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Christmas will be here before we know it! So how do you afford Christmas when money is already so tight?
Well, I learned things the hard way. Pushing bills to the next month to use for Christmas money, taking out an evil payday loan, and maxing out my credit cards only meant to increase my stress and anxiety the following month. It robbed me of my joy, happiness, and peace and made it difficult to enjoy the holiday.
I promise you when your kids are older they won’t remember all the crap they received for Christmas. They will remember maybe one or two special gifts that were very important to them at the time, a homemade gift from you that was made just for them and most their memories will be based on special moments. Now, I can remember the emotions I felt when I couldn’t afford a certain gaming system or a high-priced doll. Honestly, I felt horrible. I felt like a loser. And at times, like my kids deserved a better mother.
It’s taken me years of practice to identify when the enemy has taken advantage of my weak spots. And looking back I wonder what on earth was I thinking. My kids deserve a better mother, one that will spoil them with every single thing they ask for? Seriously? What a bunch of crap! A better mother is exactly who I was. I needed to believe in me and I just needed to remind myself of that more often. I was following God’s word and raising kids who were experiencing opportunities to be grateful, appreciative and giving. You can’t just tell a child to be grateful…they have to experience opportunities where they can learn to be grateful. That’s what I was doing and that, sweet mamas, if a gift that will last lifetimes and pass to future generations.
So let’s focus on how we can make Christmas great for us and for our families!
First off, the sooner you decide on a Christmas budget and start saving the sooner you can say goodbye to stress, anxiety, additional debt or past due bills and just use the holiday to enjoy your friends and family. Oh, how lovely that will be!
Here are a few simple steps you can take to create the Christmas budget you want this year:
- Determine the amount you can spend. Be sure to include everything extra you’ll need to purchase like gift wrapping supplies, Christmas cards, stamps, stocking stuffers, Christmas dinner, Christmas cookies and other baking supplies.
- Write out a list of those who you are shopping for this year and work out how much you’d like to spend on each of them. Is the amount you can afford to spend over or under the amount you would like to spend on friends and family? If it’s under, give yourself a high five, do a cartwheel, praise Jesus or whatever you do when you’re happy! If it’s over, don’t despair. The two of us are going to get creative to keep you within that budget!
- Divide the amount you can spend by the number of paychecks you have until Christmas. This is the amount you need to set aside each time you’re paid. If you’re starting early in the year, open a savings account just for Christmas. And start saving all of your change each night in one collection jar.
- If you’re concerned there’s a slight chance you’ll dip into your Christmas honeypot then purchase gift cards each paycheck. Buy gift cards to a particular store if you know that’s where you’ll be shopping from and be sure to include a few grocery store gift cards as well for your holiday meals.
Now let’s get a little creative if your gift buying list and the amount of money you’ll need, is greater than what you can afford.
Start with a Plan
Planning is key to staying on track with your budgets, lists, and expenses. Staying organized will help you to not overspend nor buy for people you’ve already shopped for. Click here for a review of some of the best planners. Erin Condren and Emily Ley have some of my favorites.
Dwindle Down Your List
The goal here is to not tumble, stumble or nose dive into debt. Friends and family will understand that things are tight right now for you. Does everyone on your list truly need to receive a gift or will a nice card with a personalized and thoughtful note from you suffice?
Change Your Mindset on Your Gift Giving
If you have a large family where everyone usually buys for everyone else ask if this year you all can draw names or do a fun White Elephant Gift Exchange game. This game would be perfect for your circle of friends as well…and it’s super fun!
Invite your family over for a Christmas Potluck Game Night. Everyone brings a dish and for the more competitive families have a dessert contest with a cute little award for this year’s winner. Or if you live in warmer climates, organize a touch football game at a nearby park with a picnic for all, potluck style.
Shop Thrift Stores
My kids love to seek out thrift stores and search for unique items or items they can turn into something beautiful. There is no shame in shopping second-hand stores and yard sales. Sometimes a fresh coat of chalk paint on a vase or a piece of furniture can make it look amazing. My favorite is huge detailed frames. Remove the old artwork, sand and paint the frame and there you go…a cool gift all on its own or add your own artwork or photo to the gift. Pinterest is a great place to find some really creative ideas.
Look for deals and always try your best to use a coupon. Use apps that will search for stores with the lowest price. Buying a few gifts each paycheck is much less stressful than buying a few days before Christmas. Always scan the clearance racks and shelves for items calling to be given to a particular person. If you’re looking for Christian gifts and cards, DaySpring has an amazingly beautiful selection and most often offering big discounts and sales.
Sell Items You No Longer Need or Use
Grab a storage bin and do a clean sweep through your home and closets. Put everything you no longer need or want in the bin. Take photos of each item and start listing them on Buy & Sell pages on Facebook, Craigslist, eBay or your own personal Facebook page. Put the cash from each sale in your Christmas savings fund.
Handmade Crafts or Gifts
Can you sew, knit or are you crafty? What about one of Pinterest girls that can pretty much recreate every awesome pin? Then set aside some time each night to create some really thoughtful gift or tree ornaments to give away as gifts.
Re-evaluate Christmas Cards
You’ve collected a lengthy Christmas Card list over the years. That’s great, but do you hear back from all of them? Maybe dwindling down this list will be a good thing for you to do too. Consider handmade cards, or email Christmas e-cards out to your friends. Better yet, purchase boxes of Christmas cards the week after Christmas. I buy beautiful expensive boxes each year for close to 90% off, and then just save them for next year. Dollar stores even have some really beautiful cards at a discounted price. Stamps are one of those items I purchase and stock up on throughout the year and I can purchase them at a discount through Costco.
Christmas Dinners can be Affordable
Months before Christmas and during every trip to the grocery store, look for sales on the items you know you will need to purchase for Christmas dinner. Purchase them early and store them until you’re ready to cook. Advanced planning can make all the difference in your budget. Around Thanksgiving purchase turkeys and hams when they hit rock bottom prices and freeze them not only for Christmas but for future meals as well. Coupon Surfer, Checkout 51, Swagbucks, and Ibotta are great resources!
A Part-Time Job
Many companies look for seasonal help so it’s easy to get hired on. Work just a few hours a week for the cash you need to cover Christmas expenses.
Ask for Help
If you still feel you need some extra help this Christmas, do a Google search of local charities in your area that have an Adopt-a-Family program or check with your church home for a similar type program. Also, check with local food banks or pantries to stock up on some of the more common canned vegetables and boxed goods you need for your Christmas dinner with your kids.
Start Early After Christmas
If you set aside some of your Christmas budget to shop after Christmas sales, good for you! This is the best way to stock up on dirt cheap gift wrap, Christmas Cards and get a start on some stocking stuffers and gifts for family and friends for next year. Just be certain to keep track of what you purchased and who you purchased it for. From there you can shop clearances and sales throughout the year for those on your gift buying list.
The most important thing to do is to start saving and purchasing gift cards earlier than you did last year.
I would love to hear your comments and suggestions on affording Christmas on a super tight budget!
What works best for you?