Most people start planning Christmas gift giving ideas in November (well, I do anyway!). And some people put things on layaway or even the credit card… We don’t think there is anything wrong with that kind of mentality, but in our house if we can’t afford it we can’t have it. And we also try to have a more subdued Christmas present style (read about our Christmas present plan here). But we understand that giving (gifts) is a big part and joy of the season for lots of people. So here are our suggestions for having a No Debt Christmas.
Tip 1: Always set a limit (whether that is per person or total…we know the baby doesn’t care if you spent $50 on a bike for little Johnny, but Johnny may care that Suzy got an e-reader…you get the idea). I always set the limit in total because my kids may like four small gifts while dad may really only want one big ticket item. And we never set a limit that is outside our income/expense savings.
Tip 2: You can start saving earlier in the year. Try cutting out the expense of one meal a month (say from the eating out expense category) and putting the money you would have spent on that meal in a savings account. If you typically spend $40 eating out at one meal, you just saved $440 (11 months). If you start saving even when school starts (Aug.) you can save $160 (4 months).
Tip 3: Put all your loose change to the Christmas cause. Every time you use cash (I know, I hardly ever do anymore thanks to debit cards and technology), put the change you might get back in a jar just for Christmas expenses. It may seem like a small amount, but every penny counts! Literally!
Tip 4: Make your own gifts. I know this can be daunting for some, especially if they feel they are not crafty or handy. But really people will love whatever you give them. Last year I stenciled paint onto tea towels for my family (basically one gift for two people- a 2 for 1!). So instead of getting my sister and her husband individual gifts they got the tea towels I made for their family. I did the same for my grandparents and parents.
Tip 5: I really hate them, but in order to stay out of debt, you can always give coupons for your service/self. I don’t know if people actually use them once you give them that little packet that says “one free dishwashing service” etc. But, I’m sure one free babysitting coupon would be a welcomed gift to the brother or sister of yours who has 5 kids (like me!).
Tip 6: Go thrift shopping or consignment shopping. We know some people on your gift list won’t appreciate the history and unique story behind a used object, but others might not mind at all. I refuse to pay retail price for anything. I always look for coupons, sales, or gently used items for myself.
Tip 7: Try giving the gift of an experience. For a few Christmases our family has spent the money we would have spent on gifts and rented a beach house. Santa still came for the kids, but for all the adults the presence of family together in a rental house was present enough.
Tip 8: The old draw a name from the hat/ secret santa works. We did this last year; each sibling was assigned ONE sibling to get a gift for. I know one family who have their kids do this for each other and the hitch is they MUST MAKE the gift. So the gifts are always meaningful and personal.
Tip 9: Got old items around the house you don’t need anymore? Have a garage sale or put the items on ebay/ craigslist. I have heard of some people taking unused or broken jewelry to a gold buying shop for some quick cash at the holidays too. I have only ever done that once (not at Christmas, but getting rid of an ex boyfriends jewelry…very gratifying).
Tip 10: Make a list and check it twice (well stick to it anyway). Sticking to a list and not putting anything in your cart (online or in store) will help you save.
Tip 11: Have your family give the gift of service to organizations in the community versus making presents a huge ordeal. I took my nieces to the animal shelter last year with a gently used baby blanket in hand to donate to the shelter and asked them if they had any puppies who needed some cuddle time. The kids loved this and it was my gift to them (they don’t have pets and are young so it worked), and we donated to the shelter, which made it a lot easier to ask to just “play” with one of the puppies, and the puppy got some cuddle time. Win win win.