Do you know that we only have 75 days left until Christmas?? Where does this year go? Are you getting ready?!! Have you started shopping/creating/making lists and checking them twice yet?
Now let's stop for a moment and think what memories you have of last year's celebration. Did you stay within a budget, stuck to your list and had a delightful time with your family? Or maybe, you overspent and was dreading that credit card bill in January? Did you promise yourself to be better this year?
We all want peace and happiness for Christmas, don't we? Well, a few simple steps can help us to have just a little less stress this season. These are just a few things that worked for us before (you are welcome to share yours in the comments. I'm always happy to learn some new tricks :). If you are trying to cut back this holiday season, you might find some of them useful:
1. Create a budget.
I wonder if I'm ever gonna write a money-related post that doesn't include the B-word on the very top of the list. What can I say?? Budgeting is the key to saving money, and it applies to Christmas expenses too. Assess what you spent last time over the holidays and decide where you can trim this year. Set a certain amount you are willing to spend and try your best to stay within it. And if you tend to go all crazy during the season, give yourself some wiggle room, so you will not feel as guilty yet it will still feel like you made an effort :) Also, if you hate to be "cheap" when it comes to Christmas expenses, maybe you can become more frugal in other ways of your life like eating what you have in the pantry instead of going out or wearing the same dress for the work Christmas party that you wore five years ago (because with a new necklace that you bought back in the summer, nobody will recognize it anyway...). There are many ways to spend less, you just need to get creative.
2. Figure out what you already have.
Did you buy an adorable outfit for that cute new niece of yours back in July and hid it in the back of the closet? Or maybe, you have a bag of nuts stashed in the pantry that you got on sale to make those famous pecan pies of yours? Go through your usual "hiding" places as well as the unusual ones and make a list of what you already have. You might get a nice surprise or two. Honestly, every year when I go through my gift stash, I find something I totally forgot about. Like this year I discovered a few books that I bought even before last Christmas. I absolutely spaced it out that I had them but they will be a nice addition to stockings this time around.
Also be sure to check if you have any forgotten gift cards that you can use towards gift purchasing or, if it's a restaurant gift card, you might be able to take an edge of holiday stress by having a dinner out for free. Or you can just give some of these cards to others, if you feel comfortable with regifiting.
3. Start now!
If you haven't been setting some money aside for Christmas all year long, now is a good time to start. If you save just $50 each week, starting now, by the 1st of December you will have a nice chunk of $400 sitting pretty in your bank, ready to be used towards all of the upcoming expenses.
4. Go homemade/handmade but consider who you are giving it to.
Last year I spent a few days baking and baking cookies and other delicious treats for my multiple friends and neighbors. I was so excited to deliver them all, nicely assembled on festive plates with bows. What I didn't expect is that I will receive back.. guess what? You are right, COOKIES! Many many of them... I've never had that many baked goodies in our house at the same time! I know, everybody was trying to do something nice for us (just like we did!) but we, honestly, had a major sugar overload and still couldn't consume all of them. The point is: when we go handmade, we really want it to be appreciated. Especially if we spent quite a bit of time creating it.
Homemade gifts can be a really good way to save some green and make somebody's day but be sure that you know your receiver's tastes and preferences.
5. Take advantage of discounted gift cards or store deals on them.
If you don't know a person's taste too well or if you are just giving a gift to somebody who, as far as you know, "already has everything", gift cards can be a good option. In the past couple of weeks, I saw a few different retailers running promotions for gift cards. For example, one of the local grocery stores was offering $10 off if you spent $50 on certain kinds of restaurant cards. Rite Aid last week had a deal, when you buy a $25 Applebee's card, you get $5 back in RR. Keep an eye on deals like this and you can save some nice money this way.
You can also take advantage of websites offering discount gifts cards. For example, cardpool.com offers Olive Garden gift cards with 9% discount and my favorite Hobby Lobby with 10%. Just google "discount gift cards". There are multiple websites offering different cards to a variety of retailers with a discount of up to 35%. But do keep in mind that some of them might take up to six weeks to deliver your order, so, again, start early.
6. Talk to your family about cutting back this year.
Talking about being on a budget can be a pretty sore subject but sometimes you just have to rip off the band-aid. You might be up for a surprise. This year, with our financial situation, we had to approach my Hubby's family (because they are the ones we give most of the gifts to) and tell them that we just can't afford to do Christmas the same way we used to. We were amazed and overwhelmed at how much support we received. But we also found out that we were not the only ones that feel this way. Many members in our family felt that this holiday is not only about the gifts and that we could do other things to bring the true meaning of Christmas into our lives without spending money. Being open and honest about your situation or just about the desire to cut back can help you avoid guilt trips or deprive your family of what it really needs later on.
7. If you are doing a drawing, do it early. If not, maybe, it's time to start?
My husband has 7 siblings (with half of them married), so one thing we really like to do is a drawing. Each of us gets one name - or two per family - to give gifts to, and we have a set budget of how much we can spend per gift. It really helps our family not to overspend, yet everybody gets a gift. this year we are including Hubby's uncle and Mom into the "drawing pool" to make it easier on their pockets too. It's also important to do a drawing early to have plenty of time to shop around and to get a really meaningful gift (that will not break your bank).
8. Save on the Christmas party preparations.
One of the ways you can trim money this year is to spend less on food. Even if you like to throw a lavish party, you can ask everybody to chip in and add a dish to the table. Or you can have an appetizer table instead of a traditional turkey or ham. Another great idea is to do a "progressive dinner" instead. "A progressive dinner is a
dinner party with successive courses prepared and eaten at the
residences of different hosts. Usually this involves the consumption of
one course at each location" (according to Wikipedia). Basically, all the members of the party go to each other's houses and eat a part of the meal there. It's a fun way to enjoy a great evening together and allow everybody to participate.
9. Sell your unneeded stuff to make extra cash for Christmas.
And if you already ran out of ideas on how to cut back this season, you can always try to sell things that might collect dust in your house to make some extra cash. Take advantage of local classifieds, ebay or, my favorite, Facebook yard sales that allow people to see everything you post and not just what they are looking for.
10. Put "Christ" back into Christmas and make this time special.
No matter what your beliefs are, you can always make this season more meaningful for yourself and your family. Slow down. Serve others. Donate. Give back. Get to know your neighbors. Have a grateful heart. Adopt a needy child or family this Christmas. Give hugs. Listen. Enjoy the little moments that matter. Search your soul and pray. Vow to make somebody's life just a little better and you'll be surprised at how much more than just money you will have to give.
I hope, this Christmas season will be an amazing, least stressful and a beautiful season for you!
And now, please, share with me all of your secrets on how you make this season less expensive and wonderful nonetheless!
PS- and be sure to come back tomorrow because I will have a little Christmas giveaway here on the blog :)