Christmas is right around the corner, and your wallet isn’t ready. If you are feeling the pinch of the poor economy, it doesn’t mean the holidays have to be depressing. There are many ways to get through the gift-giving season with a small budget.
Don’t wait for Black Friday to start checking names off you list; start as early as possible to pick up bargains when you see them. In September, many stores have toy clearance aisles to make way for the holiday stock. Browse early and often and you might find some discounted treasures.
I actually started my shopping in June. My toddler twins are too young to have a “wish list” of specific items, which makes it easier to pick up things I think they might like when they are marked down. My tween daughter, however, always makes a list. I encourage her to make it early so I can look for items on sale.
Always keep Christmas in mind. Whether you are on vacation, in the grocery store, or at a craft fair, you just might see an affordable gift that would be a thoughtful present at holiday time.
If you give gifts to every brother, sister, cousin, niece and nephew, talk to your family to see if you can cut back. Explain that money is tight. Consider eliminating the giving tradition among the adults or find an alternative, like a grab bag. My family had a tradition of having a dollar store grab bag for many years. It was fun to see who ended up with sponges, a deck of cards, or packs of gum. It was simple, but we enjoyed it.
For children, try starting a new tradition: Have each of the young cousins pick a name from a hat for a “Secret Santa” exchange. Set a limit for giving and stick to it. When it’s time to exchange gifts, make the reveal of each gift giver an exciting moment. Pass around a Santa hat for each kid to play Santa when giving out their present.
With your own children, be sure to remind them that Santa doesn’t bring them everything on their list, but chooses what he thinks is best for them. This avoids setting children up for disappointment on Christmas morning. Figure out the one present your child really wants. If you can find a way to afford that specific gift, it is better to focus on the much-requested item than purchasing several lesser ones. Often, that much-wanted gift is not the most expensive thing, which is a relief to many parents.
For my oldest daughter, I try to gauge what she is mentioning the most on her list, and focus on finding it at the best price. She also gets a few presents not on her list – things for which Santa has shopped all year and believes are fun and perfect gifts for her. The unexpected ones are often welcomed surprises to children.
Go through your gift-giving list and see if there is a way to dole out some simpler gifts. I know my daughter’s bus driver doesn’t really need that giant spa basket from the local bath and body store. Instead, she might appreciate a $5 gift card to the local coffee shop inside a refillable coffee mug – something she will enjoy on cold winter mornings driving a bus full of children around town.
Are you crafty? Make a few homemade gifts. Grandparents often appreciate a scrapbook of photos of their grandchildren. Knit scarves from yarn bought on sale for loved ones. If you are musical, write a song and record it, then burn it to a CD for family members.
One year my husband made me a DVD featuring footage of our daughter’s first five Christmases, set to music. It was the most thoughtful and sentimental gift I have ever received, more priceless than anything he could have purchased in a store.
Whatever you are giving, remember that a great wrapping job makes the smallest gift look special. Involve the family, and get out a stash of paper, bags, ribbon and other craft supplies to make gifts look like a million dollars, even if they cost pennies.
If you can’t afford fancy paper, create your own out of paper bags, newspaper, or plain white paper. Decorate with stamps, glitter, or other designs, and tie up with twine and a homemade gift tag.
With a little planning and creativity, it’s easy to stretch the Christmas gift-giving budget. Your frugal ways can amaze and inspire others, and the holiday will be more meaningful with less focus on expensive gifts.