As we approach yet another Christmas season when every corner we turn screams at us to spend, spend, spend, I find that I have to consciously think about lessons I’ve learned in previous years, pull them out with the decorations, and make sure they’re all front and center every time I walk out the front door.
Here are a few of the strategies I’ve used to help trim the seasonal budget back a bit:
We tell our kids that we pay Santa for the gifts he brings. This helps them to understand why some kids get more than others and why Santa’s generosity is not unlimited.
I have my kids clean out closets, drawers, shelves, and corners throughout December, explaining that nothing new is coming into the house if there’s no room for it.
We take some time to go through clothes and toys that we’ve outgrown, used up, broken, or just never really go into. We save, pitch, and donate appropriately. But at Christmas time, we take the good stuff that is perfect for donating, clean it up, and leave it under the tree Christmas Eve so that Santa can take it and give it to other children whose families can’t afford to pay Santa for their gifts.
I’ve set a ridiculously low budget this year – less than half of what I usually spend. I decided how much of that will be spent on gifts and then divided by the number of gifts I have to buy. For our kids, and our nieces and nephews, I put a simple $20 limit on each of them. This restriction actually made shopping a little more enjoyable as I had to put a little more thought into their gifts. And I am that much more excited about giving them as I was so careful to chose the one thing that I know they’ll each love.
I stopped buying all of the little dollar store and toiletry items that five kids can go through about three weeks ago. They’re currently sharing toothpaste and shampoo, pencils are sharpened to death, and they’re getting by with last year’s mitts and scarves. Things that I would normally have to buy for them anyway will all show up in their stockings.
I bought my turkey at Thanksgiving and it’s been waiting quietly in the freezer for weeks now. While I prefer the luxury of the taste of a fresh bird, I find that I prefer the low price of a turkey on sale the day after Thanksgiving! I also bought a huge 30 pound bird to make sure that we have plenty of leftover dinners for the freezer.
I’ve been stocking up on holiday treats and hors d’oeuvres for weeks now. With the regular grocery shopping, I’ve grabbed $10-$20 worth of frozen eggrolls and potstickers, nuts, cookies, and chips on my travels. Sure, keeping the kids out of the treasure trove of treats has been a bit of a challenge. But looking at my budget for the big Christmas shop next week, I think I’m going to easily beat my bottom line.
In the end, I’m finding that trimming my budget not only saves a lot of money, but it drastically reduces the stress of the season. I’m looking forward to a house full of company and loud kids and family. I’ll be able to watch them enjoy Christmas. Instead of watching them eat through my wallet!
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and my the holiday season bring you the joys of peace and love.
See you in January!