5 Things We Do to Keep Our Christmas Gift Spending Under $250 for a Family of Four
The holidays are such a fun time…twinkling Christmas lights, festive holiday music, beautiful decorations, the excitement of gifts being given and received. I love the Christmas season! But I don’t love the feeling of spending more than we can afford to make the holidays a fun time. Christmas gifts are one of the easiest holiday things to blow money on and we realized that soon after we were married 6 years ago. We were torn between giving nice, expensive gifts that we really couldn’t afford and smaller, less flashy gifts that fit our meager budget. Thankfully, the last several years we’ve come up with several ways to give gifts that are both meaningful and yet easy on our pocketbook. Here are 5 things that we do to accomplish that.
(There have been a year or two where we’ve spent more on a gift for each other such as the year we decided to buy our son a very sturdy handmade tricycle to ride around town here. But that is the exception, however I thought I should clarify it!)
1. Set a budget ahead of time
I’ve found that I can keep my cost down significantly by deciding ahead of time how much I’m going to spend on each person we are buying for. It’s just way too easy to get sucked into all the great advertising schemes and before you know it you’ve spent $75 for each person on your list when you could really only afford $25. Set your budget and then stick to it. If you spend less on one person, have fun spending a bit more on another.
(And just in case you are wondering, we typically try to spend about $20 per person. And honestly, I’ve been amazed at some of the things that we’ve been able to give spending that amount!)
2. Shop all year long
This is one of my favorite ways to save. By shopping year round for Christmas gifts you have more opportunity to get great bargains. Watch for online deals on sites like Living Social and Groupon, check clearance racks, flip through sales flyers and anytime you see an item for a great price ask yourself if it would work as a Christmas gift for someone on your list.
(I try to post some of the best of those deals on my blog, so subscribe via RSS feed or one of the other ways listed on the right hand side of my blog!)
3. Exchange names
I know that some of you might balk at this idea but both my husband’s family and my family have chosen to exchange names for Christmas gifts. Each person gets the name of one other person, meaning that our family only buys 8 gifts total for extended family unless we choose to do something special for our parents too. We all love it because we get to experience the joy of giving and receiving gifts while keeping costs down. As Christians, to us Christmas is about Christ’s birth. And by keeping things simple we’ve found it easier to also keep the real meaning of Christmas in perspective.
And actually both of our families take it a step further and say that it’s okay to buy used items to give as gifts. This allows us the freedom to buy things at yard sales, thrift stores and Craigslist, saving even more money. It is especially easy to find great toys for cheap this way! Give them a good bath and they are good to go!
4. Get creative
Some of the best gifts don’t cost a lot, if any money and often are more meaningful than huge, expensive gifts.
Give the gift of time. Make coupons or a coupon booklet for things like this: 1 breakfast in bed; a 20 minute back rub; 1 prepared meal; an afternoon of helping you with anything you want; an evening of babysitting. Last year my sister-in-law gave me five such coupons and I think everyone else was jealous! And as a busy mom I’ve loved being able to redeem those coupons to give me a lift whenever I need it!
Use your talents and things you enjoy doing to give homemade, personal gifts. Do you enjoy baking? Give homemade bread, cookies or cupcakes. Love to craft? Make some fun items such as sweater pillows, homemade soap or wall decor. A fan of knitting? Give some handmade mittens, scarves or socks. Good at changing oil? Give a free oil change or two.
Not sure what to get that hard-to-buy-for person? Think about what they enjoy or the things that they do. Do they love to read? Give them a book or a magazine subscription. Do they enjoy golfing? Why not give some golf balls. Are they an avid gardener? Plants or gardening supplies are a great idea. They have no hobbies? Anyone can use stamps, food or toiletries.
5. Inexpensive Gift wrap
I don’t know about you, but I hate spending lots of money on gift wrap. But at the same time I really like for gifts that I give to be attractive and beautiful too. I’ve found a couple of ways to accomplish both things.
Use brown craft paper or if your gift is small enough, cut open brown paper bags, wrap your gift, then decorate it with whatever your heart desires. I’ve also wrapped gifts in newspaper before. This looks especially lovely when you wrap a nice red ribbon around it. Instead of bows, be creative and use things like twine, lace, scrap fabric, buttons, yarn, holly or even a hair bow or flower pin.
If you’d still rather go the route of using traditional wrapping paper, watch for coupons for stores like Hallmark or Michael’s and buy it for less than full price. Or better yet, buy it on clearance after Christmas and save it for the following year.
What things do you do to cut Christmas gift costs? I’d love if you would share!