Now I love Christmas. Really I do. I love seeing my family. I love Christmas Carols, Christmas Lights, decorated shops, Advent at church, Christmas Pageant for the kids at church, decorations, parties, singing and singing and singing.
I love them all.
I love giving presents. And yes, it does make me happy to know someone loves me enough to give me a gift too. I’m not worried about what I’m given, it’s the love that I’m receiving. If someone finds a gift that really hits the spot with me, and is something I really, really need, then I’m extra grateful.
The pain of Christmas comes for me, when the budget is so tight that it’s difficult to give the gifts that I would like to, or have the celebrations that I would like to, or to travel to be with the ones I want to spend my Christmas with.
These are some of the ways that I cope with having to make a Cheapskate Christmas.
- Focus on what Christmas MEANS to you – For me, Christmas is about the baby. A baby is part of the family. So, the baby, and the family are absolutely what it is about. The church family matters as well. If you have children, the run up to Christmas in the church, is heart-warming, educational and fun. The stories, the pageants, the singing, the family and community sharing, the doing for others, are the absolute heart and soul of Christmas for me. Taking part with the family, and church community is Low GI soul food. The effects last much longer than you might think. Certainly longer than the flash in the pan of a few presents rapidly torn into around the Christmas Tree. This may not be the meaning of Christmas to you. If it’s not – maybe you could share what Christmas means for you in the comments.
- WE DO IT THIS WAY – Be clear about your own philosophy – By this I mean, know what your beliefs are around consumerism, waste, eco-concepts and the effect Christmas will have on your budget. It’s not worth being in debt for a year, trying to pay-back Christmas. It’s not worth breaking your back to buy junk that will be used for a day and then discarded. It’s hard to remember to be a friend to the environment when you’re surrounded by the plastic world of toy shops, that’s for sure! The world does not need more plastic thrown into the land-fills. This sort of gift is ultimately less satisfying than gifts that are meaningful, real and lasting. If your rubbish bag on Christmas Day takes up more space than the gifts you’ve given – is that how you want it to be? Develop with YOUR family YOUR way of doing things around your philosophy. If your children know from the beginning, that Christmas is not about the presents, they are learning something that’s very important for their whole life. That yes, there may be gifts, but that they are a token reminding them of the gifts of the Kings to the baby, then they will feel differently about it. Use the WE. This is something that is powerful in your family. Set the tone with – WE do it this way. WE don’t buy junk. WE don’t buy things that have a short life, and only add to the landfill. WE make our own home-made Christmas. WE do things for others at Christmas. WE join in with (free) community events, like Carol Singing around the community Christmas Tree.
- Know the difference between WANT and NEED. –When you’re on a tight budget, it’s often difficult to manage to fund what you actually NEED for survival, without even starting on things you want. If you are giving gifts to your family, choose things you know they actually NEED. It may well be that you can combine the two things – give something that is both NEEDED and WANTED. If someone asks you what you want for Christmas – give them an “I need….” answer.
- Don’t look at what others are giving/getting. – It’s easy to assume that others are spending lots of money on their loved ones, when you are not able to. I know it can hurt. It can feel as if you are somehow not good enough because you can’t give your children, or your spouse what someone else can afford to give. This is something you need to let go. I sometimes feel people I know with not much money, think they have to spend a lot, so their kids don’t miss out. This isn’t true. The truth is, that lots of people who actually DO have more money, don’t actually spend huge amounts on Christmas presents. I’ve seen families who may have more than average, actually give less in terms of $$ value, than many less well-off people. These families may focus on need, or on gifting something that has meaning within the family, such as a special book, that the grandfather treasured, which is then passed on to a grandchild. Or they may make a family decision that everyone brings one present, which can be distributed in various fun ways, so that no-one goes broke trying to buy everyone a present, and ending up buying cheap plastic goods that may be fun for 5 minutes, but ultimately go in the rubbish bin. My grandmother used to insist that no-one gave her a present, but that they made her a card. The gift of time and effort meant more to her than getting things. The love that went into making those cards filled up the room for her.
- Be Prepared – You know it’s coming. Christmas is not unexpected. You have 52 weeks to get started on preparing for next Christmas. So SAVE. It doesn’t have to be an enormous amount. If you are likely to need to purchase food for Christmas, take advantage of store Christmas Club accounts. This way, whenever you buy your groceries, you can put aside a few dollars for the next Christmas. Often stores offer discounts along with the Christmas Club accounts, or special shopping nights, when you get to have fun spending your savings, and get discounts as well. Even if you put $2.00 aside for 50 weeks that’s $100.00 less that you’ll have to pay out at Christmas time. I don’t shop much, (because if you don’t go in the shop, you don’t spend anything!) but if you do, keep an eye out for sales, two for one deals, and stock up. I buy little things through the year, that I think people will like, and store them in my cupboard. If I then have a present emergency, instead of rushing off to the store and buying something over-priced, I just go to my cupboard, and find something suitable. Because I’ve bought the things on special, people often get a gift of higher value than I would normally be able to give them, and I feel good that I’ve given a nice gift without breaking the bank. Save too, for presents. Work out how much you need. Allocate an amount you are prepared to spend for each persons gift, and add that up. Then divide that by 52. That’s the amount that you need to put aside each week. If you know that’s too much for your budget to stand, then you need to reduce the amount you would spend on each person, and work it out again, until you’ve got a figure your budget can stand.
- Make Stuff – You’ll know what your own skills are. If you’re a knitter, or crocheter, or crafter, what better thing to do, than to prepare for Christmas by making gifts for people. Nearer the time, make food. Maybe there’s something that’s special for your family. My mother-in-law lived in Switzerland for a year, and she always used to make Basler Leckerli (which is like a special gingerbread.) This is now a treat, that people really enjoy, because the taste of Basler Leckerli brings back memories, and is a family tradition. The fun of making traditional recipes is something the whole family can enjoy and be part of. You can make all sorts of gifts, from cereal, to cookies, to chocolates……the list is endless. This website might have some ideas for you.
More to come! Watch this space!