One of the most frustrating things I experience every year around the holiday season is how some people will overextend themselves financially all for the sake of giving a Christmas gift. It’s frustrating because often times, my children or myself are the recipients.
It feels bad receiving a gift knowing a bill wasn’t paid because of it. It’s also hard watching my kids be spoiled with things that even my husband and I aren’t willing to purchase — all for the sake of Christmas.
To me, Christmas is about Jesus and that’s the only reason for the season. I couldn’t care less if I have a gift under the tree and I’m so cheap that I spend an entire year searching for the most affordable gifts I can purchase for my kids.
There are some things in my closet for this upcoming Christmas that I purchased in January for my son, whom I was still pregnant with at the time I bought it. I paid next to nothing on those items.
I regularly shop the clearance areas of Target, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Ross, for cheap toys and books. I’ll also search online big stores like Toys R Us. If I find something worthy of being bought, I’ll purchase it through Ebates or MyPoints so I can get money back on top of my clearance savings. So, basically I’ve been finished with my kid’s Christmas shopping for months now!
I was asked whether I was buying gifts for anyone else this year and my answer was a simple no. It went above some folks heads how I could consider not even purchasing a gift for my mother; however, I explained that if I have to feel stressed or obligated to purchase a Christmas gift; it feels better to not even do it. Honestly, I just want to spend a quiet Christmas at home with those I love, enjoy some good food, and be happy to have lived to see another Christmas.
I do not want a house full of open gifts that are going to be forgotten about no later than New Year’s Eve. I’ve even written a great post being featured over at a Budget Blonde today on how many kids suffer from decision paralysis after receiving an onslaught of half wanted gifts every year. I further elaborated on 5 amazing financial gifts you can give your children this holiday instead of a bunch of toys.
All of this to say, I am extremely relaxed this holiday season. My bank account isn’t hungry for cash because I’ve spent all of my money trying to live up to a facade this holiday. My credit cards aren’t going to vomit interest onto my statement next month because they’ve been overfed with charges for toys my kids don’t need.
I am ready to enjoy this holiday debt free and stress-free. Just in case you’re ready to do the same, I’ve come up with a nice list of how you can feel just as blessed and stress-free this holiday season too.
1. Stop saying yes to everyone and say yes to those in need.
I’m not knocking those who buy gifts. If you’ve got it and you’re full of holiday cheer, giving gifts is not a bad thing. I just don’t like to see people giving things when they really should be paying the power bill. Seriously, I don’t need anymore Bath and Body Works at the expense of one not having their lights on next week.
If you have it to give, consider those in need. There are so many families dealing with tough situations this holiday season. In my very own city, this past October we experienced a 1,000-year flood. Families that live less than 15 minutes away are still affected by this natural disaster. It’s hard for me to focus on buying a bunch of stuff for someone who doesn’t need it when clearly a need exists in my own backyard.
2. If you have kids, focus on the three gift rule of thumb – something needed, something wanted, something to read. While you’re at it, encourage kids to choose something to give away to another kid in need this Christmas.
I’ve personally never did the three gift rule; however, it is a great idea! Last year, we cut down on a lot of things we purchase for my daughter because we realized she didn’t play with many of the things she was given after Christmas. Even though we cut back, we still realized she had too much stuff after the holidays because she destroyed most of her new belongings.
We purchased a cute kitchen set for her because she loves pretending to cook. By February, she’d torn the doors off of the refrigerator and completely demolished the stove. We paid a little over $100 bucks for that thing! My mother purchased her a tablet for Christmas and she broke the screen on it. After returning it for another one, she did it again!
I’ve learned when it comes to my daughter that less is more! She enjoys coloring and writing in notebooks more than she does a bunch of toys. As a matter of fact, I’ve brought many notebooks this year because she’s always using them. Needless to say, a simple Christmas that focuses on a few things she likes is better than a bunch of stuff she’ll only enjoy for a short period.
