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Sunday, November 25, 2012

How Does She Do Christmas on a Budget

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Many of you have been filling my in box with one simple request, a post on how the Hubbs and I do Christmas on a budget. Well here we go. One nicely packaged post, explaining how we do Christmas on a budget.

Hubby and I have been married for 9 years, so we have had a lot of Christmases together. Just like with everything in our budgeting life, we didn't start off doing the holidays with a plan. We started out as many of you probably have. We would make a list of who we had to buy for. Then we would go shopping, probably spending way to much on toys and such. We didn't have a game plan, a budget, or any clue at what we were doing. We would justify that it was Christmas and you had to spend money at that time of year. We stayed in this practice for many years.


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Then that wonderful day happened when we decided to change our financial situation. You can read about that HERE. I knew that doing a budget needed to apply to everything in our life, including Christmas. I have been following this thrifty way of life for many Christmases now and I have to tell you that our holidays are so much better because of it. Below are a few tips broken down for you. These are all the tips and tricks we follow to stay out of debt and on budget during the holidays.

Set a Budget
This is the MOST important thing you can do this Christmas. Sit down, with your spouse, and actually talk about what you are going to spend on Christmas. Be specific. So many people forget to do this. They shop and spend, then after Christmas they are shocked at how much they spent. Everyone's budget will be different. Pick one that fits into your current financial situation. When hubby and I do this, we decide how much we will spend on our children first. Stocking stuffers are included in this budget. We then decide how much we will spend on each other and our other family members. When money has been extra tight at the holidays we forego the presents for each other. Sometimes we will wait till we get our tax returns and shop then for each other. We always make sure that we have money for the littles first.

 When buying presents for other family members there are a few things you can do. Set a price limit for each person. We usually have a $10 limit. This limit is the same when birthdays come around as well. This is a reasonable amount for us, since we come from a pretty large family. We also do secret Santa with my hubby's family. This helps a ton! Each of the adults pick a name out of a hat and so do the kids. We set a $10 limit and then exchange presents at a family Christmas Eve brunch. This is such an amazing help to our family. Instead of spending say $150 on presents for my inlaws, we only spend $40. It also takes less stress off of the shopper. This year I am able to spend more time relaxing this Christmas, then figuring out what to by for my sweet family. I love them to pieces, but sometimes all that shopping and spending can wear a person out, and my checkbook.


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Remember that budgeting at Christmas does not mean you love your family less. Money does not equate to love. Never forget this.

Pay Cash
Such a basic concept right? Do this at Christmas time as well. If we have to charge it, then we don't need it. Yes there are exceptions, but this is a good one to follow as a general rule. Credit cards are for emergencies only. This is our thrifting philosophy. Where Christmas is concerned, we only use cash. I go through the store with a calculator and make sure I am only spending what we budget. I try to remember that if I go over budget, it means money taken away from our bills being paid or groceries being bought.


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Go Homemade/Thrifted
Whenever I can, I go homemade. This is a great way to save money as well. I always try to find projects where I have most of the items already in my craft stash. If I have to purchase anything to make a present, I always go to thrift stores first. One year I made rag tie wreaths. I bought sheets at a thrift store to make them. This saved me tons in the fabric department. Another year I made my little miss a beauty salon set with faux make-up. I just took old curling irons and stuff I wasn't using. I then cut off the cords. I made a beautician apron and a hair salon cape for her doll out of fabric I already had. This is was such a simple present, which she still plays with today.

I also love to look for gifts at the thrift stores. There are so many wonderful things donated to thrift stores. Most stores save all their Christmas decor and stuff for December. This is great, since you can always give Christmas decorations as a gift or incorporate it into planned crafts you have. Look at the toys/clothes section too. You never know what gems you may find.The Goodwillista is always finding great stuff for holiday dressing/gifts.


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When making presents for grandparents, I try to go the sentimental/homemade route. My parents love pictures of their grand kids. Every year I make a calendar from Shutterfly.com. My Mom looks forward to this present each year. Since I order from Shutterfly often, I look for their sales. I am signed up to receive emails with their coupon codes. On black Friday I was able to buy 2 calendars at such a great price! My total should have been well over $50, but I had some pretty sweet coupon codes. I ended up only paying $25. SCORE!

