And just like that, it’s the Christmas season. While many call it “the most wonderful time of the year,” I think it’s also safe to say that for many out there it’s one of the most stressful times of the year, too. The biggest factor that causes us to lose sight of mistletoe, tree lights, and Hallmark Channel original movies? Money, of course!
Throughout the year, money is a hot topic, one that can illicit stress in even the calmest of people… but this time of year magnifies it because there is so much money to be spent. But the best way to minimize that stress and hopefully save some money in the process is to plan ahead.
Make a List
When it’s time to make this initial list, get everything holiday-related down. Your list should include all the people you need to buy gifts for, but also lines for any necessary travel, special meals, and holiday activities. The most important part here is to be realistic. Don’t write $20 next to your husband’s name, when you know you’ll likely end up spending close to ten times that. Planning only works if you’re completely honest.
No surprise here; I start my initial list the old fashioned way – with a pen and paper. This way, I can scribble things down as I think of them and over a few days. I can also add in any gift ideas I have or at the very least some price ranges. Don’t forget teachers, letter carriers, and doormen!
Check It Twice
That’s right, make like Santa Claus and check that list twice. Transfer that handwritten list into a spreadsheet; include columns for names, budget, and gift ideas, as well as somewhere to keep a tally of your actual spending.
This step has two purposes. The first is to make sure that list is exhaustive. The worst thing is thinking you’re done buying and then remembering that party you need a hostess gift for. Flip through your calendar and get everything in there.
The second step is unfortunately a little less fun. Figure out how much money you really have to spend and edit that list accordingly. That exhaustive list of names? It’s time to rank them. You probably can’t get around buying gifts for, say, your parents, but you can probably get away with just sending that distant cousin a nice card.
If you’re trying to save money, DIY is a great way to go. Luckily, we live in the magical world of Pinterest – that online creative wonderland where you can find endless options for affordable gift-giving. The holidays are your chance to show people how much they mean to you, and that is different than showing people how much money you can spend on them.
Some of my favorite gifts have been some of the least expensive ones. Baking is always fun (and delicious), and handmade cards (especially from adorable children) always bring a smile to people’s faces. Check out a ton more ideas HERE and HERE, and get crafting!
Remember the Reason
I cannot stress this step enough. Christmas has become too much about the spending and the gifts, when really those should be some of the least important parts of it. The holidays are about giving and family and gratitude. When all the lists and budgets and crafting is done with, be sure you take time to appreciate how fortunate you are.
How do you get ready for the holidays? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!