A Different Kind Of Christmas

Every Stinking Year!

Every year I tell myself, and my wife, that this is the year we are going to stick to our Christmas budget.  Every year we end up kicking ourselves for spending entirely too much on crap that nobody needs.  Please tell me that I am not alone in my mistletoe misery.

My wife and I have two children.  They are teenagers now, so the wish lists mainly come in the form of electronics and gift cards.  Of course we need to sneak in the necessities like socks, shirts, deodorant, and underwear.  All of which go over like a lead balloon.

There always seems to be a theme right before the Christmas holiday.  Instead of joy, happiness, hot cocoa, and cookies, my wife and I are trying to figure out where we are going to get the money to pay for the gifts that our children, family, and friends want.


And there is that key word, “want”.  I have always been at war with “wants” and “needs”.  Those determinations tease me like elementary kids on a playground.  Christmas gift giving to me has always been about what people “want”, not about what they “need”.

I mean, who wants to get a vacuum cleaner or washing machine for Christmas?  People want cell phones, video games, gift cards, and the latest gadget that will make them cool.  As a matter of fact, I dare you to get your wife a vacuum cleaner this Christmas.  Let me know how that goes.

It always seems that most of the money we put aside for Christmas gifts, if there is any money put aside, gets spent on other things throughout the year.  This leaves us either pulling money from other categories of our budget, robbing Peter to pay Paul, or putting gifts on credit cards.  It is like we never learn from our mistakes.

What if, by some miracle, we could figure out a way to make gift giving a little more frugal?  Would this put less strain on our budget and allow us to actually enjoy the Holiday season?  Let’s take a look a look at some ideas and see how they may work into our life.

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But What Can I Do?

Make Christmas a little less materialistic: The thought here is to be less about the gifts and more about the family experience.  Plan family activities, movie nights, etc.  Make it about memories instead of gifts.

This is a huge task for people with children.  Especially people with children who are already used to getting presents that are materialistic in nature.  If your children still believe in Santa, you will have to come up with some kind of explanation as to why there are less, or different types of presents under the tree this year.

With older children, it should be a simple conversation as to why you want to spend more time as a family.

Consolidate your gift giving: If you have a lot of family and friends that you normally buy gifts for, try to buy one gift for each family or group of friends.  This will work better for families than groups of friends, but you get the idea.  Try to maximize your gift giving potential.

Start planning your gift buying one year in advance: This seems a little far-fetched, but we all know we get the best deals right after Christmas.  You don’t normally think of buying Christmas gifts right after the actual holiday, but at least plan your gift buying strategy out.  Can you purchase some gifts throughout the year to save you that bulk-buying in December?

Spending small amounts of money over a twelve-month period of time is much more tolerable than a large amount of money all at once.

Set your Christmas budget and stick to it, no matter what: You are a budget master.  You have crunched the numbers and know what you can spend on Christmas gifts.  You know who you have to buy gifts for and you have used the last tip to start planning your gift buying a year in advance.

Stick to your numbers, keep track of what you have spent, and do not go over your budgeted number.  Trust yourself and the process.

Make two trips: Instead of one big shopping trip, break it into two.  If you can’t do your Christmas shopping throughout the year, schedule two trips, one in November and one in December.  This at least allows you to calm down and re-evaluate in between.

Sometimes we get out of control and tend to overspend when we go on a shopping spree and just try to get it all done at once.   This will let you see what you have done and what you have left to do.

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Personally, I am going to try to incorporate as many of these tips into my life as possible.  I am tired of getting beat up by Christmas shopping every single year.

Setting a budget is going to be key as well as trying to buy gifts throughout the year.  I know we are going to see which families we can purchase one gift for instead of four or five per person.  I am anxious to see what kind of difference this makes in our finances as well as our mood.

It doesn’t take much, but the problem is that, a lot of times, the true meaning of Christmas is forgotten, gifts are not what it is all about after all, and the fact that it tends to sneak up on you causes stress and anxiety.

Let me know how you handle your Christmas and Holiday shopping as well as your budgeting.

  • Mr. Thrifty says:

    Good practical tips here.

    I’m a bit unique in that Mrs. T would love a vaccuum, or something homemade.

    My sister and I started making donations on each other’s behalf instead of exchanging gifts.

    Hope the whole MAMM family has a great holiday season!

  • Melanie says:

    I don’t do much for Christmas…I buy my niece and nephew one gift each and that’s it. My boyfriend and I gift each other debt repayment! Not sexy but definitely appreciated lol

  • sean says:

    Its great to see different facets of frugality, everyday is a learning day. I know if money’s tight then the thought of creating a passive income to handle future Christmases might not be totally viable but every little will help, try putting a bit away a week into something like a crowdfunding initiative and use the %returns to offset Christmas…just a suggestion. Maybe kickstart it by selling unused items or gifts

  • Great advice on separating needs from wants. That’s a perpetual battle we struggle with in my house as well. We try to have our spending align with our values and make sure it’s something which will bring continued happiness instead of fleeting contentment. Thanks for sharing these tips.

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