Emily Wyckoff

Holidays on a budget – yes, it can still be a merry Christmas

Christmas on a budget….Hhhmmm….Three young kids, two big families, six school teachers, one piano teacher, lots of friends – help! Can I make this happen? We have always had a theoretical holiday budget but I have always managed to exceed our anticipated spending which would make for a very lean January – lots of soup and staying in. This year money is especially tight so I have no option of extra spending. Here is my plan on how to have a great holiday and stay within our means:

Make a budget and stick to it. Tonight my husband and I sat down and listed everyone we buy gifts for and assigned a dollar amount for each. We shook on the list and I promised to stick to it.  To ensure this, I am going to hand over my credit card and only use cash – if I buy online, I will take the money out of the envelope and set it aside.

Lists. I will make sure my kids write their letters to Santa, and I will share with family members too, making sure no one buys duplicate gifts. I am going to ask my husband to make a list – and I will too – that we will share with family members.

Think ahead. There is nothing like receiving a thoughtful gift, and giving one is even more satisfying. I will take some time to really think about what each person on our list would love – and write it down. I have spent past years wandering the mall with no real plan and come home with my holiday shopping done, yet haphazardly and usually in excess. I am going to first think of the gift, then pick the best retailer and shop accordingly, with list in hand.

Don’t wait until the last minute, especially with personalized gifts or gifts that are being shipped. Some of the best gifts are personalized or photo-related – I make a calendar with photos of my kids for grandparents and other relatives each year (I go to Kodak.com) and it takes some time- both to create online (choose photos, layout, etc.) and ship. Another great gift is pads of paper with a friend’s or family member’s name on top (Lillian Vernon is very reasonable with lots of options) – if I do it ahead, no need for rush shipping and now there are lots of good deals online.

Home made gifts – fun to make and give. My kids love making gifts for friends and family and especially teachers (see my blog from last year on ideas for home made teacher gifts). Cookies in a cute tin, home made candy in a plastic bag with a ribbon, paintings the kids have done mounted on foam core are just a few of the home made gifts that we have made in the past.

Secret Santas. This year my siblings, husband and I are picking names and buying a gift for just one person. We have set a dollar limit and it has to be a secret until Christmas day – this is great because we all have time to really put thought into the gift and a little intrigue is always fun.

Skip the gifts and spend time together. Some of my friends with whom I usually exchange gifts and I have decided that in lieu of gifts, we will get together with our kids and make Chirstmas cookies, go ice skating, or for the friend without kids, catch up over a glass of wine.

No personal shopping. I am infamous for sneaking personal purchases in on my holiday shopping – i.e, one for Aunt Susan, one for me. No more. I also feel the need to buy one new “holiday outfit” each year – this year I will shop in my closet for party wear.

How are you staying within your means this holiday season? Send in your tips!

13 Responses to “Holidays on a budget – yes, it can still be a merry Christmas”

  1. Alyssa says:

    We have a large family with lots of sides we decided rather than buying gifts for one side we are going to all stay in a hotel and have a potluck dinner. It will give us time to catch up with out buying gifts.Rather then buying for 20 plus people we will pay for a night in a nice hotel that is also local! We will also not have to have money to eat out because we are all bringing a dish or two.!

  2. c&m'smom says:

    Does anyone have any ideas for low cost Christmas gifts that kids can help with? I have a daycare and would like to help the kids make a Christmas gift for their working Mom’s & Dad’s.

  3. Heather says:

    Does anyone know who the manufacturer of the Garbage Bowl is? While my 10 year old was putting away dishes it slipped out of her hand and broke into a ton of pieces. I checked on the RR website for someone to contact with no avail. I am unable to purchase one locally (we are stationed overseas with the US military) and was not sure if I wanted to purchase another; I have four kiddos and chances are the next one may be dropped as well.

  4. Plan B Mom says:

    c&m’s mom – i will have a blog coming soon with some great ideas for home made gifts kids can make for moms, dads and family.

  5. Mama Lee says:

    Heather – Not sure of the manufacturer, but I have found RR’s Garbage Bowl on the Kohls and Elder-Beerman websites. Might be worth a look!

  6. Val says:

    Kids from age 4 and up can make frames by cutting a frame out of cardboard then gluing collages of puzzle pieces on the frame. Spray finished frame with silver metallic paint. The final product is really sharp looking, and it’s almost free to make. Sometimes, I buy ugly dollar store frames and spruce them up this way.

  7. JF says:

    One of my favorites I received from my 2 year old was a gold non-breakable ball ornament with my sons hand print on it (they had them grab the bottom of the ball). The fingers then were given antlers and a red ribbon added for hanging. It is a precious gift that I get to see when we decorate the tree and I enjoy telling him that he made it when he was younger. I love having an ornament that he makes each year and the hand prints are fun to watch grow.

  8. JF says:

    Heather, I spent a few years in Guam as I was growing up so I know the military life and that it may be hard to find or get things shipped to you without the help of someone stateside. My recommendation is to find a weighty plastic bowl. I have found a couple that i like and they wont break and don’t want to move around on me. There are also tricks like a wet paper or fabric towel under any bowl (or cutting board) to make it less likely to move around a.k.a. fall and break. Hope this helps.

  9. Robin says:

    My family has had no much hardship the past 3 years that we are making alot of picture gifts. You could take a picture of each child and make a ornament out of them with colored paper or you could make a hand print on brown paper and add a ribbon and make it rudolph. We have used cotton balls to make snowman and we have really had a lot of success with these gift ideas…Merry Christmas…

  10. Jessica says:

    c&m’s mom: I watch this group of kids and their ages range from 6-9. Last year for christmas we made coupon books for the parents. The materials were very cheap, we used construction paper, markers and ribon(to hold it all together). The kids really enjoyed it. They put things like I will help mommy/daddy _______. Or I will make my bed or help with my sibling. Happy Holidays!

  11. Kathi T says:

    A friend of mine, who comes from a very large, now grown family, puts every ones name in a hat and only buys for the person they got from the hat. They have a large party and everyone gets together and has a wonderful Christmas time eating and just being together. She is one of 13 children!

  12. Heather says:

    Another idea for a large family is to play a game. Each girl buys one girl gift and each male buys one male gift. Set an agreed spending limit for the gift. Girls first, put numbers in a hat/bowl, and each lady pick one out. Whatever number they get is the number they get to pick their gift. Number 1 picks a girl gift. Number 2′s option is either to steal the gift number 1 picked or to grab one from under the tree. If they choose to steal number 1′s gift, number 1 picks another gift from under the tree. (You can’t immediately steal back from the person who stole from you.) Then, number three can steal from number one or two or pick one from under the tree. If number 3 stole from number 2, number 2 could steal from number 1, number 1 could steal from number 3, number 3 could steal from number 2, and so on. Once them three have a gift in hand, it is number 4′s turn. That keeps going till all the girls have a gift. Then, its the male’s turn. It’s a fun way to spend time with the family, it’s cheap, and everyone ends up with a gift.

  13. Michelle says:

    When it’s a year everyone gets together or a year that there are lots of “new” adult additions to the family we pick a theme for gifts ie, movies, board games, ornaments and a $ amount. Each person that wants to be involved in the gift exchange brings one item following the theme and the amount. We then do a chinese gift exchange like Heather explained. We love the game year…it gives us lots of new games to play after supper!

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