By Cindy Morus, Creator of the Pay Debt Quickly System
According to a Gallup poll, the average American family will spend $801 this year on Holiday gifts. Remember an average means that some people spend way more and some people spend a lot less. With economic times tough this year for most people, it’s a good chance to talk to your friends and family about cutting back on Holiday gift giving, seeking alternatives or even eliminating it altogether. Most people have more than enough “stuff” and that’s why they are so hard to buy for.
I’m going to be below that average number for several reasons. About 20 years ago, when the grandkids started arriving, most of my extended family decided not to purchase Christmas gifts for each other with the exception of my sister and her husband who have no kids but are generous with the nieces and nephews. Even my Mom and Dad suggested that we not exchange gifts this year due because of the hit their retirement accounts have taken.
I’ll be buying wine from Phelps Creek Vineyards for my sister and hubby (Sh, don’t tell), my son gets a ski pass and my daughter a check because she’s saving to go to London for the Spring term. That’s it for me. How about you?
And remember, the Holiday isn’t all about buying and giving! Most people want more of the spirit of the season — friendship, music, love. Don’t be so obsessed with the buying and spending that you wind up with stress, hassle and shopper’s burnout. Plan to incorporate the things that really matter in life: spending time with family and friends, being part of a community, enjoying your faith and just plain having fun.
Doing some planning now along with a shift to the spirit of the season, can make the New Year much happier since you know massive credit card bills won’t be filling your mailbox.
Here are some specific ideas. Implement one or all!
1. Make a Spending Plan and Stick To It. Decide in advance how much you’re going to spend on each person AND the total amount you plan to spend on everyone. That way, if one gift is more expensive than you expected, review the rest of your list to find reductions so you don’t exceed your overall spending plan. Don’t forget decorations, cards, stamps, wrapping paper.
It can be tough to stick to a budget when those around you are big spenders. If you want to change the gift giving pattern, do it early before people start making purchase.
2. Do Something Different This Year. Instead of buying a gift for every person, you can draw names (Have kids draw other kids and adults draw each other). One family I know always has an additional twist like buying something for the person that starts with their first name. For example, Jean might get a Jacket and Rebecca a Robe. Have a dollar limit.
You might also consider purchasing a family gift or brothers and sisters can go in on something bigger for Mom and Dad than they could purchase individually. My kids have been doing that for years because we set a low dollar limit on how much they could spend on us and each other.
A “white elephant” take away is also a fun way to spend the day and everyone gets a good laugh. Ornament gift giving can also be fun and a way to create memories for many years to come.
3. Set a Limit on the Number of Gifts. Young children get overloaded very easily with quantity so Mom and Dad might limit the number of gifts their children get. You can spread the gift giving out over several days, too, which gives them time to play with their gifts. If you do get too many, think about putting some away for a few weeks.
4. Spend time, not money. If you’re short of money, offer gifts of your time: Baby-sitting services for exhausted new parents. Painting assistance for a friend who just bought a house. Pet-sitting for traveling neighbors. Grandparents can teach grandkids a skill. I can still remember the Christmas my grandmother taught me to knit.
Organize an Appetizer potluck or Progressive dinner with your friends or family. Everyone brings or prepares something so the cost and work are spread around. And make sure everyone does their share of clean up, too!
5. Connect with your Community. Whether or not organized faith services are part of your tradition, there’s a lot going on. Here in Hood River, there are food drives, community meals, holiday concerts and performances, and lots more. It’s a good chance to get out and catch up with people you might not see but once or twice a year.
6. Gift Giving Alternatives. Donate to a cause that’s important to the recipient (check out charities at www.CharityNavigator.org). Purchase gifts that benefit others. Lutheran World Relief – one of the top-rated charities (www.lwrgifts.org) has lots of great ideas from critters to water to education. You might want to ask them what cause they’d like you to support.
Ask family members to consider contributing to your kids’ college accounts. That’s a gift that last for the rest of their lives.
7. Use up Store Credits and Gift Cards. This is going to be especially important because a number of stores are already slated to close their doors after the Holiday season and a lot more will probably do so before the end of 2009. Many gift cards lose value or expire over time so get them out and use them up.
