I heard my first Christmas song today on the radio today…
No I am not joking.
The second I heard the first note of the song, I rolled my eyes and turned the station. It can’t be Christmas music time yet. But just hearing the first few notes was like an alarm clock to my brain…
Somewhere in my 30’s Christmas has become less of the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and more like “The Most Stressful time of the Year.” Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas! I love watching the magic on my kids’ faces when they sit on Santa’s lap or run down the stairs on Christmas morning.
But every year as I’m picking up the tornado of wrapping paper left behind from Christmas morning, or opening my credit card bills in January, I always say the same thing…
Well, it’s time to make “next year,” this year!
Most of my stress over the holiday comes from the sheer cost of Christmas and the absolute lack of time I always seem to have to get everything accomplished. Is it possible to actually have a stress-free and debt-free Christmas?
Of course it is! It just takes a little planning and imagination. A few simple changes and before no time you’ll welcome the sound of Christmas music in your car…okay, let’s not get crazy as it’s not even Thanksgiving yet so maybe you’ll just slightly roll your eyes when Christmas music is played in November.
Giddy up, Giddy up, Giddy up let’s go!
I know you hear this a lot, but the best piece of advice you can get to make Christmas shopping stress-free and debt free is to START EARLY. Set a weekly goal of buying a few presents every week. The way I see it, I can miss out on a few mornings of Pumpkin Spice Latte’s or Target trips and use that money for Christmas presents. If you start now and buy two presents a week you can buy 14 presents before the week before Christmas. Maybe it’s a set amount you want to set aside or spend each week. For example, if you spend or set aside $50.00 a week, there is $350.00 of presents that did not go on your credit card. It’s no lie that presents get more expensive the closer you get to Christmas, so save some money and start now.
He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!
Resist the urge to let your credit cards bear your Christmas burdens. Set a budget, and be good and stick with it! The average person spends $271.00 per child on Christmas. Whether you are below that or above that, set a budget for your Christmas shopping, one that you can do, without breaking the bank. There are several apps for your phone that will help you in keeping track of your Christmas budget. My favorite app is The Christmas List (available on iTunes for $1.99). This app allows you to keep track of the people you need to shop for and how much you have eaten away at that precious Christmas budget. Best part, this app is very user friendly and password protected.
Make a list and check it twice
The best way to stress-free (and more importantly debt free) Christmas shopping is planning. Sit down and plan out who you need to buy for this Christmas. This will help you get a plan for knocking out your Christmas shopping early. Need to buy for friends, teachers, or co-workers? You never know when you will be walking through a local store and see little trinkets that work perfectly. Heading to get your hair done? Check out what little pampering items might be around for all the busy moms in your life. If you plan out your shopping list early, it will help you attack the list quicker and more efficiently.
The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…
Okay, it is fun to get out and about in your front wheel drive sleigh, but let’s be honest, it is not fun to go Christmas shopping in crowds. Want to avoid the stress of shopping with pretty much every person in the Quad Cities? Switch to online shopping! I find that online shopping is a huge budget saver. If you add all the items in your cart and find out it’s over your planned budget you can easily just dump something from your cart. This of course is not so easy to do standing in line at a store with impatient people waiting behind you. Online shopping also helps you if you, like me, are an impulse shopper. I mean you can’t walk away from those cute Reindeer slippers for your daughter…which in reality she will never wear…can you?
Another great part about online shopping is that you can find those unique gifts that you always want to give but can never seem to find. Check out a few of my favorite sites for wonderful and unique Christmas presents: Uncommon Goods and Personal Creations .
What child is this?
If you are like me, you try to be as fair to your children as you can be when it comes to Christmas Presents. But, it never fails, I’ll grab something here and there for my kids and then the week before Christmas I’ll panic realizing that my pile of presents for my younger son is double the size of the pile for my oldest. So, keep a list to keep track of the items you are buying for your kids.
In the meadow we can build a snowman – and pretend that he is Parson Brown.
The key to a budget friendly Christmas is using your imagination and getting creative. Start a tradition in your house that instead of a free-for-all at Christmas you are going to give them “Something they WANT, Something they NEED, something they WEAR, something they READ”. [Check out this website for ideas in implementing this system in your home]. Got older kids? Scrap the idea of presents this year and instead use the money for a fun Christmas Break trip. There are plenty of low budget locations that will get you out of the Iowa winter and into some sun! Instead of buying presents for all your friends in your women’s group, host a party for them at your house and serve appetizers and have each friend bring a bottle of their favorite wine for a wine tasting party. Bake presents for neighbors and your postman, or people that help you. Need inspiration? Just check out Pinterest.
Trim more than just the Christmas Tree.
Look for ways to trim your Christmas expenses. Send a holiday e-card, instead of paper cards. Look for places that offer free visits with Santa Claus instead of places the charge for pricey pictures. Take your own photographs for your Christmas cards. Decorate on the cheap and use homemade Christmas pictures and accessories from your kids instead of pricey decorations.
Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you?
Don’t ever forget what the Grinch learned at the end of the movie: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store…maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more”. Memories are a lot more important than gifts. Don’t get so caught up in the commercialism of Christmas that you forget to take time to build a snowman with the kids, go sledding, watch classic holiday movies, do charity work or donate, and just enjoy being together as a family.
So what are you best tips to get ready for a stress-free and debt-free holiday season? Please share!