One of the biggest changes our family has made over the years is cutting back on Christmas spending. When we first had kids, we felt it was necessary to fill the floor beneath the tree with gifts. It wasn’t unusual to spend between $200-500 on each kid for Christmas. A week after Christmas, most of those gifts, except for a select few, were largely forgotten about. We were satisfied because the tree was overflowing, even if the usefulness of the gifts was less than ideal.
In recent years, our attitude about money, and about Christmas, has changed. We’ve become much more frugal and strive to fully appreciate the material things we own. All the “stuff” under the tree is no longer as important. We set a budget and stay within it, despite the temptations to buy more the closer we get to Christmas. Instead of filling the space under the tree with gifts, we strive to fill the holiday season with memories. If you want or have to cut back this Christmas, here are a few tips to help you get started.
4 Tips for Cutting Back this Christmas
1. Instead of exchanging gifts with every one of your extended family members, try hosting a family get-together instead.
If money is really tight, or if you prefer to share costs, you can host a covered dish dinner where each family brings a favorite dish to share. You can make family crafts as keepsakes. (Christmas ornaments with the date, a framed family photo, or a family scrapbook including family genealogy are some ideas.) If you want to include a small gift, a package of Christmas cookies or candies for each family to take home would be great.
2. If your extended family includes many children, try setting up a Secret Santa-type shop at your family get-together.
Let the kids each pick out a small toy or treat to gift-wrap and give to another child in the family. This saves from buying a larger gift for each child and encourages the spirit of sharing and giving. The kids will likely have more fun choosing and wrapping a gift for someone else than they would getting a larger toy that they may not like.
3. When it comes to gift-giving for your spouse or significant other, try working out a plan to spend smarter.
Put money back into a savings account for a large purchase after the holidays (when items are cheaper), or buy something useful for you both to share, like a trip, sporting equipment, a gym membership, or a gas card for those nights when you just need to get away from home.
4. Think hard about alternatives for kids.
Buying for your own children can be hard. It’s tempting to buy them everything their hearts desire, but cutting back is about smart gift giving. Many families have opted to go with one large gift and one smaller gift, and they let the children pick out the items. You can buy one gift from a list, and one gift as a surprise. Or some families suggest you buy one gift they need, one gift they want, one gift they read, and one gift they wear. Even this four-gift approach is much more scaled-down than what many American families are used to.
You can be as creative with your Christmas spending as you like, but the idea is to spend less and make memories instead of collecting gifts.
What Christmas traditions do you participate in that would help others cut back this Christmas?
Btw, there's a pretty nifty tool that motivates your kids to do chores. It's called MyJobChart.com. With a free account, they can earn points for finishing jobs you assign them, good towards free merchandise. Give it a try. It's completely free!