I know, I know — it’s not even October, and we’ve suddenly gone all Christmas-y on you here at Life Your Way. But bear with me. You see, I think the thing that makes Christmas so stressful for so many people is the lack of planning. We try to stuff too much into four very stressful weeks, and suddenly there’s no time to embrace the wonder and joy of the season.
By taking small steps now to get ready, you’re in a much better place to enjoy it all. Not just to work hard so your kids enjoy it or to knuckle your way through it, but to actually, truly enjoy it.
Going into debt for Christmas gifts can make this stress last even longer as you, literally, pay for it for months to come, and while I’m not philosophically opposed to all debt, I’m not a fan of Christmas debt at all.
Rather than counting on your credit cards to carry you through, here are some ways you can start stretching your Christmas budget now:
This should maybe go without saying, but since it’s one of our hallmarks here at Life Your Way, I’ll go ahead and say it anyway:
Christmas has become a big to-do, and while I love giving — and receiving — gifts, it’s okay to scale back. Look for small, meaningful gifts rather than big, expensive ones. Give less and let each one be more meaningful because of it rather than having so many gifts that they just get tossed aside in anticipation of the next.
When my husband and I first got married, that first Christmas was a bit of a wakeup call. I had always been, well, spoiled, and that year the number of gifts I received dropped significantly. I got over it, of course, and to be honest, I don’t even have anything on my wishlist this Christmas, but the point is that our job as parents is to raise adults, and by lavishing them with gifts, we may actually be setting them up with unrealistic expectations that may lead to disappointment later on.
Give handmade & baked gifts.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you need to be Scrooge-like and stop giving gifts altogether, and another way to stretch your budget is through handmade gifts and baked goods.
The beauty of the internet is that DIY tutorials abound, and if it’s inspiration you’re after, sites like Pinterest and our 101 Days of Christmas series are full of ideas as well. Yes, it takes more time and effort and forethought to make rather than purchase gifts, but handmade gifts become the most treasured, and baked goods are always a hit!
Create a sinking fund.
Even if you don’t have much money set aside for Christmas gifts and you’re not sure where it’s going to come from, set up a sinking fund and begin squirreling away whatever money you can.
Substitute a frugal meal like beans and rice in place of a meat and potatoes meal each week and bank the savings. Give up your weekly latte, pack PB&J rather than running through the drive-through, etc. By saving dollars and cents here and there — and then transferring those savings to your sinking fund — you may be able to come up with more money over the next two-and-a-half months than you think!
Sell what you can.
Do you have clothes you could take to consignment, old electronics you could sell on eBay or books you could list on Amazon? Look around your house and begin decluttering — selling what is worth selling and donating the rest. Not only will you end up with some extra cash for your Christmas budget, but your house will be less cluttered as well!
Always search for discounts and coupon codes.
I’ve said it before, and I can’t emphasize it enough: when shopping online, always search for coupon codes before checking out, and look for store sales and discounts before heading to the store as well. Sites like Trimback.com (a Life Your Way sponsor) list coupon codes for hundred of retailers, and you can easily search for the latest to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.
At Jungle Deals & Steals, my mom and I have already begun the search for great deals from Amazon.com for Christmas, as has Shannon at For the Mommas.
On other deal sites, like Deal Seeking Mom, you’ll find deals and specials, not just for grocery stores, but also for department stores and other retailers. Timing is everything, and if you watch for sales and special promotions, you can save significantly!
Sign up for Swagbucks.
If you’re not yet signed up with Swag Bucks, it’s not too late to get started. When you use the Swag Bucks search engine, you’ll earn bucks that can be redeemed for a variety of prizes…including Amazon.com gift cards. They also offer a variety of games, videos and special promotions to help you earn additional Swag Bucks and, yes, you’ll earn if people register under your account as well. Right now, you can get 100 Swag Bucks when you register with code BIGTIMEBUCKS.
Christimas shopping can be overwhelming if you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for it, but it’s not too late to take small steps toward a less stressful Christmas!
How do you stretch your Christmas budget?