Monday, December 9, 2013

Tips for having an Affordable and Stress-free Christmas

Christmas gift giving can be very expensive. In fact, I was just lamenting to my husband last night that it seems this gift giving thing has gone completely out of control. It is all about STUFF!

But then I remember why I give gifts to my family and close friends, and it isn't really about stuff at all. I truly enjoy getting gifts for others. I love the process of thinking through what they will like, what I can give them to make their day and life a little happier.  Gift giving is one way I show them that I love them and spent time specifically thinking of them and what would make them happy.

So the gift giving goes on!
But how do we do it? Despite traveling a bit this year (Finland, Poland, the Carolinas, and Montana), my husband and I really are not rolling in money. We live very modestly and on a very tight budget in order to meet our debt goals (I'm excited to share our debt progress with you after the first of the year!). I am also working on a very limited basis, not full-time like I used to, so our income is lower than before.

I want to share with you how we make Christmas gift buying work for us despite our limited resources, and give you some of my ideas for keeping this time of the year as stress-free as possible. Because, after all, no matter how much gift buying and giving we do, this season is all about the immense gift our heavenly Father gave us in the form of his son Jesus Christ.

Affording Christmas
I learned a few years ago that waiting until December to feel the pinching of pennies is a terrible way to plan. So I began to implement a few different ideas:

-In January, write up a list of who you expect to be buying Christmas gifts for the coming Christmas and write a per-person budget. I keep mine as an Excel spreadsheet on the computer. I budget a little more for parents than my siblings and friends for example. Don't forget to include your husband and kids!

-January is also a good time to decide if you will make some homemade gifts for people to keep costs down. It is also the time to decide what those gifts will be and how you will spread the work load over the course of the year. Be sure to add the cost of supplies into your budget!

-Add up the total of how much you will be spending and add a "buffer" to it. I usually add an extra $50-$100 for unexpected finds and costs.

-Take the total and divide it by 11 or 12 to get your per month amount. Then, set up a direct deposit to put this money into your savings once per month on pay day so you will never be scrambling for money to pay for gifts. This also allows you to buy throughout the year and not cram it all in at the end.

**Many people rely on end-of-the-year work bonuses to pay for Christmas. Although this isn't a bad idea, especially if there is absolutely NO room in your budget to put aside money throughout the year, it can make Christmas more expensive, since you won't be able to shop sales throughout the year. I suggest putting the money aside monthly, and then using the bonus money to pay debts or buff up your savings at the end of the year.

What/How to Buy
Every person will be a little different in how much or how little they decide to splurge on their loved ones. I personally try to spend little, but get good deals so I can get a better gift for the price. This is why planning your Christmas budget ahead of time is so essential.

-Keep a running list of gift ideas. I keep one in my phone. When I hear someone mention something they like or need throughout the year, I make a note of it. People are usually surprised when I come up with the perfect gift for them months after they told me they wanted something. My sister-in-law and I were walking through the mall months ago and she pointed out a pair of gloves she really liked because they fit her hands (the whoes of being a tall women!). I quickly snapped a picture of the gloves when she wasn't looking, and bought them for her for Christmas. This keeps Christmas stress down and helps reduce cost because I know exactly what I am looking for. No aimless walking through the stores, and less time spent shopping. I also was able to wait until I found the gloves on sale.

-As you get a list of ideas, keep your eye out for opportunities to buy for cheap. Sales before Memorial Day and Labor Day are great times to find gifts. These sales are usually cheaper than anything you could find on Black Friday (which I never take part in). I also keep an eye on my mail and email for coupons. If I know I want to buy my sister some new baking pans for Christmas, I wait until Bed Bath and Beyond sends me a 20% off coupon in the mail or Kohls has a big weekend sale to buy them for her.

-Get an Ebates account. I have been telling you all about this for a long time, so I hope you were listening! This is a referral website. Essentially, you go to the webite, sign in, and then go to the online store you want to go to through their website. They have SO many stores so I always check there first. Just by doing that little step and then doing your online shopping like normal, you will receive between 1-20% cash back on your purchases. I get Ebates emails so I keep an eye on when you are giving special cash back bonuses, and I will shop online for Christmas presents during those times. They will then send you your cash back in check or paypal form.

But the biggest way to keep Christmas gift giving affordable??? Keeping it simple. I don't spend a lot of money on each person. My husband and I have already decided that for our own children we will do the 4 gift rule: 1 thing they want, 1 thing they need, 1 thing to wear, 1 thing to read

Ultimately Christmas is about the love of Christ, and showing that love to others. By decluttering my December of gift-buying mayhem, I can focus more on the true meaning of Christmas, and that makes all the difference


  1. Totally off topic but I really need some clarity on this subject. If some have sex before marriage, then gets saved and commits to staying pure. Does God still see their sexual sin and will not bless their future marriage? a youth Minster told my youth group that and well some of us are out of hope if it's true.

    God bless.

    1. Unfortunately your youth minister is terribly misguided and has misguided you in the process. We know that the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient for ALL sins. The act of accepting this sacrifice involves acknowledging and turning from one's sin (with the help of the Holy Spirit, this is lifelong journey). Once you have been washed clean by the blood of Christ, none of your sins count against you. Your name is now written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:11-15).
      Sexual sin is particularly hard because it is so "normal" these days, even in the church. What your youth minister may have been trying to convey was that sexual sin will affect you and your future spouse and marriage, which is true. I was not sexually pure before marriage, as I wasn't a Christian until I was 21, but I find that those experiences have had a negative impact on my marriage. But while sexual sin may have lasting effects, it is not unforgivable. Your youth minister would be hard pressed to show you a Bible verse that backs up what he said.
      I wrote a brief post about purity HERE:

      Most of all, don't allow anyone to make you feel that the gospel doesn't apply to you. The gospel is for you and anyone who chooses to embrace it, no matter what past mistakes you have made. As Romans 8:38-39 says: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


I love to fellowship with others and hear what they have to say. I would ask, however, that you be mindful of what you write and try to be uplifting and respectful. Thank you for sharing!