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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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

LifeAndMyFinances November 29, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Great point. Buying gifts on credit while you are eating out is much like dining on credit, which most of us would disapprove of.

Sell stuff – I’m a master of this, and it’s a great way to free up some quick cash. No matter how much I sell, I still feel like there are plenty of items that could use a “For Sale” sign.

Our cash Christmas is going to be a fun one!

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joeplemon November 30, 2010 at 11:51 am

@Life,
Good job with your cash Christmas. Us too!

I am glad to meet a master of selling stuff because I am not. We usually keep “stuff” around so long that by the time we are ready to get rid of it, we practically give it away. We are planning a huge Yard Sale this spring to allow us to rid ourselves of superfluous stuff. Our goal will be to clean house, not make money. Again, we will be giving it away. Good for the spirit and good for organizing the house…not so good for the pocketbook.

Have you written on how to best sell stuff?

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Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer December 2, 2010 at 4:22 am

Last year, we did number 5 and stopped giving so many gifts. It was hard to cut back but I really don’t think anyone missed getting gifts from us and it made it easier to plan for this year.

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joeplemon December 2, 2010 at 7:44 am

Kay Lynn,
We have also used Tip 5 over the years, sort of sporadically. But, like you, I don’t think anyone really was upset about it. Some have even thanked us!

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Len Penzo December 2, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Good ideas here! In fact, saying “No” would definitely stretch my Christmas budget, Joe. So I’m going to take you up on your suggestion and just buy the Honeybee a Christmas card this year instead.

Wait. On second thought… better not. 😉

All the best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com

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joeplemon December 3, 2010 at 11:50 am

Len,
Saying no to saying no for Honeybee was a wise second thought. But just in case you reconsider, let me know how it worked. Not that I would be thinking of doing the same thing next year. Nah.

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Stephanie Mojica December 14, 2010 at 11:34 am

Less eating out is SUCH an important tip. I wish I had back all the money I spent on excessive eating out of average-tasting meals.

Peace, love, happiness, and prosperity,
Stephanie

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