3. Focus on quality time, not price or the number of gifts received.
As I mentioned above, I simply want to spend time with those I love this year. If I don’t receive one gift this year I’ll still be happy. I will be happy just having a packed house full of laughter and good food. This year we are hosting Christmas since it’s our son’s first Christmas. I’ll be doing a lot of cooking so I’ll reduce my stress levels by having our guest bring some of their favorite dishes.
4. Simplify menus by doing a holiday potluck or a non-traditional meal idea or finger foods.
I saw an interesting post on Instagram that a celebrity made this past Thanksgiving. Instead of having a traditional Thanksgiving meal, his mother put a little spin on things. Instead of turkey, she served her family turkey tacos. They looked delicious! Also, she took an untraditional route with the collard greens and served collard green enchiladas. My mouth seriously watered at the thought and I can only imagine how great their meal tasted.
You don’t have to prepare traditional foods if cooking a turkey for 4 or 5 hours stresses you out. If your family likes Mexican or another type of food, put a fun spin on it like the mom mentioned above. Your family may enjoy it and you may be creating a wonderful tradition. If all else fails, stick with simple finger foods.
5. Set a gift giving budget, then freeze your credit cards. If you don’t have enough in your budget, reconsider the gift, look for a cheaper price, or cut down the number of gifts given.
Do you really have to purchase all of your co-workers a gift? Does your child have to give every classmate an expensive gift? One thing I did when I worked in the office was I took a bag of candy to work and a box of cards. All of my co-workers received a piece of candy and a card. It was simple and it cost me less than $10 to do this. I was able to spread holiday cheer and I didn’t go into debt doing it.
6. Don’t go shopping in stores, shop online and avoid sneaky store sales tactics.
I can assure you that I’ve fallen for the Black Friday sales tactics plenty of times. You plan to go to the store to only purchase those dvd’s for $3 and you come out of Wal-mart with towels, a new crock pot, a handheld vacuum, and some slippers for you and all the women in your family.
Trust me, don’t do it!
You can save more money by going directly online and purchasing through Ebates. Wal-mart and Target know something most of us don’t. They know that they can offer these super deals to get you into their store because once you’re in there, you’re going to purchase way more than you intended. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
7. Do something special for yourself.
8. Cut your to-do list in half by delegating.
You don’t have to put the tree up and clean the house on top of all of your other normal household duties. Delegate some of that stuff to your kids, husband, or other loved ones. I’m sure they won’t mind helping if only you’ll ask.
9. Send an e-card instead of mailing cards.
10. Keep decor simple and to the point.
This year it was time for a new tree and I wanted new decorations, so I kept it really simple. I made sure my tree was on sale and I scored beautiful decor half-priced from Hobby Lobby. Since these were considered “extra” expenses, I kept things to a minimum and just decorated a tree and added a snowman wreath to our door.
11. Start cooking ahead of time and purchase needed items throughout December instead of all of it the day before Christmas.
12. Create a simple holiday tradition. Throughout the year, we have popcorn/pizza night. During the holidays, we’ll watch a Christmas movie and add a board game for extra fun.
Does your town have a Christmas light show? Parade? There are plenty of traditions you can start this year that will leave your kids excited every year. My daughter loves our popcorn/pizza and movie nights. This year I may even add a little fun to it by getting us all some Christmas pajamas to go along with our fun filled night.
13. Sell some old toys your kids no longer play with at a children’s consignment store or online for extra holiday funds to contribute to this Christmas. Same goes for clothes.
14. In lieu of a holiday party, volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter with a group.
I read this idea on one of my favorite finance websites. It’s such a simple and incredible idea that I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. If your family agrees to it ahead of time, instead of hosting a holiday party, go to a local area in need and lend your helping hand. This principle can also apply to gifts. Instead of purchasing each other gifts, adopt a family in need and purchase gifts for them instead.
This list isn’t all-inclusive, as I’m sure there are many other ideas one could think of on how to have a debt free, stress-free holiday season. In case I’ve missed some, share with the rest of us.