How to Cut Back on Christmas Spending

Christmas is just around the corner. If you’re like most, you tend to get caught up in the great sales, and then in January have regrets that you over spent your budget yet again. But the season can be celebrated without having the dreaded post Christmas remorse.
Here’s how:

1. Exchange names
Instead of giving gifts to every family member this year, why not consider a gift exchange? Others may be ready to cut back as well, so the idea maybe welcomed with open arms. And it lessens the financial burden for everyone. And as your family size grows, it’s perfectly acceptable to cut back and (yes) cut out some family members. In our family, we stopped giving to our nieces and nephews at age 13. We’ve even started a Christmas gift exchange with our four adult kids and two son-in-laws. Everyone (including us) puts their name in the hat, and buys a really nice gift for just one person. It simplifies the season and allows Christmas day to be more about the joy of the season and the relationships, than spending hours and hours opening gifts.

2. Host a Christmas Party – instead of giving gifts
Consider hosting an annual Christmas/New Years party, instead of giving gifts to all your friends and/or neighbors. We started this practice about 10 years ago, and it has now become one of our favorite Christmas traditions. At first our friends didn’t know each other, but over the years, they too have gotten to know each other quite well. Now, you may be saying, a Christmas party will cost more than buying the gifts! But there are ways of throwing a great party without spending a whole lot. When we host our Christmas gathering, we provide all of the beverages, while each guest brings an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer to share. I forgo the disposable plates, utensils and cups – way too tacky for me – so no expense there. No harm in having a variety of dishes and glassware, eclectic is chic after all.The tree and Christmas decorations are up any how, so no added expense there either. You can even send out an evite (emailed invitations), and save on postage too. Each year I come up with a new “mixer type game” that is fun and gets the party going. A great evening doesn’t have to break the bank!

3. Give the gift of time
With the tight times, consider some alternative gifts that don’t cost anything, but will certainly be appreciated. Some ideas include:

Offer babysitting for families with young children Consider doing leaf raking, cleaning and snow shoveling for the elderly A dinner invitation at your home for good friends Offer to help someone with a chore you know they don’t like doing or don’t know how to do (ie: offer to help them clean out their garage in the summer, do their taxes for them, do their mending, or change the oil in the car)

4. Consider giving away some of your treasured belongings as gifts

So if times are really tight, but you still want to give very special gifts, why not consider giving away some of your treasured belongings. You may have some special pieces of jewelry you eventually want to give to your daughter or grand-daughter, or a special tool that someday will go to a son. Or maybe it’s a treasured clock, or set of china. There is a certain joy that comes from passing on that treasure to your loved ones before you pass away. And if money is tight, why not start gradually disposing of your belongings over the years and have the satisfaction of seeing those special people in your life receive the gift while you are there to see them enjoying it.

5. Don’t spoil the kids with multiple gifts – one modest gift is okay
How many gifts does a child or grandchild really need? Probably a lot less than most of us tend to give. Sure, we love to give, and the kids certainly love to receive. But one gift to each child really should be sufficient, don’t you think? Remember the values you are trying to instill in the youngsters. Being overly indulged and spoiled with too much, may not foster the values you really want.

6. Make Christmas Gifts
Are you a talented artist, seamstress, or woodworker? Why not consider making something to give as a gift? A yard of fabric from the remnant bin at the fabric store can be quickly sewn into some pretty cloth napkins. Or a few scrap pieces of cedar from a summer project might be transformed into a cute birdhouse. And that special gift, handmade with your love and care, will tend to be the gift that your loved one will cherish and remember for a lifetime.

7. Set a firm budget and stick to it
If your Christmas budget is $500 for everything, plan out how much of that will be used for gifts, how much for entertaining, how much for decorations, how much for Christmas cards, and how much for charitable giving. Sit down with your spouse and talk about how to allocate the funds. For example, if your budget for gifts is $300, and you have 10 gifts to buy, you might decide to spend $50 on each of your two children, leaving $200 for the other 8 gifts (or $25 each). Knowing this before heading to the stores, or looking at sales flyers will help curb impulse purchasing,and keep you from straying from your budget.

8. Don’t buy for yourself
It’s hard not to be tempted to pick up a few things for yourself as you are busy buying for others, but try not to be lured into that trap. Your budget after all, is limited, and what you spend on yourself, means less on the other necessities of the season. If you see something you really would like, instead make subtle suggestions to those you know will be buying for you. You may just find it wrapped up and under the tree anyway!

So don’t be discouraged if your budget is extra tight this year. The Christmas season is really about much more than how much you spend, and how many gifts you give. Though the media and retailers would have you think otherwise, it really is possible to have a blessed Christmas season on a shoe string budget. And after all, the true gift of the season was given to us more than two thousand years ago in the little town of Bethlehem.

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