The holiday season can be one of the most difficult times to stick with a budget. It's tempting to go all out on gifts for those you love, and often the pressure to provide gifts for co-workers, friends, and extended family members can feel overwhelming. Popular store displays and media representations of Christmas don't help, either, presenting the idea that an expensive and over-the-top holiday is the only way to go and that it's absolutely normal to acquire some annual Christmas debt.
If you're feeling stressed by the difficulty of having a meaningful Christmas on a budget, here are a few tips that might help keep your spending under control this holiday season. Who knows? You might find yourself enjoying this Christmas more than any before.
First and foremost, recognize that Christmas doesn't have to be about "things."
Although much of our modern lifestyle - helped along by television commercials, store flyers, and some of our favorite Christmas songs - plays up the materialistic aspect of Christmas, you are still in control of how the holiday is celebrated in your home. Consider sitting down with your family and discussing the Christmas season and what it means to you from a spiritual perspective. As a family, come up with a few ways you can shift the focus of Christmas from the materialistic to the uplifting. Plan activities throughout the month of December that help your family better understand the spirit of Christmas, without spending much money.
Shift the focus from gifts to connection
Instead of planning holiday parties that are centered around gift exchanges, try getting together for caroling and hot chocolate, or making Christmas crafts. Focus on spending meaningful time with loved ones, rather than giving extravagant gifts.
Create a Christmas budget
As early in the season as you can - if not before - sit down with your spouse to create a Christmas budget. Assign a specific amount of gift money for each family member, and hold yourself to that limit when you're making Christmas purchases. Avoid going over budget or taking on debt while buying Christmas gifts.
Get creative with your gift-giving
Figure out what skills you can bring to the gift-giving table. Can you sew? Are you talented at carpentry? Is knitting your favorite hobby? Find ways to use your talents to make some of your Christmas gifts. If crafting isn't your thing, consider giving a gift of time or service to a family member in need. When giving gifts to siblings or extended family, try to find something that's relatively inexpensive and fun for their whole family - like a great family game - rather than selecting individual gifts for each family member.
As with many things in life, sometimes during the Christmas season, less is more. It can be easy to go overboard during the holidays, and many equate Christmas morning with enormous piles of gifts for each family member. However, having too many gifts - or too many activities cluttering up your December schedule - can be overwhelming for children, as well as adults. Often, a few carefully chosen, heartfelt gifts can mean more to your family than all the extravagance in the world.
This Christmas season make a goal to celebrate the holiday a little more simply. It might just turn out to be the best Christmas you've ever had!