Shop Around
Shopping smart will save you money. Just because you budget say $10 a person, does not mean you have to spend it. If you find a great deal, then you can end up saving that extra money. This money can then be used for other things.
Sites like Style Lately, Paparazzi Accessories, and GroopDealz are all great places to find gifts. I purchased presents for my sisinlaws, who all have birthdays in December and January. I was able to buy gifts for three people and only spend $16. I budgeted $30, but I was able to find some great deals. All of these sites send me emails when they have deals. I wait for a really good one and plan ahead. My Sisinlaw Holly has a birthday in January, but I already purchased her gift. I found a great deal and now I won't have to buy her a present come January. It is another item I can check off my to do list.


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Where toys are concerned, money can be wasted on toys our kids won't even play with. Kids are bombarded with toy commercials and ads. They are lead to believe that every toy will be A-MAZING. This is not always the case. I can't even believe how much money we wasted when we first had my son. He would think everything was cool and that he HAD to have it. We would buy it and then find out that it wasn't really something he wold play with, it was just something that looked cool on TV. Now we only buy things we KNOW our children will play with. Before Birthdays and Christmas we take them to Wal-Mart or Target. We let me them go up and down the toy aisles to check out all the goodies. We watch what they gravitate towards. We then think about how our children play. My son is not into dress up, but my daughter is. He will see Spider-man masks and light sabers and swear he will play with them everyday, if he can just get it. We know from experience now that we won't. He hates costumes, even at Halloween. This would be one of those things we would not buy, even if he asked for it. Shopping smart is a great way to only buy what your children will actually use. We have a limited budget. I want to get as much bang for my buck, so I want to make sure they will truly enjoy everything they get.

Another way to shop smart is to price match at Wal-Mart. They don't just price match food, they will honor store ads where toys and household items are concerned as well. If you see a toy advertised for less than Wal-Mart sales it for, price match it. You bring in your ad and show them the cheaper price. They then will honor that price. I love that Wal-Mart does this. They rock! Wal-Mart also has a great layaway program. This is a great way to get presents and not charge them to a credit card. You pick out your items and then bring them to customer service. They then put them all on hold for you. You make payments throughout the month of December. This is great for people who get paid by the week or who are shopping with maybe a Christmas bonus. You can check out Wal-Mart's coupon policy, price match policy, and layaway terms on their website.

Quality Not Quantity
This is the last tip we always try to follow. My children may not have a truck load of toys under the tree, but what they do have I know will last. It is very easy to see toys in catalogs and think what a great price. I am weary of this, since we have done this before and the toys have not lasted. My son is pretty hard on toys, so we always look for something that will last. It is not worth it to buy a lot of cheaply made items, just so you have a huge quantity under the tree. Buy items for your family that will last and stand up to the wear and tear that the item will under go. Be conscious of all purchases. Whether you are buying thrifted items or brand new items, think of each purchase as an investment. Make sure you get the most bang for your buck, where quality is concerned .


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These are the tips and tricks we follow each year. It is just another part of our thrifty lifestyle. Christmas is a time for family togetherness. Enjoy this holiday season with your loved ones.


Merry Shopping Lovelies! 

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34 comments:

  1. Such wonderful advice, Danielle. Too bad many who need this kind of advice will never see it. We allow a set amount for each gift and have often been made to feel cheap because that was all we spent/gave ... so many folks miss the point.

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    1. Well rest assure you are absolutely NOT cheap, just frugal and smart:>

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  2. Thanks for all the great tips! Also what about Christmas decorations? Trees, ornaments, decor, lights etc. I know many of theses items go on sale after Christmas. So when they need to be replaced do you wait till after or what? I never seem to have any money left after Christmas.

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  3. When it comes to decorations I do look at thrift stores or I make them myself. When we set up our Christmas tree this year some of the lights had to be replaced. We went to Big Lots, who was having a pretty good sale, and bought a pack of LED lights. Only cost us about $20. After the holiday is a great time to stock up, since everything is on clearance. It really is just planning ahead for doing that, but I agree we rarely have money left over to do that.

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  4. These are some great tips and advice. I would add start early! A lot of products can be saved so if you come across something on sale earlier in the year that you think will make a great present for someone then you can always buy it and save it. And if your picking things up through out the year then you can spread the expense.

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  5. Thanks for the tips! The websites you mentioned in this article are great too... makes it possible to get nice stuff AND stick to a budget. Also, I found great diy gift ideas on pinterest too, just in case anyone out there is interested :)

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    1. How did I forget to mention pinterest:> So true. Always great stuff on there.

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  6. Great tips, and as a silver surfer, with a lot more Christmases under her belt, let me tell you all of those work - at whatever time of the year! Well done, and keep it up, no matter the temptation(s).

