We finally worked out a compromise. My parents, my boyfriend and I would all fly out to southwest Florida, where my aunt and uncle live. Unfortunately, after we agreed to this, I discovered that my aunt and uncle do not live near a major airport. We were looking at thousands of dollars to get the four of us down there for the holidays.

I felt the money we would spend on plane tickets would be better spent elsewhere — say, the massage and therapy I’ll need after spending time with my family (kidding!) Desperate for a solution, I spent some time on travel websites. Finally, I figured out we’d cut our ticket price by half if we simply moved Christmas to December 18th instead of December 25th.

Total, for flights for the four of us, we saved nearly two thousand dollars by moving Christmas up one week!

Cheap flight: $408

Expensive flight: $1,248!

I realize there are a few caveats to this. For instance, some of you have family members that might feel the holidays are more sacred than saving money. In that case, I would explain the emotional component instead of the financial one — that, if you travel during the busiest travel time of the year, you’ll be exhausted and may end up stuck in an airport for the holiday. But by flying a week earlier, you avoid the stress — and save money as well!

This doesn’t only apply to the holidays. Do you have multiple family members with birthdays in the same month? Consider pulling all of these celebrations together. Do you fly back home multiple times a year? Consider paring this down to only once a year and making your stay longer.

How you save money with this tip is up to you…but the moral of the story is this: there’s real money in being flexible when it comes to holidays and other celebrations.

About the author Erica Douglass is a successful entrepreneur sharing secrets to building a million-dollar business at Check out one of her most popular articles: How To Start A Business With No Money.

Total savings: $300 to $1,000

Last thing to do
1. See other tips in the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge
2. Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip and any unusual techniques you use to make this tip work.

If you found this post helpful you’ll probably like my new Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance. This is an excellent place to learn more simple ways to improve your personal finance and money management.

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  1. Trevor

    Great article.

    Plane tickets are one of the many ways people don’t really think about saving on because they don’t know about it.

  2. Stop Getting Cheated

    This is a great idea. As a matter of fact, I just did this last week. Instead of booking a flight for Thanksgiving weekend, I made it for Nov 11-18 and saved several hundred dollars. I got some business done, a great write-off, and was able to see my daughter and her husband several times.

  3. guinness416

    Good one! Flights is definitely one area where people with flexibility can save a fortune …. versus HAVING to be away on a particular week. Or, as everyone who has ever worked as a bartender knows, changing the date of New Years Eve helps too. You save yourself the higher club admission and drinks prices.

  4. Maria | Never the Same River Twice

    Don’t forget, if you move your Christmas celebration to January you can take advantage of after-Christmas clearance sales!

  5. Battra92

    Sounds like a great idea to me. That way instead of gorging on gifts and such you can instead spend the day in church or working at a charity or just staying home.

    Unfortunately, though this tip doesn’t help me as I almost never travel. Honestly, if I get to take a trip to Boston (140 miles each way) once every two years, I consider myself lucky.

  6. Cathy

    I do this every year. I just came back from an early Thanksgiving with my parents. It cost 3x more to fly on Thanksgiving weekend. My family celebrates the holidays whenever we’re together. The date doesn’t matter.

  7. Peggy

    Yeah. With seven of us, we don’t fly anywhere. We drive, which is expensive enough.

    This tip: $0
    Cumulative: $90.75

  8. stephanie

    I’m only a 4 hour drive from “home,” so I won’t be flying this year. I definitely second Maria’s idea – some of my friends and I do simple gift exchanges after the holidays, when things slow down and you can get cute gifts on clearance after Christmas.

    My family handles this situation by not celebrating Thanksgiving. Instead, we spent over 2 days together (usually all in the same house) at Christmas. It works out well for us – the young cousins get more time to play together, the adults can drink if they want without worrying about driving anywhere later, and its a short enough time that we don’t start driving each other crazy!

  9. kat

    Yep yep. I would add to this that if you can’t do before or after, flying ON holidays is actually quite pleasant. I’m flying out on Thanksgiving morning to spend the long weekend with my family. My brother is also flying Thanksgiving day, and we’re doing the big Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. Not only did I save around $200 by being more flexible with my travel dates, I’ve found that it’s actually far less crowded and stressful when you fly on major holidays rather than just before them.

    Of course, as you said, it does rely on having a family who doesn’t place too much value on doing things in a specific way. I’m lucky in that my parents are just happy when we can all get together, we don’t have to stress out about doing things in a specific way.

  10. Cathy

    I concur with flying ON the day of holidays. My boyfriend and I are flying to Mexico for a week over New Years. We’re flying on New Years eve, and the flights are dirt cheap and mostly empty. Most airlines are merely shifting around their fleets for return holiday passengers on that day.

  11. GGF

    A good idea. But if you want to save more, you can drive back (assuming you’re a reasonable distance). I drive 8 hours to visit my family at Christmas. So that is 16 hours that I’ll never get back each year. Family is important to me and they won’t move Christmas so there is nothing I can do.

    A tip I use for determining whether I fly or not is what percentage of my holiday would be consumed by driving. So 16 hours out of 6 days = 11%. My limit is somewhere around 15%. I also factor in my time (i.e. my time per hour I make at work * # of hours saved by flying). If it works out to be greater than the plane ticket price, then it is worth me flying. I know that I wouldn’t be able to earn my salary, but it is a metric that I can use to justify driving or flying. Unfortunately, it ends up with me not flying very often. 🙂

  12. Evelyn

    Because my husband & I spent Christmas with our families while we were dating, we made the decision to celebrate on the Epiphany – the day in early January that celebrates when the Wise Men actually gave their gifts to Christ. Not only does it have great religious significance, but it means I get to shop all the after Christmas sales.
    It’s a tradition worth keeping, even after 10 years of Christmases together.

