A Frugal Christmas

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Christmas tree and lights

Photo by Jonathan Borba

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is 5 weeks from today. Everyone have their Christmas shopping done? Yeah, me neither. I have one gift purchased…well, actually two gifts, I guess, since I added my parents on to my Netflix account and they said that could be one of their presents, lol.

Do you at least have your Christmas money set aside and a plan for getting your gifts purchased? Haven’t gotten a list together of what people want yet but normally get that done on Thanksgiving day when our family is all together. I was much more deliberate about setting money aside this year into a sinking fund to help pay for Christmas gifts. I don’t have as much saved as I would have liked since my car and my home’s air conditioner had to be replaced this year but I am a little further ahead with funds than I normally am.

Frugal Shopping Tips

Check the sale ads.

I am one of those weirdos that actually enjoyed the craziness of Black Friday shopping. My sister-in-law and I would grab the Thanksgiving newspaper that was chock full of Black Friday ads and we’d come up with a game plan of which stores to camp out at for the extreme sales that started at Midnight at some of the stores. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your preferences, this was another casualty of Covid. Most stores have started spreading their Black Friday sales out over the extended shopping season. One perk of this is you can spread your gift purchasing out over a few pay periods. Another perk is that many of these stores, Target included, have a price guarantee on their most popular sale items that guarantee the product won’t drop to a lower price before Christmas. 

Buy Used

Check out Facebook marketplace for a deal. (Always meet sellers in a safe spot). My city has a great used bookstore that I can find books and music and DVD’s. Local Goodwill or thrift stores often are great sources for gently used gifts and also holiday decor.

Be strategic about how you pay

I usually save up my cash back rewards and various points I earn through surveys and such throughout the year for Christmas shopping. I also pay attention to bonuses offered at the stores I frequent the most.

My Kroger card is offering 4 times the fuel points now if I purchase gift cards there. My Target Plus card saves me 5% on gift cards. I can either purchase these gift cards to give as gifts or use them to buy things on my shopping list already. 

I have a discount card for Barnes and Noble and they occasionally email me deals so I wait and purchase any books or music or calendars when they offer extra discounts.  

Make a List

First step is to figure out what you need. I always like to have a few surprises for the people I’m buying gifts for but I also like to know what they need and/or want. One day I will hopefully have the funds to not have to worry about a budget but until then I want to be sure I’m spending my money wisely and getting gifts that will be helpful or needed in my friends and family’s lives.

Making a list also helps you see exactly what you need and helps you to budget. I like to group my list by where I’ll be purchasing the items. Traffic gets worse every year and my schedule seems to get tighter every year so when I’m headed out to shop I like to be as efficient as possible. 

Budget in the Extras

It’s easy to decide that you want to spend X amount of dollars on gifts. Have you also taken into consideration all the extra costs though? 

There’s gift wrap, food for all the holiday meals, and extra travel expenses if you’re traveling. What about all those holiday parties? Do you need holiday outfits or gifts for those celebrations? How about the decorations for your home? Gift exchanges at work?

Keep in Mind the Reason For The Season

I try to stress this every year: If you are not in a position financially to spend a bunch of money on gifts then don’t. Don’t be afraid to explain that funds are tight and you’re not comfortable/able to spend a bunch of money on gifts this year.

Obviously adult family members and friends should be understanding of this. And if they aren’t then they really don’t deserve a present anyway because this automatically puts them on the naughty list. Younger kids are honestly not even going to be aware if there are a few less presents under the tree and they really don’t care if they’re used instead of new.

Draw names to make it cheaper on family members.

Make some tasty food treats for a lot less money.

Plan activities instead of gifts. Host a potluck with friends. Arrange an outing where you fill up thermoses with hot chocolate or coffee or spiced cider and drive around to see all the Christmas light displays in your city.

Suggest a postponed gift exchange with adult family members if gift giving is important to you. This allows you to get the kids in your family presents for the holidays and also allows you an extra paycheck cycle or two and the great after-Christmas sales for the adults in your life.

What other tips do you have to reduce costs for Christmas?


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