How well do you keep your Christmas budget under control? It’s often difficult, right? What you want, what the kids want, what you want to give them… it all adds up to something well above what you can actually afford to spend. Most families find it very difficult to keep the Christmas budget under control.
Decide Who You’re Shopping For
If money is tight, you may need to cut back on who you buy gifts for at Christmas. There are a number of ways to do this.
My sisters and I, for example, are assigned family members to shop for. I maintain a list of all relevant family members, and then assign names. This way no one has to shop for the whole family. It means you can spend less overall and yet get a better present from the family.
This also cuts down on low quality gifts. There’s only so much you can give someone if you can only afford to spend $5-10 on them because you have so many people to shop for. Draw names, and each person only has to buy for one, and the gift can be better.
You can also consider cutting the adults out of the list. Usually this is done by mutual agreement. Seriously, how badly do most adults need a Christmas gift? Talk it out and decide if it’s something you still want to do.
You should also look at your extended family, friends and coworkers. How many people can you reasonably afford to shop for? If times are tight or you’re just tired of shopping for so many people, tell them you don’t want to exchange gifts with them this year. Most will understand. Some will be grateful to have fewer people to shop for as well.
What Is Your Christmas Budget?
The first thing you need to decide is how much you can put into your Christmas budget. This is the amount of money you don’t want to go over when you’re done shopping for everyone.
If this is too hard to figure out, start with how much you want to spend on each person. Most families will spend more on kids than adults, since adults can buy stuff for themselves more easily than kids can.
Make sure you include everyone you need to shop for. Depending on your traditions, this may include kids, parents, spouse, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers, secret Santa exchanges and so forth.
Set an amount for each. Add it up, and you have a Christmas budget. I suggest using a spreadsheet to keep track of your spending on each person. This will make it easier to track.
If this number is more than you’re willing to spend overall, you need to trim that budget. There are a couple ways to do this. Review how much you’re spending per person and how many people you’re shopping for. Get that budget under control.
How Strict Is Your Christmas Budget?
Depending on your financial situation, your Christmas budget may be strict or have some leeway. A little leeway is always fun – it’s so easy to find things that go beyond your budget, especially for kids.
Obviously, you aren’t going to keep to your per person budget to the penny or even the dollar. Things rarely work out that way. So long as things balance out reasonably at the end, you should be fine.
Watch For Sales
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great days for buying Christmas gifts, but they aren’t the only sales of the season, and sometimes they aren’t the best sales of the season.
It’s always a risk, of course, to see if the sale price gets any better on something you want. It may sell out or you may have missed the best price.
The wonderful part about online shopping is how easy it make price comparisons. You can have several websites open to see how much things cost at each.
Compare store prices with online prices while you’re in the store. Some stores will match online prices with select websites. They probably won’t match anyone other than the big sites such as Amazon.com, but it’s worth knowing. I found a list of stores that should price match online prices you should be aware of.
I also love taking advantage of what my local dollar store offers. They get a ton of toys in at this time of year. They don’t all cost a dollar anymore, but that’s so they can get better toys, the same stuff you’d see elsewhere. Usually it’s a great deal, half or less what you’d pay for the same toy elsewhere.
If you see a good toy at a dollar store, get it quick. Most won’t stay in stock for long. Keep your receipt and you can return it if you find a better price elsewhere.
Try to avoid impulse shopping when buying Christmas gifts. Buy because it’s a good gift at a good price, not just because it’s there. If it’s something you want for you, consider whether it could be put on your wish list for someone else to buy as a gift for you.
Be Aware Of Shipping Costs
Make sure you consider shipping when you compare prices. Free shipping can make the difference in your total cost. Many sites offer free shipping if you spend enough. Pay attention to what it takes so that you can get free shipping as often as possible.
This is a great time of year to get the free trial of Amazon Prime if you don’t already have it. If you don’t want to pay for Amazon Prime, be sure to cancel it in time. Many people find it worth the expense because you get so much more than free shipping. Music, video, Prime member only deals… there’s a lot to be said for it as a service beyond the convenience of fast and free shipping.
Amazon limits how often you can get a free trial of Prime. If you’ve done it before, you may not qualify again. But if Amazon is offering you the free trial on your account, you should be good to go on that score.
If you don’t want to sign up for Prime, just remember that many products on Amazon ship free if you spend enough money. This amount changes from time to time, but it’s not hard to reach. It’s nowhere near as fast as Prime, but it’s good enough if you shop early enough. As some products on Amazon are sold and shipped by third parties, not everything qualifies for this or for Prime shipping.
On occasion, a handmedown can be an appropriate Christmas gift for someone. This is especially true with kids. One year my younger sister gave one of my daughters a bunch of Barbie stuff for Christmas. It had belonged to her daughters, but they no longer wanted the dolls or dollhouses.
My daughter, on the other hand, was ecstatic to get so much Barbie stuff. That it was used didn’t matter at all.
Handmedown gifts can be very generous in comparison to things you had to spend money on. There’s no way my sister would have spent what the dolls and dollhouse cost on my daughter if she had had to buy them. Passing them down, on the other hand, worked quite well.
This doesn’t have to be limited to kids, although they’re usually the easiest. If there’s something of yours that you don’t want and you know someone else would be happy to have, it might work out as a Christmas present.
I suggest discussing handmedowns before giving them as gifts if you think it might bother someone. Done right, they can be every bit as considerate as something you went and spent money on.
Another way to possibly save some money is to give homemade gifts. What you make depends on your skills, but a nice homemade gift can be very thoughtful.
My go-to homemade gift is chocolate truffles. My pomegranate truffles are very popular within my family – they’re usually my contribution to the food part of the celebration. My recipe makes about 70 or so truffles, depending on the mold I use (easier than rolling them!). I make a few types of chocolates so I can mix it up and there’s something for all tastes.
Cookies are also pretty easy to make as a small gift.
If you can knit, scarves are a simple gift, and you don’t have to worry about what size the recipient wears. If you don’t knit, a no-sew fleece scarf is very easy to make.
Make It Fun
Whatever else happens with your Christmas budget, make the holidays fun. Get together with family and friends. Talk. Play games. Get outside if the weather in your area allows. Many of the things that are most memorable about your holiday celebrations aren’t the things that cost money. It’s the time you spend together that really matters most.