Thursday, October 10, 2013

Saving money on Christmas this year.

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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 :)

16 comments:

  1. Great post. I really like no7. I star saving for Christmas from January and put away £5 a week. I already have some things stashed away that I've found in sales and I've started my makes. Will write about my makes.
    Carolx

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    1. Can't wait to see what you are up to :)

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  2. Great post, Lena!! :) I have almost all my Christmas cash saved up... we start saving on January 1st to be ready when "shopping season" hits! lol! We've been cutting back year by year... i'm really hoping to stick to the "Something you need, something to read", etc... this year! :)

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    1. That's what we are doing this year too! We actually decided not to give a separate gift from us parents (other than books, jammies, toothbrushes), just from "Santa" because they will be spoiled by other family members anyway :)

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  3. Great post! All things to consider. I think Christmas has gotten out of hand and over commercialized. This year I think the boys will all get a fish tank from Santa. Then from use we use the whole... "something you need, something to read, something to wear, and something you want". My extended family does a draw, but with 5 members of our immediate family that's still 5 gifts AND I have to ship them all cross country. So quite frankly it took all the fun out of it, so I withdrew us from the draw. Boy was my entire family mad at me... but they got over it... they have to admit it's easier! Other than that... I feel overwhelmed already about the holidays now that the oldest is in 1st grade and the middle in preschool... they have so much going on then too... ack! ;)

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  4. Christmas has simply gotten out of control in general. I do my best to keep it simple and true, it still gets overwhelming though. We used to do a draw with my extended family, but it still was crazy and I still had 5 gifts to get and SHIP cross country. It was just ridiculous. So I removed us, my family was so angry with me... but I'm sure they have to admit it's easier. I think the boys are getting a collective gift of a fish tank... I'm so sick of toys! ;) Then from us we've always done the "something you need, something to read, something to wear and something you want" from us. But now with one boy in elementary school and one in preschool... that adds a lot of extra stuff that really overwhelms me for the holidays... ack ;) Oh and I had a friend that did frozen cinnamon rolls as gifts... it was a great idea to put in the freezer and use in a couple months when all the holiday goodies have long past and you're over being sick of sweets!

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  5. All good ideas and thoughts about Christmas and gift giving. However, I wonder about something. I know it is very common to use gift cards to buy gifts for others. Do you ever have the givers wishing that you had spent the gift card on yourself? That they wanted you to pick out something special for you. I have been given gift cards with specific instructions to spend it on something for myself that I wouldn't usually buy. It's a complicated issue with budget and obligations, but I think sometimes we need to think about ourselves also.

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  6. Great post, Lena! I have a few gifts purchased and a list of things to make. SIL is always a gift card so will check out that site you mentioned. Budgeting is the key for me! We never borrow for Christmas but it wouldn't be fun to run out of money before everyone is bought for. We give bags of Cuties (the little mandarin oranges) to neighbors! They really look forward to it and I'm not slaving to make cookies. We started this when we found out some of neighbors are diabetic. Thanks again for your post!

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    1. I love the idea of giving (and getting) Cuties! It is so wonderful to have something so fresh and tangy during the winter. Great idea! I may need to borrow that :-) Pru

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    2. What are cuties? Sounds interesting
      Carolx

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    3. Oh, we love to give cuties as gifts too!! They are so yummy :)

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    4. Carol, cuties are mandarin oranges!

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  7. I think our budget has remained about the same over the past 15 years or so. But I do remember a particularly painful Christmas. I wasn't working and it was TIGHT. We decided to ask each child what they wanted and bought it for them. Funny thing was that one child's gift cost $12, and another's cost $84 and the third one cost something like $20 and the two 'babies' as we called them really didn't care one way or another so they each got a simple gift. What was the biggest hit of all was the Christmas stocking. We decided to be more traditional and put a tangerine or orange, a big peppermint stick, packets of hot cocoa and each child's most favorite candy bar in each stocking. Gee! They were so genuinely pleased I truly believe we could have done just that and it would have been fine.

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    1. I'm afraid to ask my kids what they want for Christmas this year :) I know, my 7-year old wants a game that costs $75... Makes me cringe. It's hard to explain to him that Santa can be poor too :) Your stockings sound a lot similar to ours :) We do add toothbrush but skip a candy :)

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  8. I usually buy gifts for few close family members, and a few giftcards for the ones that just can't be happy with gifts, but seem to enjoy girtcard to buy what they want. I don't really go overboard with buying gifts, in fact (brace yourself) we only buy 1 gift for each of our children. That's how I grew up, and that's how I want them to see Christmas. To enjoy one thing (usually not even that expensive) and be grateful for it. Christmas has gotten so out of control. I don't get the question "what do the children (or myself) want for Christmas?" If I have to tell what I or the children want, then it's not a present, it's a shopping list.

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    1. I agree that Christmas got out of control! When I was little, my parents would give one bigger gift from Grandpa Frost (a Russian version of Santa) and then some little things, like candies, hot cocoa , notebooks and sometimes clothes, from themselves. But in my husband's family they always did extravagant gifts and lots of them. There were always gifts from both Santa and parents, and then bazillion other small things. We kind of kept the tradition of two big gifts but this year I asked myself, "Why?". So this time around we are doing only one gift - from Santa, and a small stocking. They will be spoiled by other family members anyway!

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