Tips for Staying within your Christmas Budget

You’ve saved all year (or maybe just for a couple of weeks) to buy Christmas gifts, and now you’re finding that you’re running low on dough. How are you going to buy gifts for everyone on your list? These 10 tips will help you select just the right gifts without going into the dreaded “Christmas debt.”

Tips for Staying within your Christmas Budget |

Help reduce money-related holiday stress with these quick and easy tips.

  • Make a list of any “must-have” gifts for the people on your list (like that mp3 player your daughter just HAS to have). Once you’ve jotted these down, do some quick research online to find the lowest price. Remember to compare both stores in your area and also online stores that have special shipping offers.
  • If you’re getting a gift for parents or in-laws, consider a group gift. A nice television or piece of furniture is much more affordable when the cost is divided between you and all of your siblings.
  • Suggest doing a name exchange for the adult members of your extended family. Why? Doesn’t it make more sense to spend $50 or $100 on a nice gift for one person, rather than $5 or $10 on so-so gifts for each person? Everyone can purchase gifts for the young children, if you so choose.
  • Make sure you really know your friends. What are their interests or hobbies? Do they like to entertain? The answers to these questions (and others) can yield some great (and inexpensive) gift ideas. The music lover will appreciate a music download card (even if it’s for $15), and your friend who loves to entertain will enjoy some nice linen napkins or place mats, which can be found for a bargain nearly anywhere.
  • Dust off your baking pans! Seriously…who doesn’t love cookies, candies and sweets? Homemade holiday cookies, candies and such make thoughtful gifts for neighbors, teachers and coworkers. Just put them in festive tins or colored plastic wrap, both of which are very inexpensive.
  • Never underestimate the power of sample sizes. Is there a frequent traveler who must deal with pesky airline regulations or a college student with limited storage space on your list? Purchase small or trial sizes of designer perfumes or colognes, lotions, shaving creams and shampoos, then put them in a fun cosmetics or shaving bag.
  • Warm up your glue gun – or your stencils or stamps or…well, you get the picture. Putting your craft skills to work is a great way to create thoughtful, inexpensive gifts. Are you buying for someone who likes to send cards? You can pick up a set of blank cards and envelopes for next to nothing at craft stores, and then emboss them or decorate them with rubber stamps and ink yourself. Or maybe you have some great photos of a dear friend. Create a unique collage or calendar with copies of your favorite snapshots, and voila – you’ve got a unique and heartfelt gift.
  • Decide not to give. This doesn’t mean you should stop giving altogether, Scrooge. Simply discuss with your friends the possibility of not exchanging gifts for Christmas. Instead, you can get together at a restaurant for a holiday dinner or have a potluck and girls night at someone’s house. For years, my friends and I have chosen to exchange nothing more than cards for Christmas, and focus on our birthdays instead.
  • Forget about cards. Holiday cards are nice, but if you want to save yourself time and postage, create a holiday web site. You can include your traditional “holiday letter” and then update it after the holidays so people know what’s going on in your life all year long. Many sites offer free web sites that take only moments to set up, and you can even control who sees it. Just email the URL and password to your friends and family.
  • Repeat after me: Theme gifts are good. And if you’re creative enough, no one will know that it didn’t cost you much. For example, if you know a family who likes to rent movies, create a Movie Night Basket. You can get an inexpensive basket almost anywhere (probably even the back of your closet), then just add a $10 movie rental gift card, a couple of bags of microwave popcorn (there’s probably some in your cabinet), and an assortment of packaged candy (M&Ms, Junior Mints, Milk Duds, etc.,). For about $15, you’ve created a gift that anyone would love to receive.

There really are ways to stay within your budget at Christmas. Just use a little creativity and a lot of determination.

Heather L. Clark is a Web researcher, writer and mother of two.

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