For us, Christmas hits right after our wedding anniversary. On our first year we had not prepared for it at all and shopping right after such a huge event wasn’t as easy as I would have expected. I want to be able to get the best gift I can for those I shop for, but in a time where we have so much so easily accessible to pick up at any moment, this can be a challenge. Year after year I learn new things to make the whole process more enjoyable and wanted to share this with you.
- Have a budget. We save throughout the year in order to make the magic happen. Every month, we put a small amount away and retrieve it from savings come the shopping season. By this time, we have already determined how much we are spending.
- Reduce non-fixed expenses for extra funds. Because there are so many parties and events during December, we lower our fun budgets (individual discretionary funds) as an additional source for money. We know that we will be getting gifts and having treats with others, so we don’t feel the cut as much. Cutting restaurants, outings, and unneeded miscellaneous expenses that can wait until next year can help you to make room for the gifts you want.
- Ask for a Christmas list. Some people think that this is a big no-no, yet they are great for both sides. I am very blessed to not need or want much. On the same note, it is a huge blessing when you receive something that you need and when you gift something needed. Both the giver and receiver get more out of the exchange.
- Go online. A given but a very important one. No traffic, no lines, a lot less stress. Probably 90% of my shopping has been done this way. You can easily compare prices, take your time shopping, and take advantage of cashback. If you want to learn more about cashback, feel free to check out Rakuten (affiliate link).
- Shop at department stores for people you aren’t sure what to gift. These are the people that you still want to share something with but might not have the closest connection to. These stores have tons of different things to offer that a specialized store might limit you in. Last year I did candles and festive socks from T.J. Maxx for coworkers and they were pleasantly surprised.
- Don’t forget gift cards. Some don’t think that they are thoughtful but they might be the most thoughtful yet. Last year, my husband’s Oma asked what I wanted and I told her that a gift card to Lowe’s was perfect because I wanted to install a new vanity light in the bathroom. She came through and as soon as it was installed, I sent her a picture. You get the opportunity to make money available to a store that the receiver enjoys but might not have a reason to go visit it yet. For example, I recently used a birthday gift card for a lipstick set that was on sale. The card had been sitting with me for months but with this purchase, I was able to get the perfect thing for me.
- Do a couples gift. This is what we’ve been doing with family couples and it simplifies the shopping. My husband and I are trying this with my brother and sister-in-law this year.
- Decide to do an activity. If you know someone who is not easy to shop for or simply doesn’t want a gift, offer to go out together. A meal, a movie, or any other outing can be a great way to enjoy the season with that person. We are doing a potlock at work to celebrate the holiday and have some time to connect.
- Prepare a family/friend gift exchange. My friend told me last year that her mom, who is on a fixed income, proposed to her family to do a gift exchange instead of individual gifts. Getting gifts for all was just getting too expensive for her. Another friend told me that she proposed it to her family as a fun activity during their gathering. Both families really enjoyed it and also had less stress during the holiday.
- Remember that Christmas is about Christ, not material gifts. Spend time with friends and family. The season is not a huge gift exchange or white elephant, but a time to remember the greatest gift of all: God giving us His son to reestablish a relationship with us. Take some time to ponder on this and share a prayer of thanks with those you love.
Please share any other ideas that have worked for you. I would be super grateful for it!