You know what that means, right?
...111 days until Christmas! Time for Kerry's guide to doing the holidays on the cheap without losing your mind in the process! It's not particularly complex, and it's really just common sense, but it's amazing how many people leave it until the last minute. Doing that costs you more, and not just in money. It costs you time that you could be spending with family, it costs you in stress and anxiety, and it can even ruin your enjoyment of the holidays altogether. Who wants to do that?? So, over the next few months, I'll be discussing a slower, kinder way of preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.
First thing on the list is making a list! I try to have this done by September 1. This list is the big list, and that's the list of gifts to give. Write down everyone that you plan to give a gift to. In my case, it's a pretty big list. Between the Dude and I, we give gifts to 30 family members and friends, not including gifts we give to the Little Dude, or to each other. If the dollar signs aren't popping up in front of your eyes by now, they should be. It can be insanely expensive if I don't plan ahead.
Now that you have your list of people, start budgeting. You can either take a fixed amount (you want to keep all gift giving below $400, for example) and divide it out among the people on your list, or you can the amount you want to gift first, then see how much you need. How much do you want to spend on a spouse, your child, that cousin you feel obligated to give to because they send a meat and cheese box every year? Be honest and realistic with yourself. If you have no problem with putting it all on a credit card then paying it off with your income tax return, go for it. But if (like me) you're on a tighter income, or you hate the idea of debt for the holidays, then be true to that. I'll use my budget for an example again. For the nieces, nephews, and other kids, I try to set a budget of $10 per child. After we factor in all of the family and friends, as well as each other, our budget is usually around $400. We also have 4 birthdays between now and the end of the year to consider, which bumps things up to around $500.
Once you know who you're buying for and how much you want to spend, think about each person. What do they love, what interests them? For instance, my nephews love Legos. My mom adores going to Ohio Village for their Victorian Christmas, so we know that's her birthday gift. Also, think outside the box. Can you give a gift of time, or experience? Can you make something? Bannon, for example, makes some amazing jam every year, and gives it as gifts. My Dude likes to make fudge and cookies, so every year he makes some to give to all of the adults on the list. I plan to put my scrapbooking skills to use and make a framed display of the LD for his grandmas and great-grandma. If you're tapped out on ideas, hit the internet! A quick Google search for "homemade Christmas" will give you so many ideas, for all ages and interests.
So, now you've got your list, your budget, and you know what you need to buy. Start shopping! Start now, and ideally, you'll have already been doing some shopping. I already have 2 of the LD's gifts bought, as well as gifts for 6 of the children on our list. Shop sales and clearance aisles. Check out Amazon and Target for daily deals and specials. Speaking of Target, check their online coupons for discounts on clothes, household items, and toys. Coupons.com will sometimes have printable coupons for DVDs. Heartsy.com can have deep discounts on handcrafted items that can be wonderful gifts. And if you have to stuff stockings, don't forget dollar stores, or Target's dollar section. If you're lucky enough to have a Five Below in your area (Columbus readers, ours is by Easton!), check them out. I've found Wii games, DVDs, shirts and tote bags from Hot Topic, craft kits...the list can go on, but everything in the store is $5 or less!