Christmas is a little less than 7 weeks away. It shows up on the same day every single year but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever (always) found themselves a little unprepared for the extra expenses that comes with the holiday. Here are 5 tips for keeping your Christmas holiday in check.
Figure Out Your Budget
If you’re running low on funds then this step is especially crucial. Set your dollar limit and then create your list of people that you need to buy for and make that list fit into your budget. Don’t be tempted to increase your budget figuring you will play catch up in January…that never works!!
Here are some tips to keeping your gift-giving in check:
Small kids: They don’t need a hundred presents under the tree and they don’t need expensive presents. Check out Goodwill, or Craigslist, or just hit up the Black Friday sales if they just have to have that popular toy of the year.
Older kids: Definitely don’t need a hundred presents under the tree, especially if they’re old enough to “know” who is getting them the presents. I never tried this but really like the idea of Something you want, Something you need, Something to wear, and Something to read.
Spouse/Significant other: Make plans for a cheap date after the holiday. You shouldn’t have to impress them with material things if it’s not in your budget.
Other adult family members/relatives/Co-workers: Again, don’t go into debt trying to impress relatives with “stuff”. Make plans to get together after the holidays or send a nice note card to them. Bake some muffins or cookies.
Large families: Draw names so you don’t have to buy too many presents. Suggest only buying for the kids. Buy one family gift rather than a gift for each family member.
Use Rewards Points/Gift Cards
I have several different rewards programs I participate in throughout the year and try to save the earnings/rewards from these programs specifically for use at Christmas time. One of my credit cards also offers cash rewards and I will cash that in as well if I need to for Christmas gifts.
Some stores also offer discounts on their gift cards around Christmas time. You can buy these and either use them as actual gifts (because who doesn’t love getting a gift card) or you can use these discounted cards to purchase a gift for someone on your list.
Pick up a Temporary Job
There is so much opportunity to grab a part-time job during the holidays to earn a little more spending money for gifts. Retail stores are hiring to cover their longer hours and increased sales volume. Delivery places are hiring, such as UPS and FED Ex to keep up with demand. Families are often looking for babysitters or people to watch their pets or homes while they travel for the holidays. Elderly people might need help with shopping. Just look around, and I guarantee you can find a way to earn extra funds right now.
Eliminate the Extras
It’s easy to get caught up with all the lights and glitter and festivities at Christmas. Guess what though? You don’t have to buy a new dress/suit for every Christmas party.
You don’t even have to attend every Christmas party you’re invited to.
Your home doesn’t need to look like Martha Stewart decorated it for her magazine cover. You don’t have to spend a fortune putting a million Christmas lights on your house.
It’s also not necessary to buy expensive holiday cards to send to every long-lost relative and friend you probably don’t even talk to throughout the year. Have you seen the cost of postage lately??
Enjoy the Frugal/Free Activities
Take a look around your city/neighborhood and I bet you can find several frugal activities for your family to enjoy.
I love to drive around the various neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights.
Many churches and schools will offer free or low-cost choir performances or Christmas plays.
Tree lighting ceremonies are also popular events that are often free.
I am constantly teased about my obsession with the Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas movies that they have running non-stop through November and December. Make a batch of hot cocoa, light up the fireplace, and put your flannel pajamas on and settle in for a wholesome Christmas movie marathon.
My kids are older now and in college. I have a hard time even convincing them to give me a list of what they want for Christmas so you’re probably thinking it’s easier for me to have a frugal Christmas. Maybe it is, but even when they were younger I made sure not to go overboard at the expense of our budget. I know you want to bury the Christmas tree with a thousand presents but I would encourage you to reconsider if you aren’t in a place to do so. Stress to your kids the true meaning of Christmas and show them family time is more important than creating havoc on your finances for some toys that will most likely be discarded or broken before you can even pay off the credit card bill.
What about you? Any other tips you use to keep your Christmas low-cost?