Christmas is JOY and STRESS all wrapped into one holiday. We really try to focus on the joy of the season and not stress too much. In some ways it’s easier to be less stressed out since we’ve put ourselves on a pretty strict budget. I know that sounds like reverse psychology mumbo jumbo. But, since we know we have a certain budget for gifts, there’s very little guess work and we focus on more practical stuff and really thoughtful/meaningful gifts. 😊 Here’s what Christmas looks like for us:
We have an annual gift budget. We use one budget category to track all of our gift spending. We don’t carve out birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. from Christmas. That means if we spend more throughout the year we have less to spend at Christmas time. This year, we spent about 1/2 of our gift budget during the year and saved 1/2 for Christmas. We didn’t plan it that way, but it worked out quite nicely.
We don’t NEED a bunch of stuff. Since we live in a 700 square foot home, we just don’t have room for much. We each have a tiny closet and a couple of drawers. Our kitchen is already jam packed. Carter’s workshop is one toolbox. We share office space. And, pretty much every inch of vertical space is covered with something! That means we’re not expecting new kitchen gadgets, tools, or a bunch of clothes as gifts.
There’s not much we really WANT. Well, that’s not 100% true. Carter wants a few things…like an Xbox, cordless phones (yes, we still use land lines), and recliners. But, I’ve realized Carter will always want something. Even in retirement, that will never change!
We try to focus on experiences vs stuff. This year we’re heading to Denver and Breckenridge, Colorado, to spend several days with friends and family. We really miss snow and our peeps in Colorado, so we made the decision to spend a good chunk of our Christmas budget on an AirBNB rental up in the Rocky Mountains. We’re so excited to spend Christmas in Colorado! We hope we get snowed in and have to stay longer than planned!
We like homemade gifts. We like to give and receive homemade gifts. I love to cook and bake, so we invite friends over for dinner, cookies, games, etc. We’d rather spend time with people and share homemade treats than exchange gift cards or buy expensive gifts. Even if it means we have to squeeze 18 people under our carport or we have to move furniture out to make room for a dining table…we love it! And, of course, we have budget lines for entertainment and food too!
We take advantage of Christmas sales to buy things we need anyway. In some ways I feel like I’ve turned into my parents. I hear myself say to Carter, “just wait till Christmas.” My parents used to say that or “just wait till your birthday” all the time, and it drove me crazy as a little kid. But, it’s true. We just need to wait till Christmas so we can get GOOD DEALS!
This year, we each bought tennis shoes, basics like socks and underwear, and pots and pans while they were on sale. We know we’re going to need all of this stuff in the next couple months, so we went ahead and pulled the trigger to take advantage of once-a-year sales and free shipping. We don’t consider these things gifts, but we budget to spend extra money on extras like this.
We buy gift cards from all of our favorite places when they’re on sale. This time of year, many restaurants and retail shops discount their gift cards or provide bonus gift cards. We don’t buy the gift cards as gifts. We set aside $1,000 to purchase gift cards we plan to use on OURSELVES the following year.
This year, we bought gift cards from Outback, Rudy’s BBQ, local restaurants in Denver and Phoenix, DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse), and a few other places. We spent $800 on the gift cards and got $200 in bonus cards. We figure the extra 25% in bonus cards will cover taxes and tips when we go out to dinner. Not bad!
Let us know if you have other ways of saving (without being cheap 😊) or reducing stress levels during the Christmas season. We’re all ears!