Three Ways to Make Christmas Cheap

Car off cliff sign

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We failed Christmas Budgeting 101 this year.   I haven’t totaled the damage, yet, but we have spent at least $500 more than we had planned.

It hurt.

Next year, we’re going to handle the Christmas budget differently.   This year’s model isn’t working.   It’s a lot like pushing a car down a hill to get it started, but ignoring the cliff at the bottom.

1.  Use cash.  A huge part of our problem was that Capital One is helping us celebrate.   It’s horrible, because we both know we shouldn’t be using a credit card, for exactly this reason, but we can’t seem to make the transition back away from the plastic.   Part of the reason is that Amazon and ThinkGeek don’t accept cash, and part of it is convenience.    Don’t get me wrong, we’re not carrying a balance on the card, but it’s still far too easy to overspend.

2.  Communicate!  If our gift budget is $500, and I spend $300 online while she’s busy spending $300 in stores, out budget is shot.   Worse, if we spend that money buying stuff for the same people, our budget is shot before our shopping is done.   A little bit of this happened to us this year.

3.  Explore atheism.  There really is no more effective wa

y to cut down holiday expenses than to eliminate the holiday completely.   This may not be the best answer for everyone, but it’s effective.   On the other hand, I know several atheists who celebrate Christmas as much as anyone else.    This probably isn’t a good alternative for most people.

3, Take 2.  Cut back on “stuff”.  My kids have more toys than they can play with.  My kids’ parents have more toys than they can play with.  Do we really need more?   Wouldn’t it be better to spend the money I’d normally use to buy my wife a present on a series of date nights, spread out through the year?   I could take my kids to Feed My Starving Children so they can understand how privileged they are and how much the things they take for granted are really worth.

There are so many other ways to celebrate a holiday that has turned into a national orgy of consumerism.  Next year, we’ll be trying some of the alternatives.

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  • 6 comments

    Comments

    1. Glad to see you are aware of the issue and have come up with a plan. This is the first step. For us what we find really helps is a gift budget. We put aside money every month for gifts whether it be xmas, bdays, etc. It works quite well.

    2. Tin Foil Hat says:

      Jason,
      you can pay cash and shop online by buying yourself a Visa or Mastercard gift card with cash, then using that to shop online.
      Z.

    3. Ouch 500 over budget. I typically have a budget set aside for holidays. The best way to handle the holidays is figure out a number and save that amount of money per month.

    4. We went nuts too and don’t even have kids…we spoiled our friends. Altogether, we will be lucky to stay under $750 this year.

    5. I’m not sure about the atheist angle. I know a lot of Jewish people who make a bigger deal of Christmas than Hanukkah, so I think it has more to do with the celebratory factor than the religious factor.

      The gift card idea mentioned above is a really good tip too!

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