I Discovered a Clever Hack to Wear Matching Family Holiday Pajamas Every Year Without Overspending

As far as holiday pajamas are concerned, the long-standing tradition goes as follows: all the children (and often, all the adults, too) unwrap a present on Christmas Eve night only to discover that it's a set of PJs that match everyone else's — often red and black buffalo check flannels or long johns with a reindeer print all over them. Whatever the style, everyone then changes into them, goes to sleep, and wakes up the next morning looking festive as they carry on opening gifts and celebrating the day.

It's a lovely idea in theory. But in practice? I call bullsh—, er, bah humbug.

It's a lovely idea in theory. But in practice? I call bullsh—, er, bah humbug.

See, I love any excuse to create fun family traditions, and the idea of getting my family to dress up is no exception. But if I wanted to make this an annual tradition for my immediate family, it would require new pajamas for two adults, two kids, and our dog every single year. It took just three taps on my calculator to verify that this tradition is not only wasteful, it is egregiously overpriced: I could expect to pay roughly $300 ($296, to be exact, if I were to shop at Hanna Andersson, a leading seller of family PJs) for less than 24 hours of wear, most of which would be spent in bed and unconscious.

Still, I was determined to find a way for this Instagram-approved tradition to work. Considering that such a cost was not possible for our family's finances, particularly around the ever-expensive holiday season, I got creative. Along with one very thrifty hack, here's what I did to make sure my family could partake (some against their will) in the matching-holiday-pajamas fun without blowing out our budget every year.

1. Pick one pajama style and stick with it.

Sure, it'd be nice to look back at photos and see the family in different pajamas every year — like a set of Star Wars-themed ones and then elf-like ones followed by the ever-popular gnome ones. Switching things up is refreshing, but not nearly as refreshing as all the money you'll save sticking to one style! If you wear the same pattern year after year, you will only need to buy new sets for those kiddos who've grown out of the previous year's duds.

I've been doing this for several years now, and it's been a blessing. For instance, a few years ago, I just needed to get the next size up for my toddler and a new outfit for my baby. The following year, only my newly-potty-trained youngest needed a fresh pair, as she'd graduated from the baby zip-up onesie to the two-piece set. Meanwhile, my husband, dog, and I are still wearing the same festive PJs I bought years ago. And considering I have no interest in hoarding dozens of holiday pajamas in my already-cramped closet, it's a win in saving space.

2. Make an initial investment that will last.

The only hitch to sticking with the same print is that you need to be sure you will be able to find it as the years pass. After comparing prices, I was very close to ordering a set of pajamas from a seller on Amazon, but then I worried that come next year, the Rudolph jammies would no longer be available. Turns out, they weren't. I held on to the link and when I clicked it the following November, it was a "this item is no longer available" dead end.

I could have gone with Target, which has a better likelihood of carry-over, but because even the big-box retailer was a bit new to the matching-pajamas trend, I wanted to go with a zero-risk approach. Thus, I opted to buy ours from Hanna Andersson. Yes, it's pricier than most other shops, particularly for the adult sizes, but with a 30-year track record and an immense inventory of PJ styles that are available year-round, it felt like the safe bet.

I suggest sticking to a very classic print, like red and white stripes. That way, even if your original source no longer carries them, you'll have an easier time finding a replacement that still matches the rest.

No matter where you buy yours from, if you are including adults in the mix, the first year will have the biggest upfront cost. I spent $177 that initial year, but because I never have to worry about buying new pajamas for more than half of my family, the most I've spent in a year since is $50, but more often it's just $26.

3. Watch for sales.

The reason I spent $177 and not $296? Sales! That first year, I waited until Cyber Monday and pounced on Hanna Andersson's 40-percent-off discount. Even right now, most PJs on its site are marked down by 30 percent. It's honestly hard to pay full price during the holidays, so be sure you time it right to take advantage of the savings.

4. Don't wait until Christmas Eve to unveil them.

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the time-honored pajama tradition of receiving them on Christmas Eve? The horrifically high cost per wear. Families who do it this way are basically guaranteed to wear those pajamas just once. Who really wants to put on Santa PJs when all the holiday decorations have come down and Valentine's Day cards are for sale?

To really make this investment worth your while, keep the PJs in the rotation all December long. Depending on when I'm able to catch the best deal, I try to get them on my kiddos as soon as humanly possible. We wear them to bed several nights a week, and we even put them on when trimming the tree, when baking Christmas cookies, when reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas! for the 27th time . . . they make all our holiday photos a bit more festive. And it's a heck of a lot more financially savvy. For a parent, isn't that the best Christmas gift of all?