A debt-free Christmas is possible! There are too many tales of people who finally pay off their Christmas shopping in time to build up the debt again.
Don't be one of them – or if you are, it's time to stop. No one really wants you to go into debt in order to buy them gifts.
Now, most people aren't going to “boycott” Christmas as we did for years – or rather, the secular, grossly commercialized version of Christmas. And that's fine because you can STILL have a wonderful, fun-filled Christmas – with or without gifts – without spending a ton of money. This year we're slowly easing off on our boycott and participating a lot more than we have in the past.
But that doesn't mean I want to break the bank! We just bought a house and, with four children, the budget is always a balancing act. So how can we have a great Christmas while still keeping within the budget?
Well, it's certainly possible!
Are you ready? I'd love to share these 5 – no, 6 – tips for having a debt-free Christmas.
Start Saving Early
You may think it's a little crazy to start preparing for the holidays several months in advance, but it could end up saving you a great deal of money. If you want a debt-free Christmas without hiding in the woods and avoiding people, you need to plan ahead. (Hiding in the woods works, but it can get lonely.)
Think about the people you
need want to buy gifts for, and then make a list. Throughout the year, you will find items on sale that just make you think of those people. Put these discounted items away until Christmas. If you wait until the last minute, you're going to be at the mercy of the stores.
A friend of mine shared a tip for me, and I think it's worthwhile passing along.
If all of the presents were unwrapped and sitting on a table – could everyone tell immediately which present belonged to which person? Put time and attention into the gifts you purchase, or save your money.
Getting a head start on your shopping means that you have an entire year in which to think about, and find, that perfect (and perfectly priced) gift for the people you love.
And while we're out it, can we get rid of “need to buy a gift”?
Don't expect gifts from anyone, and don't spend money on some nondescript gift out of some bizarre sense of duty.
We've all done it.
You know that your sister-in-law's best friend's mother will be coming to Christmas dinner and somehow the word got out that she's giving everyone and their dog a jar of her homemade (and not necessarily safely made) mustard pickles, so you buy a tin of Christmas sugar cookies.
The only way to give anyone those sugar cookies is if you dip them in nice chocolate then in sprinkles or nuts or something else yummy, and then repackage them along with some similarly dipped dried fruit.
And that is so much work that you won't give them to your sister-in-law's best friend's mother.
You will definitely have to spend at least some money if you entertain over the holidays. But you can spend smart.
Shop for holiday specials, and if you're entertaining many guests, consider warehouse shopping for some of the items you need.
The two large grocery stores near me also have warehouse stores – think Costco but on a much, much smaller scale – where I buy almost anything I need in bulk. When entertaining a crowd, remember that this is what those “but I'll never use a package that large” items are designed for!
You can also consider potluck if you want to entertain and still have a debt-free Christmas.
In the church where I attended as a child, almost any occasion is an excuse for the ladies to make a casserole – or biscuits, or whatever their specialties were. When I recently had a housewarming for my new home, everyone arrived with arms full of food and I just had to supply coffee and tea.
Potlucks are a great, frugal way to feed a large group of people, especially since the variety of dishes means there is almost always something for everyone. It really helps, especially if those in your circle are new to potlucks, to give them a general idea of what you want – bread, casserole, drinks, chips and dip, dessert – assigning each category to a few people.
That way you don't end up with a table full of buttered rolls.
Decorating doesn't have to be done all at once. Remember to re-use the decorations from last year. If you need new ones, or enjoy adding to your decorations each year, don't forget about handmade items.
And, you know where you can find the very best decorations?
At the dollar store.
Switching out your regular tablecloth for a bright and colourful $2 Christmas tablecloth can make a huge difference.
You should get your children involved with the decorations. Have them string up popcorn or fresh cranberries (definitely use fresh, not frozen) on a string for a Christmas tree or get them to draw and color ornaments. You can even bake decorations out of dough and enjoy a painting session with the kids.
We'll be putting up a nativity, too. A huge part of our Twelve Days celebrations involves the nativity and the Magi.
Remember that Christmas decorating does not need to be fancy or expensive. Drawings by children or grandchildren, paper garlands and stars – these are all fun, charming and inexpensive ways to decorate.
Homemade gifts are often so much more appreciated than store bought. No matter what your skills, there is probably something meaningful that you can make and give.
When I was seven, my parents bought a new house in September and … there was no money for Christmas presents. (Hey, that's us this year!) But my mom had done some sewing work, and my father did a job building a barn, so they had fabric and scrap wood. Sadly, the doll bedding and doll clothes are long gone, but I still have the doll bed and toybox that my father made. Years later, I mentioned it to him and he was shocked. He had built it with leftover barn wood and hadn't expected it to last more than a few years. Instead I treasure it (and MY children still use it) thirty-five years later.
Make sure you keep an eye on special holiday deals when it comes to gifts. Often you'll find a deal throughout the shopping season, and not just on big sale days such as Black Friday.
Websites such as Amazon will have constant hourly deals going on that may allow you to save additional money on items you were going to purchase anyway.
Remember that no matter what holiday you're celebrating, you can always go “Secret Santa” style when it comes to gifts. During a Secret Santa get together, each person will draw someone's name out of a hat. This way, when it comes time to exchange gifts, you only need to buy one gift and you'll also be receiving a gift from someone else in the group.
Another tip for saving money on gifts is to go traditional – very, very traditional. We have been easing into celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, which means that the Christmas season, and the bulk of our gift giving, continues until January 6. This gives me plenty of time to buy sharply discounted items.
Activities With The Kids
Children love the holidays. No matter how much you actually spend, it's the activities and the togetherness that they'll remember fondly when they're older.
It may be fun to start a family tradition that the whole family can look forward to doing for years to come. This can also be something that doesn't involve too much money. Maybe it's Baking means to cook meat, vegetables, batter or dough in an... More cookies together, or sharing photos from the past year, or even decorating the tree together.
This might be the most difficult, but sometimes it's the most necessary. Be upfront with your family and friends, everyone with whom you usually exchange gifts. Make it very clear that your budget simply doesn't have room for a lot of gifts. Talk to them about having a Secret Santa exchange, limiting gifts to the children or having a homemade Christmas.
Letting everyone know what they can expect from you – and how you still plan to be part of the festivities – can help a lot.