5 Ways to Stretch Your Christmas Budget

by Joe Plemon on November 29, 2010

The shock of that January credit card statement motivated you to start your 2010 Christmas Club account and avoid Christmas debt this year. Good for you. So far you haven’t charged a single penny.  Great!  Just one small problem: your gift list is longer than your budget. Take a deep breath. You are going to be all right. These tips will help:

1. Cut back elsewhere.

  • Less eating out. You can save at least $20 (but more like $40 or $50) every time you decide NOT to eat out. You wouldn’t borrow money for eating out (right?), but continuing to eat out while creating Christmas debt is the same thing.
  • Eat for less. You know what is essential and what is fluff in your grocery list. Omit the fluff.
  • Avoid those new release Christmas season movies. Each trip to the theater can cost $20 to $40. Those movies will still be around after Christmas … if not in the theater, on DVD.

2. Sell stuff.

I know. Time is short. But think of it this way: others are looking for Christmas bargains this year, so your “stuff” may be someone else’s treasure. Give Craig’s list, Amazon, Ebay or your local newspaper a try.

3. Give gifts of food.

One of my favorite gift ideas is food.  Why?  I love to eat!  Others do too. Consider:

  • Home made cookies, fudge or loaves of banana nut bread. You should be able to bake up a batch of gifts for under $5 each (or 5-10 gifts for not eating out once).
  • Layer dry cookie ingredients in a Mason jar. Attach the recipe and put a ribbon on it.
  • Our niece gives out canned pickles and jellies every Christmas; gifts we love. It may be too late in the season for canning, but consider goods you have already canned: great gifts you probably wouldn’t even miss.

4. Give gifts of time.

Decide what gifts of time others could use. Personally, I have been waiting for a gift of helping me wash my windows, but no takers. Still, you get the idea. Whether it is baby sitting for new parents or raking leaves for a senior citizen, print out a tasteful coupon, place it in an envelope and give it. A word to the wise: keep track of the coupons you give and follow up on them. Some well meaning people will never cash them in.

5. Just say “no”.

Do you continue to buy for some people out of habit or obligation? Make this the year to stop. “But”, you say, “I will feel bad when I get their gift.” Good point, so buy them a nice card and mail it immediately.  Hopefully, it will arrive before they buy for you, but it even if it doesn’t, it will still give them time to return whatever they bought you and reciprocate with a card. Guess what? They will probably be relieved that you took the no gift initiative.

You can do this. Keep your resolve, follow these tips and keep your credit card out of reach. When that January statement comes, you will be glad you did.

Readers: How do you stretch your Christmas budget?

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