Living on a budget-My $400 Christmas Challenge

Lately there seem to have been a few posts here and there about frugal holidays, living on a budget ,planning ahead, gift closets and the like.  Some folks seem to think these discussions are quite un Christmas like. My general philosophy of life goes something like this: If I think a bit here and plan a bit there, I can have a much nicer holiday, with less money spent.  I don’t see this as grinchlike, I see it as enabling me to enjoy all the aspects of Christmas (including and especially the religious ones).

The title above is my version of a challenge made over at the Saved Quarter where she buys gifts for her family for $100.00.  While I think that’s admirable, I have older kids, have more giftes, and host a holiday dinner for almost twenty on the big day. My original intention was to allow myself $500, which what another Blogger  has done.  I decided instead to challenge myself to meet the $400 mark, and not to shoot myself if the food goes beyond that amount.

Living on a budget

Living On A Budget

Let me say here and now……..We don’t gift because we feel pressures, or because we want to keep up with the proverbial Jonses. I realize that for many families forgoing gifts seems the correct thing to do, for philosophical or financial reasons. In my extended family we opt for small gifts that are on a wants or needs list which we share throughout the year. Gift giving is just one part of Christmas and does not displace Christmas travel, religous celebration of the season, or helping others. It’s a part of our holiday that we choose to keep

Who do I give to?  I have two adult children (one a college student).  I have four nieces and nephews ranging from two years to college age.  Add to that 13 siblings and in laws , and you have a total of seventeen family gifts plus my two kids. Then there are a couple groups where token gifts are shared, and some holiday donations.  While my greater family has not decided to forgo gifts, we all have different financial abilities and gifts will be varied and primarily items that are needed.

How do I plan to manage all this?

  • I make some gifts.  While I realize not every family welcomes homemade gifts, I think some homemade gifts deserve to be a portion of every holiday. Homemade gifts do not necessarily have to be “crafty gifts”.  My handmade gifts will include a t-shirt memento quilt for my daughter, personalized memory pages and photos for my in laws and my children, barbecue and sundae sauce sets, canned by me.Many of those “nominal” gifts will be cookie baskets. I will figure items of food purchased into my final cost, but not the cost of items I already have on hand, for this discussion.

  • I’ll earn gift cards through (normal) debit card spending and by doing surveys and searches through sites such as swagbucks. Many (but not all) of these will be Amazon gift cards, and will be put towards books and kindle gift cards. So far I have almost a hundred dollars worth of these.

  • I’ll take advantage of deals and discounts. The $20.00 that got me $45.00 worth of The Body Shop gift sets will provide me three gifts (disclaimer:  My family members like bath and body items).  Other deals I’ve gotten in the past year include a $30.00 klutz gift certificate for $10.00 and a $50 Sharper Image gift certificate for $20.

  • While I won’t be taking advantage of the used market for gifting this year (with the possible exceptions of used “war” video games since my son wins every battle in about 24 hours), I will be “thrifting” for gifts in terms of components. Those four jars of gourmet barbecue sauce will need packaging and twenty five cent baskets and the like will be part of my holiday preparations. If I could buy family member clothing, or if my children still played with toys, the used market would be a much larger part of my gift shopping. I once got a full bucket of Lego’s for two bucks, and have purchased real power rangers and barbie sets for pennies.

  • I’ll be giving (and more importantly encourages others to give) gifts of service or self. In another life I used to give massages, and surely one of my gives will be a massage. In my family, my brothers inherited the gourmet gene from my mom (I like to cook but am not one of those people who can make folks cry when they taste anything but my baking). My brother is more than welcome to cook a gourmet multi course meal of his choosing instead of getting me a gift, and any handy relatives who want to give me the gift of time or a repair would be appreciated.

  • While I have yet to find a way to get prime rib on sale, many of the ingredients of my Christmas dinner and baking can be bought at lost leader prices and stocked. My immediate Christmas shopping will include the meat and produce only.
  • I donate the same way as I shop for family members.Last year, ToysRus had a sale where all of the “younger” Milton Bradley games were $3.00.  They also offered a $10 gift card when you spent $30.00 and had a $2.00 rebate on every game. The games were put away to give to the local shelter, the money came back to me, and the gift card will be given to the sister-in-law expecting her second child (and me at sixty-whoda thought it).

In my defence, I should step in here  and assure readers that I don’t buy or gift the following: junk, unwanted stuff, or “cheap” items. I know living on a budget and making a challenge is difficult. I know family members well, and have a good idea of what they like (or more often need).

My in laws may never need anything again, but love to eat out. They will get a restaurant gift certificate earned with rewards. Nieces and nephews and family members with Kindles will get gift certificates for Kindle time. The girly niece who collects purses will get a Vera Bradley wristlet, bought on sale with the free $25.00 that I got from VB for being an email subscriber on my birthday.

I’ve already purchased many items and put them in that gift closet of mine.  While I’m unsure that I know how to make a table showing gifts and money spent here on blogger, I promise to begin listing money spent and items purchased, soon. Meanwhile, look for some easy and handmade gifts that anyone can make as I begin a “prepare for Christmas” series soon.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to choose Christmas Gifts?

While my greater family has not decided to forgo gifts, we all have different financial abilities and gifts will be varied and primarily items that are needed.

What should I put on my Christmas list cheap?

Crafty gifts, Thrifted gifts,gift cards, shop from Local store.

Are gifts necessary?

Gift giving is just one part of Christmas and does not displace Christmas travel, religous celebration of the season, or helping others.

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