  13. Cristl

    I’m not boo-hooing myself, but Christmas while I was growing up meant a card in the mail containing a $5 bill I could use to buy food for my family. It sounds sad but it kicked ass at the time. I will never forget those days and am honestly pretty lucky to have grown up the way I did.

    As the family became more affluent, we still held onto habits that saved cash and advanced all of us out of poverty. An important component was never feeling sorry for ourselves, deprived, or less than others for having a non-traditional setup. Still we hold a “Festivus” usually around mid-January when everyone calms down about Christmas and airfares mirror that. Gifts are optional and no one pouts like a nine-year-old.

    While it’s A-OK to get excited about things, keep this in mind:

    You’re a sucker once you let emotion drive your financial decisions. This is how managers tell you to sell at several retailers: make the customer foster an emotional connection to your product.

  14. Lauren

    I both agree and disagree here. I agree because I know from experience flying home every christmas for the last 8 years that it is indeed cheaper to fly even just a few weeks before or after christmas, and defitiely at a month the cost savings can be higher.

    However, my family is spread across the country. Boston, Orlando, DC, San Francisco, Colorado, Ohio. This is the one time a year we get to see each other. Can you put a price on that?? (Note: at least I have gotten them to move the party a week or two before Christmas, it has helped with the air fare).

  15. Danny

    I never took the plane. I don’t planned to do it to see my familly althought It’s a 10 hour drive (for 20 hours total). The nearest airport (Montreal) I could land to visit my family is at a 2 hour drive. In the end, it’s more complicated taking the plane than the car. And I save more with the car. The 20 hours are not lost since I listen to audio books during the travel. I would have sat down to read those anyway.

    But I must admit that my familly and friends is not as spread as some of yours.

  16. Nick

    Yep, this is a big one. If there isn’t any ‘real’ difference in dates, except for one being ‘Christmas’ and one not, then go for it.

  17. Ben

    Seems like a little bit deceptive in the example though. Notice that the price difference also reflects a change from First Class to Economy.

  18. Cathy

    Nice catch, Ben. You can save a lot of money traveling early, but what’s up with that, OP?

  19. Erica Douglass

    Hi! I’m Erica – the author of this post. I ran these prices last night from Expedia, and that was the cheapest flight they showed for Continental. Currently, the cheapest Continental flight that day is showing $1,118.00 in coach. No idea why it bumped me to first class when I ran it last night — maybe because coach was sold out on that flight? Try it for yourself if you like.

    Note: There are some cheaper airlines, but you’re still going to pay hundreds of dollars more to fly the week of Christmas vs. earlier. I purchased 9/23 for the cheaper flight, and we only paid $302 per person then. It was over $600 per person then to fly the next week.


  20. Mike

    I liked most of your other tips so far, but there’s something fundamentally flawed with this plan to “save money.” You only save money if you were going to fly in the first place. I personally don’t know too many people who are flying somewhere for Christmas — no one out of my 10 closest friends are taking the plane. Second – it’s much harder to take a whole week of vacation a week before Christmas rather than just take a couple days and lump it with the 2-3 days that you already have off for the holidays.

  21. metatrader ea

    Great article. Thank you . I would like to flying to Europe for Christmas and your plan very interested

  22. Jeff

    One tip I have, my family has over the last few years has gotten in the habit of celebrating Christmas on New Years Eve. The beauty of this is that I do all my christmas shopping during the week after christmas, when EVERYTHING in on clearance. Stores always have great sales on the few days after christmas. A few years back, my grandmother bought me a nice shirt, tie, and sweater. I didnt really like the color, so I decided to exchange it for a different color. I wasnt sure If I had time do look that day, so I just returned with the gift reciept and got store credit. Total value was $178. The store wasnt that busy, so I decided to shop some more. I bought back the same shirt, tie, and sweater in a different color for a grand total of $82, since it was all on sale. I was able to get tw extra shirts, a pair of pants and some much needed socks all for the same price as just the original gift. Since then, I have been a huge advocate of shopping after christmas.

  23. maria-chan

    Re: Jeff.

    So interesting. That’s the exact same principle as short-selling. I wonder how many stores give credit for gifts that are returned! It would be so easy to ask for credit, come back two weeks later, and buy the same stuff at a lower price.

  24. Keeley

    With my family in England travel can be hideously expensive. One year we moved Christmas to the beginning of November. =) Worked like a charm. Plus, we got to be there for Guy Fawkes’ Night. =)

  25. RookieMom Heather

    I like it and if you change it to the day or so *after* Christmas you can save on gifts from the true clearance sales. And ornaments too.

    What about Christmas in January? 1/11 anyone?

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  28. Tela

    We did this! My boyffriend was able to get $89 each way flights to Ft Lauderdale from Sacramento, because he is traveling Dec 11th-18th. His college age daughter is already home for winter break, so it worked out perfectly. Not to mention, he will be back in California in time to celebrate Christmas with my family. Win-Win.

  29. Mai

    Changing the date of the family gathering is great for savings. However, you can not change the date of the traditionnal midnight mass. It’s a question of choosing your priorities.


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