Ok, I said the “c” word. I know it seems a little early to be talking about Christmas, but if you have been in a store or watched any TV this week you know that the retail push has already started in earnest. Christmas comes on the same day every year, let a lot of us failed to plan ahead and are now scrambling to afford gifts, and parties, and food for the holiday.
We are keeping Christmas extremely simple this year. Our kids really want for NOTHING. I found myself googling the latest electronic gadgets and toys to try to find something for them when it hit me. That is insanity! If I am having trouble thinking of anything they don’t already have, it might be time to put the brakes on Christmas as we know it. We have opted to buy each child a small gift each that appeals to something their interested in, like an art kit for our creative kiddo, and a science kit for the analytical one. We may do a few small additional gifts of things like books and clothes they need, but our budget for each child is 1/4 of what it was last year.
Saving money and being reasonable during Christmas has a lot to do with ditching the mindset of materialism. Whether Christmas is a religious celebration for you or not, its about family and thinking of others, not mowing each other down in the mall for a cheap TV. If you feel you HAVE to spend a certain dollar amount on Christmas, then the issue is with your priorities and perspective. Consider designating a portion of your gift giving budget to charity, or even spend some time volunteering with one of the many phenomenal charities that help the less-fortunate this time of year. When we take the focus off of ourselves and our wants, it makes it a lot easier to get those priories back in line.
No matter where you land on the issue, money is tight this time of year. Most people do not operate with a written budget, so likely haven’t been sitting money aside for Christmas. If you are feeling the pressure, here are 5 ways to spend less this Christmas.
Stay Out of Stores
Seriously! Don’t go into a store without a plan, and steer clear of the mall. I stopped into the dollar store the other day to pick up something as innocent as trash bags and found myself wandering the Christmas aisle picking things up. The pull of those sparkly Christmas displays is real, and if you don’t the self-discipline to not impulse buy, just stay away.
You can do almost all of your shopping online, including grocery shopping, so if you have a real issue with shopping you may need to stay out of store altogether. The other day a friend asked me if I wanted to grab a bite to eat at the mall. That turned into window shopping, that turned into temptation. Just steer clear!
Set A Budget
Before you buy one Christmas present you should have a written budget. Decide how much you are spending on each person and stick to it. Be realistic! If you only saved $200 for Christmas presents, then spend $200. Resist the urge to keep up with the Joneses and spend more than you can realistically afford. Giving at Christmas should be a blessing, not a financial burden you deal with for the rest of the year.
Limit Who You Give To
I would love to give a Christmas gift to every single meaningful person in my life, but I just don’t have the margin in my budget to ado that. And odds are they don’t either, so don’t feel bad about limiting those you give gifts to. If you have a large extended family you may even need to limit gifts to siblings and nieces and nephews. There is NOTHING wrong with that! On my dad’s side of the family the kids all draw a name, so each family is only buying one gift. The adults play a gift swapping game, so only one gift is purchased there as well. It has not only eased the pressure on the Christmas budget, its a lot of fun!
Make Handmade Gifts
There are tons of cheap and easy handmade gifts you can give if the budget is tight. Bake some bread or a big batch of cookies and gift them in holiday tins from the dollar store. Whip up some sugar scrub and add a pretty ribbon to the jar. Pinterest has endless ideas for handmade gifts. Making gifts has come a long ways from macaroni necklaces, and you can actually craft some amazing things that anyone would be thrilled to receive!
Make New Traditions
I hear a lot of people say that they overspend on Christmas because thats the way they were raised. Or they buy for every second cousin thrice removed because their family would judge them if they didn’t. Its time to make your own traditions and share YOUR values with your kids. Do you want them to feel guilted into financial ruin when they are your age? If you are getting out of debt, you have no business spending $500 on each kid for Christmas. Give gifts that mean something, spend time volunteering, flip the script for your family and you could change things for generations to come.
There is definitely nothing wrong with giving Christmas gifts – even lavish ones, if you can afford it. But if you are in the season of paying off debt or saving money, its a great time to get back to the basics and remember what Christmas is really about. Do you have any tip to spend less this Christmas? I’d love to hear them in the comments!