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  7. These are great! I need to remember your tip about not buying the toys kids want unless you KNOW they will play with them. Thanks for the How does she post! You are awesome as always!!!

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  8. Thanks for sharing your tips. I learned so much and you struck a nerve with me! Appreciate your site, too.

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    1. Hopefully a good nerve:> thanks for reading.

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    2. Thank you for your sweet comment too. It means a lot.

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  9. Danielle, this is great! :) I barely shop for Christmas around Christmas time, though. (Except: Buying christmas gift right after christmas for the next year on sale.) I don't budget for christmas gifts either, but have a gift budget of up to 20$ every month. Whenever I go to a store and see something nice at a decent price, I will buy it! It then goes right into my gift box (A.K.A. moving cardboard box). Whenever I need a gift, I will find something in my box. :) That way, I never have to stress out having to buy a gift, or in case I didn't think of someone's birthday ahead of time. ;) A lot of times, I will already have someone in mind when buying stuff. But sometimes, I will also buy stuff that I know will work for anyone. For example, I caught a Valentines sale last year, and got chocolate fondues for 1$ a piece! Noone ever thought that's what I paid - people are more likely telling me all the time that I am spending too much money on them. (Trust me, I don't. But I would, if I could.) ;)
    So, if you don't shop before christmas, but throughout the year, you will have no stress and better deals. When I have extra money coming in before christmas (that other people spend on gifts), this goes right into my vacation slush fund. YAY!
    Happy Holidays! :)
    - Wiebke

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  10. Target also price matches. They are even price matching online prices for several retailers now through Dec. 24.

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  11. Great idea, we stopped doing gifts for the adults once the kids came along. I have 5 of my own and I spend more on the teens now and not much on the babies - they really dont know and check with everyone else what they're buying my kids so they can fit in with what the kids want

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  12. Great post Danielle with wonderful tips as always! We put aside a little money each month throughout the year so when December comes we've got the extra saved for Christmas and it doesn't blow our monthly budget!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success
    http://www.jembellish.blogspot.com/

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  13. What about your tree. Do you buy a tree each year or do you have an artificial tree?

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    1. We have an artificial tree. We found it 6 years ago on sale.

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  14. These are some awesome tips.
    This year, we drew names for the first time. Our family is growing by leaps and bounds and we just had to do it. I, for one, am much less stressed. We are a grandma and pa and live on a Social Security budget....so Christmas has always been hard for us. 10 grands, 2 grand-in-laws, one great grand, a son and his wife, a daughter and her hubs....and each other. So you can see how expensive it was to buy all these gifts. This drawing names is WONDERFUL. I can now spend time making bags of cookies and candies and present them in cute bags on Christmas Eve. :))
    Happy week.
    O, and I am goiong to follow you. :)

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    1. Sounds like you have a beautiful, growing family. How fun! I am so glad to hear the pulling names works for you too. Less stress during the holidays is THE BEST:> Thanks for always reading!

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  15. You have some REALLY great tips here! Especially the budget one! :D That is the first place we need to start....

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  16. All great tips but I just wanted to add that if your family draws names, it is important to draw the names right after Christmas for the following year so everyone has a full year to purchase their gift. This gives time to find the perfect deal or to put away some money each month. I find the more time I have to purchase the gifts, the more money I can save by searching out great deals.

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  17. I found you from A Round Tuit link up. If our country ran like your household we would not be in such a deficit. I think that the key is to preplan so you know ahead of time what you're in for. Thanks for the ideas. Visit my post about getting into that dress with an easy zip idea.
    http://www.thelostapron.com/2012/11/zip-and-hook-yourself-into-your-dress.html

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  18. Great tips! I have to confess to being one of those who always justifies it as being a special time of year and worth the splurge. The problem is that just about everyone in my family has a birthday in either December or January, so it can really get out of hand easily. Thanks for sharing. [#TALU]

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  19. Awesome tips! Our family does something very similar and it works, as long as we stay in the budget. Would love if you'd join our Countdown to Christmas link party! Hope to see you there! Have a great week! :)
    http://dixie-n-dottie.blogspot.com/2012_11_27_archive.html

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  20. An inexpensive gift that I'm giving to my in-laws this year and it gives every month for a year - a subscription to Guidepost! If you already subscribe, it is only $8 for 12 magazines... It's a great inspirational magazine that I enjoy and hope they will as well.

