You don’t need to check your January credit card statements to know that Christmas always has a way of wreaking havoc on your finances. According to the American Research Group, the average American plans on spending $992 on Christmas gifts alone in 2018. That doesn’t even include holiday decorations, ugly sweaters, and all the food for a family meal. For those on a fixed budget, who are out of work, or simply need to stretch their dollars, these expenditures can add up.
Here are some ideas on how to survive Christmas without going into debt, looking like a cheapskate, or sleeping overnight in the Walmart parking lot to get the best deals on sales.
- Stick to a spending budget
It’s so easy to lose control of your wallet when you hit the mall and get a little tipsy on all that Christmas spirit. Suddenly, you’re throwing extra gifts into your basket left and right. Keep yourself in check by instituting an overall spending budget. One great way to ensure you stick to your budget is to take that amount out in cash, so that once it’s gone…it’s gone. (Is Your Credit Card Safe During the Holidays?)
- Always compare prices
These days, you don’t have to sacrifice yourself to Black Friday madness to get the best deals possible or spend hours checking website after website to save $5 on the special power tool your brother wants. Now, there are plenty of excellent price comparison apps you can download to quickly and easily find great deals on everything you’re already planning to buy. Check out this excellent article from Tom’s Guide listing the Eight Best Price Comparison Apps. (Think twice before buying these Five Big-Ticket Items You Shouldn’t Buy During the Holidays.)
- Institute Round Robin or Secret Santa
Do you have a large family, with numerous grown children, siblings, cousins, and aunts twice removed? No need to get every single one of them a present! In fact, they’re probably wishing someone would end the gift-giving madness. Step up to the plate and suggest a round-robin gift-giving scheme or a secret Santa. This way, you can all still celebrate together, while crossing a dozen or more gifts off your list.
- One big gift and lots of smaller gifts for young children
Younger kids love gifts, but a lot of the joy of Christmas is in the opening, not necessarily the gift itself (as evidenced by the fact that your kids will ignore 90% of their gifts a week after opening them). To make your dollars go further, consider buying smaller, lower cost gifts like candy and books and on-sale toys. This will allow you to invest in that one big thing that your kid has been begging for all year and that will make their Christmas unforgettable.
- Talent as a gift
Homemade gifts sometimes work brilliantly, and sometimes fail miserably. Instead of trying to haphazardly make something you found on Pinterest, think about your real talents and see if you can use that talent to create a thoughtful gift. Are you a musician? Write a song for your loved one. A writer – scribble down a romantic poem for your husband or a short story starring your sister. Let your talent shine, and your gift will be truly appreciated.
- No new decorations
It’s easy to get swept up in the need to make your house the Christmas house on the block, but decorations can really add up, and they also use up power. There’s nothing wrong with using the decorations you have. You don’t have to set them up the same way each year. Get creative!
- Raid your friend’s closet
Ladies, don’t pretend that every Christmas party invite isn’t the perfect excuse to run to the mall and buy a brand new, stylish outfit, along with shoes and other necessary accessories. Even if you get a few good deals, a whole new outfit (or two or three) adds up. Instead, find that one good friend who wears the same size as you, and “shop” for an outfit in her closet. Let her do the same with your closet.
- A meal as a gift
One of the best gifts you can give your friends and family is to bring them together. Instead of buying everyone gifts, invite them over for a home-cooked meal. Put on a great Christmas soundtrack and whip up some tasty egg-nog. To cut down on costs, co-host the dinner with a friend or sibling who can split the food bill, or assign each guest a dish to bring.
- Express your thanks as a gift
The adults in your life don’t need small gifts from you. These gifts are really only meant to show that you care. You can do that without maxing out your credit card by writing the people you love a heartfelt note expressing how much they mean to you. It may seem sappy or silly, but a true expression of love will probably be a better gift than anything you can get the people you truly care about.
- Remember the true value of Christmas
You already know that Christmas isn’t really about giving and receiving presents. It is about spending time with the ones you love. If faith is a part of your life, then Christmas is also a time to celebrate that faith. It’s easy to let money worries get you down or to feel the pressure to buy your children the latest and greatest gizmo that they’ll get bored of in a week. Keep in mind that the true value of Christmas is in sharing your love and that the memories you create with your children will easily outlast whatever is sitting under the tree for them.
From all of us here at WIFE.org, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Next year is a whole new chance to re-focus on your savings, investments, and retirement planning. (Read this article on how to Get Your Financial Life in Order This Year.) Stay warm, show love, and enjoy this time with your loved ones.