Spending Too Much On Christmas?

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I love Christmas time, even if I’m not the most festive person out there.  I enjoy the season, but am not willing to go over budget just to make it memorable.  Neither should you!  You can still have a fun Christmas without giving in to all the pressures that seem to come with this money spending holiday.

First off, to truly enjoy Christmas one must get back to the basics of the holiday.  I am thankful for the opportunity to refocus on the true meaning of CHRISTmas each year.

Christmas season is a happy time of year.  It is also known for being the season of giving.  As you prepare to give to others remember to follow the following tips to save money this Christmas.

BUDGETING

Create a Christmas budget

Put a spending limit on Christmas.  Include costs such as: parties, gifts, donations, decorations. in your Christmas budget.  Putting a cap on how much you will spend on the holiday season can help you stick to or stay under budget as you exchange gifts.

ENTERTAINMENT

Cheap fun

Holiday movies are a popular form of Christmas entertainment.  I love watching holiday movies during the month of December.   If you enjoy watching them too, then get your favorite holiday movie ready to have some frugal Christmas fun.  You can catch what’s airing on the TV, re-watch one you have on hand, or borrow some from the library.

Another popular frugal holiday activity is baking.  I love baking, especially eating, desserts.  Luckily, I get to do a lot of both during the Holiday season.  It works out perfectly, as I’m able to bake gifts for neighbors instead of purchasing something at the store.

Last, but not least, involves serving others.  Volunteer work is a great way to spend your time, especially during the Christmas season.  If you’re looking for some way to give the gift of service, then you might be interested in checking out what service projects JustServe offers in your area.  Or you could always come up with some way to give back on your own.

GIFTS

Set a gift spending limit

Allocate money from your Christmas budget to giving gifts.  Then divvy up the money among everyone you plan on giving a gift to.  Of course individual amounts will vary, since you will likely spend more on your children than your neighbors.

If you feel like polite thing to do is let your family, or whoever, know prior to the holiday, then definitely bring it up.  You could say anything from, “Just FYI, we won’t be exchanging gifts this year” to “What do you think of a $20 limit on gifts this year?”

It’s also helpful to write this information down as a reminder to stay in budget.  I even like to write down gift ideas for the individual or family, so that I’m not caught last minute without a gift.

Buy used

Gifts don’t necessarily have to be new.  I know plenty of people who wouldn’t mind receiving a gently used item, assuming it is higher quality.  I don’t recommend buying used items for everyone on your list, but for some it’s an option.

I’ve been gifting used toys to my daughter for a couple of years and I will do the same this Christmas.  I even mix used toys with my gifts to my little nieces.  Little kids are great candidates for used gifts, since they are often unaware of the difference.

Check the dollar store

Not everyone will appreciate a gift from the dollar store, but I can almost guarantee that young kids will.  If a dollar isn’t an appropriate amount to spend, then try and figure out how to create a gift basket of cool dollar store finds.  When you don’t have a lot of cash to spend it’s a good idea to check your local dollar store(s) for Christmas gifts.

Re-gift

If you have unused gifts sitting in the closet, then you might consider re-gifting these items to new individuals.  Why have these items sit any longer in your closet when they might be more appropriate for others?  If you don’t have the money to buy a gift but have one on hand, then by all means wrap up what you’ve got and gift it.

Homemade

Make a gift instead of buying it.  Handmade items are all the rage right now, so don’t feel bad about making the gifts you give.  Look to Pinterest if you need ideas and go from there.

Not only can you DIY a wooden sign to gift, but you can make baked goods for neighborly gifts.  Homemade cinnamon rolls, cookies, rice crispy treats, you name it are ALWAYS a huge hit in my home.  I enjoy making baked goods to take to my neighbors just as much as I enjoy receiving them.

My guess is I’m not alone in this appreciation for baked goods.  So if you like baking and have neighbors then pick up the spatula and move to the kitchen.  Baked goods are inexpensive, but thoughtful gifts that can help your neighbor and your budget.

