Onward Family Magazine - Christmas gifts and piggy bank

Christmas is an amazing time of year, but it can be very stressful financially. While we enjoy spending time with our families, sometimes the obligations of gift giving or holiday entertaining can take the joy right out of the season. Overspending just leads to stress for the months ahead, while families pay off their Christmas spending.
Here are a few tips on having a very merry Christmas season without the stress that comes with overspending.

1) Make a list and check it twice. Start with the long list. I love this time of year and take this time to show my appreciation for people who have helped me along the way. I think about relatives, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

After making the list, look over it carefully. Are there people on the list that a nice thank you card will show your appreciation to just as well as a gift? Are there others on the list that a plate of cookies, a cake or pie, or homemade bread with a short note will show your appreciation? Are there people like parents, where a family gift is better than individual gifts? One year I completed a photo album for my parents. It is still on the coffee table for all visitors to enjoy.

Once the list is narrowed down to who you want to get a gift, make a gift, write a note, and combine resources with others, you will have your master list for the holidays.

2) Set a budget and stick with it. Many families set a budget and then go about the Christmas season without ever looking at it again. The budget should be your guide. Remember, this is not the time to be proud. So often we want to impress the people we buy gifts for, but this creates a strong pull to overspend.

Talk with family members and even co-workers about Christmas exchanges. This means everyone can buy one gift and not feel the obligation to buy for everyone. We have five children in my family so gift exchanges are essential. We agree each year not to buy for the adults (my brothers and sisters) and to instead have a gift exchange for the children. This really goes a long way to keeping costs down.

3) Shop smart. Once you have a budget established, you know how much you need to spend on a specific number of gifts. Brainstorm outside the store on what to get each recipient, then look online for sales. Try retailmenot.com for discounts at your favorite retailer. Get gift cards at discount stores like Sam’s Club or Costco. Also be sure to check out giftcardgranny.com. This site helps you find discounted gift cards for individuals who want to resell them. You can save 10%-15% (sometimes higher) on the face value of the gift card.

If you don’t mind the notifications, you can also follow your favorite stores on Twitter or Facebook. Signing up for emails will sometimes get you coupons and discounts. Use the discounts you find, combine them with sales, and you can cut your holiday spending by 20% or even 50%.

4) Don’t overlook homemade gifts. Spend a few minutes on Pinterest; there are hundreds of ideas for making meaningful gifts that will really be appreciated. Gift baskets are another cheap, yet wonderful gift. Baskets can be found at the dollar store or other discount stores very cheaply. Fill them with things that your recipient loves. Whether it is cooking or fishing, nearly any hobby is conducive to a gift basket. One year I made baskets filled with movie things – popcorn, candy, drinks, and an old inexpensive movie. It was a great gift I created for under $10.00.

If you are handy with crafts, try a simple woodworking or sewing project. Stores like Michaels and websites like Pinterest have hundreds of ideas that meet nearly anyone’s skill level. This not only saves money, but creates very personal gifts that recipients can enjoy for years.

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