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  21. Budget family vacations is the best choice while crisis. People want to travel and save money at the same time. Think about Ukraine vacation, you can find there lots of perfect places. Just discover these wonderful destinations  Moreover, citizens of the US, EU and lots of other countries don’t need a visa to go to Ukraine. You can just buy a ticket and go there. Prices are unbelievable cheap there, and girls are charming and wonderful...

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  22. I'm one of the lucky people that doesn't have to buy gifts. My companion and I agreed long ago not to do Christmas presents - we just enjoy each other's company. I have no children (by choice!), and his are grown (he gives them money, but there is no official gift exchange). After years of growing up with parents who probably spent too much on Christmas for us (granted, we always have lovely holidays), we have all come to the conclusion that it's unnecessary to exchange gifts between parents & adult children and between adult siblings. If anything, we DO things together - my sister and I go see "It's A Wonderful Life" at a historic movie theater...things like that. It's the EXPERIENCES I appreciate now. Certainly removes a lot of the stress of the holidays, and while I would never take the whole "presents under the tree" experience away from kids, I wish adults would forget the gifts and just enjoy the moment.

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  23. Great tips! I have a box I keep for gifts I find throughout the year. In the past I have bought new in the box items at yard sales and thrift stores. Then when Christmas or a birthday comes I already have many gifts. Samples and freebies work nice for gifts too. If there is a used book store in your area you can bring old books for store credit then buy new gifts there. You can do the same thing with places like Once Upon a Child with kids clothing and toys. I think my favorite gift I give each year is the free walgreen photos we get throughout the year. I give them to my in laws, they love getting recent pictures of the kids. Hubby and I have not exchanged gifts in 9 years. Not since the birth of our first.

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  24. I´m so happy I saved this post under favorites so I can re-read it now and plan for christmas. Last year we spent $473 over budget (I set aside money for christmas every month), this year I´m doing a lot of homemade gifts instead and I really want to make it with money left after christmas. I´m well on my way already, I love to have a plan :) Thank you!

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  25. One of my favorite Dave Ramsey quotes goes something like this: "Christmas is not an emergency. It is not a surprise. It comes at the same time every year!" and I love that! I have Christmas in mind almost year round when it comes to getting the best deals on all the pieces and parts that go into it. As already mentioned, buying gift wrap at clearance prices after Christmas is best. But I also try to look for solid rolls of paper - or designs that could double as wedding or birthday wrap - that way I'm getting wrapping supplies for the whole year - not just Christmas. Christmas cards are also purchased at the after sales for the following year - at a good savings - at least 50%. We always have a budget and I also try to craft as much as possible. The homemade toys - especially! - seem to be a hit with the little ones - our own and the others on our list. I also spread out the cost of Christmas entertaining and meals over the weeks and even months leading up to the holiday. I decide on the things I'll be making/baking and make a Master Holiday Grocery list. I then divide the list out into the non-perishable (like canned goods), the long shelf life in fridge (like cream cheese) and the things that must be bought much closer to the time they are needed. Then I start working the non-perishable things into my grocery trips early on - say October-ish. I start to take advantage of the sales on butter and cream cheese for example in November during the lead up to Thanksgiving and so on. For that matter I'll stock up on and freeze those for use long past December! Another tip for someone who wants an artificial Christmas tree is to scout garage sales in the summer months. Sometimes people just give them away - now with that said - they may be missing some branches (in that case put the tree in a corner and make sure the missing branches are hidden in the back!) OR they can be so old and brittle they cut your hands to put them up - then not such a good thing! But some people are getting rid of really nice artificial trees - of all sizes - for cheap! For $10 or $20 bucks you could get a GREAT deal! Just a thought! Also - never buy a tree skirt! A pretty quilt or blanket or tablecloth or even unfinished piece of fabric does just fine. Just tuck under the edges and pouf it a bit and you are good to go! Garage sales are also a GREAT place to find ornaments - people will practically give away old ones in funky/faded colors - use those to DIY new ones - paint them, glitter them, paper mache over them - etc. At a fraction of the cost of buying similar kits for DIY ornaments at the craft store! Buy Halloween costumes at 50% or more for dress up kits for children! Buy Halloween candy that's been marked down and use it in your Christmas cookies - no one will know or care it came out of a bag with a Halloween theme! When it comes to gift buying, every time you go into a store - look at the mark down section(s) with your gift list in mind. You can often find great deals that way. During the months leading up to Christmas find sites that post daily deals and watch for ones that line up with a gift that would work for someone on your list. The photo calendar idea is a great example! I can think of so many more tips but this comment is already massive - LOL!

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Thank you so much for all your sweet comments. I read every.single.one. They rock my socks! Thanks!

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