A guest post by AndrÃ©ia
So, there is Christmas just around the corner and the dreaded shopping season is on its way again. Some will start shopping now and not stop until Christmas day. Some will not shop at all. Some will spend way more than they can and have a January and other months filled with angst at unpaid debts and regrets at impulse shopping.
One way to celebrate Christmas, for those of us who celebrate it, is to not buy gifts at all. But we want to celebrate the season and gifting one another seems a very warm way to do it. But the gifting has to have meaning and be useful. Otherwise we end up cluttering up the homes others we love and taking clutter home in return. And by clutter I donâ€™t mean bad stuff, or ugly stuff, but stuff that will lay unused and forgotten in our house, thus beingâ€¦clutter.
Since I became the â€œMaster of my own Houseâ€ (aka. I am the one who does ALL the Christmas shopping, lol) I have designed strategies and ways to get what me and my family needs and come January, be debt free.
Here are my strategies:
First, foremost and always: Have a budget! That means, set aside money to spend and donâ€™t go over it, with no excuses.
Select who you are gifting: Most of us have a network of contacts, that being at work, at your childrenâ€™s school, at church or whatever other activity you are involved throughout the year. There is not enough money to gift every one of those people. If you want to gift those who are not close to you, but deserve some recognition, make a list of relevance (this list can include your childâ€™s teacher, a monitor, a church member who made a difference to youâ€¦) and gift them with small, consumable things. Sometimes a small consumable item is more appreciated. Set aside a small amount of money (around 15% of your budget should be enough) to buy a bunch of nice little consumable for some people you appreciate, but are not close. A nice soap, a different sweet, something small, cheap, but nice, will show appreciation and not make you sink in debt. If you can buy local handcrafted consumables, it helps your local community and the prices are often modest.
Make a list of people you exchange gifts with: We have family members that gift us and to which we gift in return. Listing then is a good way to keep track of how many gifts you are buying and to allocate how much money you are spending on each person, within the budget you set aside. I suggest you only gift those people who are really important to you, and with whom you have a tradition of spending Christmas with.
Ask what the person wants to get at Christmas: Now that you have established a budget (how much you have and how much you are going to spend on each person), ask the person what he or she is needing, WITHIN THE BUDDGET YOU SET ASIDE TO SPEND ON HIM/HER. If you are gifting a child, it is always great to ask the parent what the child needs/wants, rather than buy a larger than life toy (believe me, I knowâ€¦. â€œsighâ€â€¦). It may sound crude to say â€œlook, my budget for you is â€œxâ€ dollars, what would you like for that?â€, but it does save some grief and money, and you might be very surprised with the answer. Some of you might say that takes all the joy of Christmas giving, because there is no â€œsurpriseâ€. Once I wrote this on a comment in this blog and was criticized by another reader. Well, let me tell you, I rather someone I love spends their money on something I need or want, than on something they want to â€œsurpriseâ€ me with and I might or might not like, or is useless, or whatever other reason makes itâ€¦clutter. Seems a waste of money to me. Only time I did like the surprise was when I got my Star Wars box of movies. But my husband was sure I would love it. And he was right.
Do a Secret Santa, or suggest it to the family: According to the amount of Family members you have, it might be impossible to gift everyone nicely. If you have a Christmas party for 30 people, plus your family, it gets heavy on the budgetâ€¦ A secret Santa will allow you to buy less gifts but nicer ones. Again, it is important to set a minimum amount spent and a maximum amount. The difference should be no more than 15% from the minimal and maximal amount. And encourage everyone to a little sleuth work to find out what their recipient would really like. You could even create a closed FB page, so everyone can list what they want, WITHIN THE BUDGET, SO THERE ARE NO FRUSTRATED GIFT GETTERS or givers for that matter. And tell the avaricious relatives that should they gift below the minimal they will have to reimburse the aggrieved party (well, maybe not, but it is a good suggestion nonethelessâ€¦LOL).
And last but by no means least ~ Buy in cash or debit card: This is the best way to not over spend. No credit cards, just hard cash. By paying with money you have, not only will you be more aware of what you are spending, but you also follow the budget because once the money is gone, it is gone. If you are already in debt, consider downsizing your Christmas gift list and budget and instead gift yourself with a debt free Christmas this year, and maybe there might even be money left over to pay of some of your debt as well.
Hope my suggestions help and enjoy your Christmas!
It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when Iâ€™m slow