EEEK!!! Christmas is only 4.5 weeks away!
I love this Hobby Lobby picture! Who wants to come decorate my house like this?
Just the revelation that there are only 33 days left until Christmas creates a wide array of emotions in me. Joy and excitement since it's my absolute favorite holiday; panic and overwhelm because there is a lot that goes into all things Christmas. This one holiday really is A BIG DEAL!
So how do we celebrate this special time of year without going crazy and going broke? I've learned a few tricks, though probably not enough since Christmas tends to bring out the giddiness in me which in turn leads to sloppiness...
Really though this is about celebrating Jesus, not a competition to see who can look like this the best:
1. Set Limits in Advance
My husband and I try (emphasis on try) to talk about what we want to spend on each person before we go out shopping. We really do need to get better about this and mainly to STICK TO IT! If you're married, talk to your spouse about what you think is a reasonable amount to spend on each person. Now this can be tricky if your husband wants a new car for Christmas versus a pack of gum, so talk through what each person wants and the associated price tag.
I used to buy gifts for pretty much everyone I knew back in the day. Let's just call that what it is- STRESS! Let me say that if you're way overspending on gifts for lots of people and it becomes a burden on you- the spirit of giving has completely been destroyed. You will feel pressure to do this year after year, your bank account will take a huge blow every year, and you will not be happy camper! We buy gifts for each other, the kids (more on them in a minute), and our parents. That's really about it, and no one has been offended (that I know of...) that we decided to limit the number of people we shop for.
With the kids, it is SO easy to go absolutely crazy and just pile presents on top of presents because you know their little faces will just light up and bring joy to your heart. That's not a bad thing- I love to give my girls gifts and watch them get all excited! However, I know what January looks like (well maybe February since one daughter's birthday is in early January so we get double whammied). Toys EVERYWHERE! I am going to do this this year- limit each kid to 2-3 presents from Mommy and Daddy, plus stocking stuffers. I'm holding myself to it this year.
2. Don't Be Afraid of Black Friday
I may be the only person with an actual Black Friday phobia. I avoid leaving my house at all costs on this one day of the year. I have zero desire to
BUT, I've learned that it's not just a gimmicky day. I have found great deals on kid books and food processors during Black Friday, plus others that I can't remember right now. These have all been online though. So I save my sanity and my money, whereas before my aversion to Black Friday was just saving my sanity. Not that saving sanity is bad by ANY means.
Of course, always make sure you are actually getting a great deal! This is an extremely hyped up day so make sure you keep yourself in check. Double the check the sale price versus the normal price (preferably on multiple sites to be sure), calculate any shipping/handling costs, etc. Remember companies will advertise great deals right next to bad ones, and they all have the blinking signs that say "BUY ME!"
3. Attempt Homemade
Hear me here- you do NOT have to be Suzy Homemaker to pull this off. I'm no Martha Stewart but I've noticed family members, particularly grandparents, LOVE homemade things. I've also gotten some gorgeous homemade things from friends and they said they weren't all that complicated to make! It puts your personal touch to it, shows the other person how much you care, and it's always something out of the norm. Plus homemade items are almost always cheaper than retail costs of similar items.
Use your talents if you got them! Are you a great baker? Make cookies or candies, decorate them, wrap them in cute bags and ribbons and you're set! Do you love painting or crafting? There are tons ideas out there, and you can actually enjoy yourself while making something awesome for a loved one! Love taking pictures? Put together a photo album, frame a picture you love, or offer a photo shoot as a gift. If you're talentless or just don't care for DIY, find some easy things online for the kids to do and then all you have to do is make sure they don't hurt themselves with scissors or pour glue on the dog.
Get creative, involve your kids, have fun, your wallet will be happier, you'll save sanity of shopping around for that elusive "perfect present."
Personally I'm going to attempt some of these "gifts in a jar" I keep seeing online. Some are food and baking mixes, others are craft supplies, homemade snowglobes, etc. I'm excited!
4. Coupon Hunt
It does seem kind of weird to shop for gifts with coupons. I have found it does help your gift-giving budget a ton though! No one needs to know you used a coupon to get their gift, though I doubt most people would care either way. Here are some examples of things I've found, though this is by no means an all-inclusive list:
-RetailMeNot.com is the BEST website for finding coupons and deals for retail stores. You just type in the store name and you get a list of coupon codes or special deals that retailer is offering. Whenever I'm going shopping or eating out, I always check this site first. It has saved us a lot of money!
-Bed Bath and Beyond usually puts out coupons for $5 off $15+ purchase or 20% off one item.
-Target mails out gift cards and coupons throughout the year, and I've recently received several for Christmas. Add these to their Cartwheel App or online coupons (or do what I do and print it out- oh yeah I'm old school) and their weekly deals and you can probably score some good savings!
-Yankee Candles put our coupons for BOGO candles a lot of the time. These are so great because candles are one of those gifts that you can give to pretty much anyone and they'll be guaranteed to love them.
-Find reward programs. One friend mentioned her nephews always want Legos for Christmas. Legos are awesome, but they are EXPENSIVE! Well I was bored one day and found out that there is a Lego rewards program. I'm sure they're not the only company to have something like this, and if it's a product you know you'll buy more than once it may be worth checking out. Do some online searching and it could easily pay off!
-Follow an online bargain site or blog to find good deals on gifts. There are so many of us thrifty bloggers out there and lots of them post great deals. My favorites are MoneySavingMom.com, SpringsBargains.com, and BargainBlessings.com. I've been watching Money Saving Mom like a hawk to get a killer deal on a KitchenAid mixer lately...
Is your budget so tight you're not sure what to do? You don't want to let anyone down and you really want to bless them with a thoughtful gift, but even spending that tiny extra amount is a big source of anxiety.
First, let that anxiety and guilt go!
Next, think of free things that people will cherish. Plan an outing with your family to look at Christmas lights, drink cocoa, and take a ton of pictures. If you and your friends love to sing, go caroling. Scrounge around in your pantry for ingredients to make cinnamon rolls for someone. Host a Christmas movie and snack night and maybe add a White Elephant gift exchange if you want. If you feel fine doing this, and make sure no one's feelings get hurt, you can re-gift those knick-knacks, books, toys, etc. to someone else who would appreciate them more. You can even "give this Christmas away" and go through your house and donate extra clothes, toys, food, and more to homeless shelters or local Christmas toy drives.
There are two very frugal things my family always did. One is my dad has always wrapped presents in the Sunday comics from the newspaper. It's kind of cheesy, but it's also kind of fun to read the comics while you're opening the gifts, not to mention you never have to buy wrapping paper! The second is when my grandma was alive my entire extended dad's side of the family (my dad came from a family of 6 kids to put that in perspective- I have A LOT of cousins) got together to do a Grab Bag, which is what they called a White Elephant exchange. Most of the time they were all gag gifts and I vaguely remember a rubber octopus that made the rounds year after year after year.
This one really puts Christmas in perspective. It's not about how much you spent, it's about the memories and the love in your family and friends. Physical items break, get lost, lose their value, and end up in garage sales but these types of gifts can last a lifetime!
6. Be Thoughtful
No matter what you do gift-giving wise this Christmas, always put thought into it. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and make sure the gift will be received well. Don't make sugar cookies for someone with a gluten allergy or give craft gifts to someone who hates to craft. You want people to know you care about them and to bring a smile to their face.
Early Merry Christmas!