The holidays can bring wonderful memories of family and friends, of the wonderful gifts given and received in the past. The holidays can also bring financial stress especially with the pressure of giving that perfect gift.
So what is the perfect gift? It can mean different things to different people. I believe the perfect gift is simply a gift that shows someone how much they mean to you and at the same time celebrates your relationship with that person. What we may forget while shopping during the holiday season is that it’s not about how much you spend on a gift, but that we consider the thought behind the gift as well as our finances. Don’t let giving the perfect gift affect your family’s budget in the process. You may justify the spending by saying you are a giving person and that’s the point of the season– to give to others. The recipients of our gifts most likely won’t want to see you break your family’s budget in the gift-giving process.
So, take a tip from Santa Claus - make a list and check it twice. Consider these money-saving tips this Christmas season on the quest for the perfect gift.
Budget everything - gifts for family, friends, co-workers, teachers, parties at school & work; decorations, gift-wrapping items; holiday food for family and work; Christmas cards and stamps; special holiday clothing; phone calls; travel; and donations.
Get the children involved on the budget. Explore ways to cut down, not out. Staying within the holiday budget also can help children develop a sense of good money management. If our Christmas spending is more than we can and should afford, their expectations are often more than we can afford. Teach children that Christmas is more than getting gifts — it is sharing, spending time together and giving to those less fortunate.
Children can bring a plate of goodies to a shut-in or older person who might be more pleased with the visit and homemade gift than if it were purchased in a store.
For family fun, play games or rent videos for a fun, economical, stress-free evening.
Be aware of shopping with your emotions. If you find yourself in the store with an expensive gift in your hand, ask yourself why you are considering the purchase. Are you letting the holiday spirit or holiday crowds tempt you to buy things you normally wouldn’t? Is it something you can afford? Will it be creating or adding to any credit card debt?
Overspending could hurt your budget if you are buying a gift out of guilt to compensate for not visiting someone or to win their hearts.
Draw names and stick to the spending limit set for large groups.
Consider buying a household gift (i.e. gift basket with a little something for everyone) vs. individual gifts for extended families.
Elaborate meals can be changed to potluck. Create a soup, cookie or tea party by having guests bring the dish along with the recipe to create a homemade holiday cookbook for your group.
Forego lavish decorations. Children love to make things; give them the responsibility of decorating the home. Have a decoration-making party.
Purchase gift wrapping materials after the holidays on sale for next year. If storage is an issue, then make a list before shopping for the exact size boxes or gift bags you need so you don’t overspend.
Get ahead on next year’s holiday budget by keeping all receipts. Then when the holidays are over, make a list of everything you actually spent money on. This will help you to create a more realistic budget for next year.
And lastly, learn to say “No” to yourself on excess spending. Family and friends will be just as happy with the amount you budgeted because it came from you.