8. Take Yourself Off the List. The National Retail Federation reports that the average shopper will spend $99 on themselves! You might also talk to your spouse or significant other to create a plan – maybe you could the money for something you need for the house or cars and if you’re not sure of your job prospects for next year, start a savings account.
9. Use Send Out Cards for Christmas Cards and Gift Giving This Year. Send Out Cards allows you to choose a card from over 13,000 designs and you can even upload your own photos and have a custom card. They’ll print them and send them out with a real first class stamp for about $1 per card. And you don’t have to go to the store, post office, or lick.
10. Create Your Own Family Traditions. Everything in our world is shifting and it’s a chance for you to create your own activities and traditions. The first year the kids got ski passes, I told them that’s all they would be getting. They asked “What will we do on Christmas?” and I said “Go Skiing!” I didn’t plan Christmas Day dinner and they were starving when we got home so I made Tuna Noodle casserole and that became our Christmas Day dinner tradition!
Think forward to end of the Holiday Season and how you’ll feel about the amount of time, energy and money you spent. If you don’t like the outcome, change it now. There’s no such thing as the Holiday you read about in a book or see on TV – you don’t have to be held hostage to the Super Christmas. Take a few moments now, check in with your spouse and kids and decide how you want your Holiday to turn out.
More Help from Cindy:
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1. Bargain shop, bargain shop, bargain shop! I went to Walmart’s clearance section online and found a ton of stuff for under $10 that will suit just about everyone on my list. Good stuff, like Star Wars t-shirts for my nephews, sports team tee’s, long-sleeve tee’s and hoodies for my brother, nephew and husband, sports team trucker hats and baseball caps, pajama tops and bottoms for the women on your list, and lots of baby and toddler items.
2. Give coupons or certificates for acts of service. Create them on your computer or by hand. Make the envelopes out of construction paper and use stickers, stamps and other materials you have around the house. Or if you’re artistic (my kids are, I’m not) hand draw your art on them. People will probably keep the envelopes, coupons and certificates just for the artwork!
3. Speaking of artwork, hand-create your Christmas cards. Or use your computer (my choice). Try not to use graphics that will use large amounts of ink, because that can get costly. Or make photo cards from photos on your computer. Again, loved ones will keep these and probably scrapbook them.
4. Another inexpensive, but lasting memory gift is a photo of your family, or new baby in the family. You can purchase nice, inexpensive frames at Walmart or the dollar store. These make great treasures for loved ones.
5. Christmas meal planning: start looking at your local grocer’s newspaper ads, or online ads. Our local store has a nice web site where you receive the weekly ad in your email, and as you go through it, you can click on each item you wish to purchase and it saves it in a printable grocery list for you. You can choose quantities and even add your own items not listed in the weekly ad. I found turkey for $.79/lb through this method!
6. Look for online giveaways and bargains. One WAHM site promoted a free photobook, all you pay is shipping! That’s an awesome gift. I made one of my grandsons for my daughter and her hubby. That’s an inexpensive gift they’ll treasure forever! And to purchase a photobook isn’t too expensive either for the 8X10 square books-less than $14! The promo ends Nov. 30 so click on the link above, get your code and head on over to Inkubook.
7. Keep Christ in Christmas. Center all your celebrations on Jesus and why he was born. One idea might be to only give your children three gifts each; three represents the trinity, the three gifts of the wisemen, the three wisemen, Christ rose on the third day, etc.
8. Give the gift of music. We have iPods, so this year we may give $15 iTunes cards. CD’s are also fairly inexpensive.
9. Buy gifts that are necessities, like new sheets (that are on sale of course), or room décor. Our walls are in need of painting in a bad way, so I’d be thrilled with a Home Depot or Lowe’s gift card.
10. Find treasures around your home that would make nice gifts. If someone really likes that angel knick-knack sitting on your shelf collecting dust, clean it off and wrap it up as a gift for them. Other items would be jewelry, books, CD’s and DVD’s. I think if you suggest these ideas to your loved ones they will love the idea too and maybe even do the same thing.
The idea is to remember why we should celebrate Christmas, not to go into more debt than we already are, but to give from the heart and remember why Jesus came to the earth and gave his life for us.