Christmas carols are playing, there’s a nip in the air (well, except here in Florida where it still feels like summer), the scent of gingerbread and eggnog fills the air, and lights are twinkling on trees and houses everywhere. There’s no denying that Christmas is in the air. But the tight budgets that many of us are on this year can put a real damper on Christmas spirit and cause a lot of stress, wondering how we’re going to be able to shop with limited finances. I’ve compiled a few tips below to help take the stress out of holiday shopping and to stretch that holiday dollar just a little bit further.
1. Make sure your children understand that the holidays are not about getting everything they want. Explain the deeper meaning of Christmas/Chanukah/whatever you celebrate. Take them to, and participate in, holiday activities at your place of worship so they understand just why you’re celebrating.
2. Help stop the “I wants” by bringing home the fact that many people in this world (and country) have very little. Sign up to serve food at a shelter, collect donations for food drives, Toys for Tots, pack boxes for Samaritan’s Purse, or adopt a family to buy gifts for this season. Donate outgrown clothing and old toys to an organizations like Goodwill to help out families with less and to free up room for the new things your children will be getting.
3. Create a few more dollars in your budget by having a garage sale or listing outgrown items on eBay.
4. Look for sales, cut coupons, search for coupon codes online, take advantage of free shipping. Instead of shopping at specialty stores, look for the same items at places like Target where you can usually find things for less.
5. Involve the family in making homemade goodies for friends and family. You don’t have to spend a lot to show you care. A box full of baked treats is always appreciated. And grandparents love homemade ornaments, pictures, etc. from the grandkids.
6. Do a swap. If budgets are tight this year, talk to your family about drawing names and exchanging with one person instead of buying for everyone. This can be especially helpful if you have a large family. Another idea some of my friends employ is to buy only for the children and not the adults in the family.
7. It’s a little late to start saving this year, but it’s never too late to begin preparing for next year. Set a budget and create a Christmas fund, saving a little money from each check throughout the year so you won’t have to wonder how you’ll afford your shopping come the holidays.
How do you stretch a dollar? What are your best tips for stretching your holiday budget?