STOCKINGS

Stock up at the dollar store

I love walking the aisles at Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only Store, especially during Christmas time.  They always seem to carry things that surprise me.  Last week I found some awesome items at both stores that will work perfectly as stocking stuffers.

If you’re looking to save even more, then practical stocking stuffers are the solution.  Tooth brushes, snacks, socks, and candy work perfectly and also prevent toy clutter.

DECORATIONS

Buy artificial over real

This goes for very few things in life, but purchasing an artificial Christmas tree once rather than a new real Christmas tree every year is overall the better option.  Aside from of the simplicity of not having to deal with the hassle of a real Christmas tree, just consider the costs!  I found a nice looking fake 5.5 ft tree for under $48 online compared to a fresh 5 – 6 ft tree for under $30.  For even more savings you could always buy a used artificial tree instead of a new one.  Try searching your local thrift stores or online garage sale apps for what you’re looking for.

Less is best

Don’t assume that you need to decorate everywhere or every inch of your home.  Always keep in mind that your Christmas decorations have to be packed away.

Try and find items that have dual purposes, so they don’t have to be packed away or can be used multiples times during the year.

Make your own

There is no need to go out and purchase expensive ornaments for your Christmas tree.  If you are particular enough about these things, then I suggest accumulating them over the years.  Instead of going all out in single year, purchase these pricier ornaments slowly over the years.  You might even go as far as making your own in the mean time.

I enjoy making Christmas tree ornaments, so if you’re at all creative or crafty try your hand at making some ornaments of your own.  If you are not, then might I direct you to look to Pinterest.

I’m not much for decorating the house for the holidays, but if you are then DIYing Christmas décor this year is for you.

My mother is a big crafter and she loves making all sorts of crafts for the holidays.  Now she may spend a bit to make the actual Christmas item, but it most certainly costs less than buying a similar item or craft.

Go cheap

If you don’t have the time or patience to make your own Christmas decorations, then the dollar store is a great alternative.  Often times it is even cheaper, so be sure to check out a dollar store in your area prior to attempting any DIY projects.  You just might find what you’re looking for and then some without breaking the bank.

Shop around

Similar or exactly the same items may be priced differently, so be sure to do a quick search online or in the stores if you happen to be near.

DINNER

Make food ahead of time

Plan ahead, so that you’re not stressed out during the busiest time.  Prepare what food items you can and freeze them.  Many baked goods can be made ahead of time and then frozen until you need them.  So, prevent stress by making that pot luck pie or neighbor’s gift prior to the due date & freezing it.

Have a potluck

Family dinners can get expensive if only one individual or family assumes financial responsibility.  This is why potlucks are so great, aside from lifting the burden of making everything.

Potlucks are also preferable if certain people excel at making certain items.  So, if Aunt Joe is an amazing pie baker, then ask her to bring one of her “famous” pies to the dinner.  Why stress when you can delegate some of the work to others?

Homemade is the best

Homemade food is more than often than not delicious and I’m not sure I know a single person who would disagree with that.  If you’re set to attend a potluck or have a dinner of your own, then cut the costs and unknown ingredients by making the food at home.

Consider cost of ingredients to save money this Christmas

Certain dishes may sound amazing, but at times are not realistic when keeping to a budget.  When coming up with a list of foods to be served make sure you consider costs as much as you do popularity.  There are plenty of popular foods out there that not only taste great, but are frugal dishes as well.  Keep costs of feeding everyone in mind as you create your dinner menu.

Celebrating Christmas frugally can be painless if done properly, so apply what you can from this list to your own Christmas this year.  Give yourself the gift of a debt free Christmas and find your way around making this Christmas less expensive.

 

Leave a comment: How do you plan to save money this Christmas?  

Tawnya is the founder of The Dancing Dollar, a blog about frugality & personal finance.  She writes about how frugal living can help other individuals & families live [happily] below their means.  She & her husband are on the path to pay off their home in less than half the time.  Click here to learn more.