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This year, Ben and I have discussing how to give more generously and simultaneously cut back on excessive spending. The thing is… We love to give gifts. I love to shop for people and think – she will love that, or he really needs this or… whatever. And I think gift giving is a great tradition!! But, it’s a time of year when people can go nuts. or broke. And the truth is your dad probably doesn’t want that electronic toy as much as he wants you not to break the bank over his gifts. But we love to give to our loved ones. Therein lies the dilemma. For me anyway. Here are 5 practical ways to simplify and give generously.
LOW KEY WRAPPING
I love to wrap presents. For several years, most people in my family have given me all their gifts for one another (except the gifts for me) and I wrap them all. They get stacked in a secret closet with post-its that say who it’s for and who it’s from. Then, I lock myself in the basement and wrap every single one. Ribbons, bows, tags and all. I love it!
The first Christmas where Ben and I were in our own place, we weren’t actually going to be around for a couple weeks in December, so a Christmas tree seemed wasteful. But Ben surprised me with one anyway. 🙂 It was small, cute, and fun to decorate. I picked coordinating red and silver paper and ribbons and all the wrapped presents coordinated beautifully with the tree decor.
For 2 weeks.
Then they were opened and thrown away (except the pretty ribbon, which the frugal side of me saved for the following year). If we ever have more discretionary spending money, I may go back to a beautiful, coordinating wrapping paper extravaganza. But, this year, we’re going simpler.
I’ve been browsing and have seen some fun ideas – one of which I’m going to adopt to satisfy both my love for cute wrapping and my love for sticking to the budget. And the budget doesn’t have pretty wrapping paper this year. I’m thinking a combo of these…
In January of this year, we predicted all gift giving expenses – birthdays, cards, weddings, postage, wrapping, christmas, christmas donations. We added up that total and divided by 12 (months). We set the money aside in cash each month. We keep a copy of the original list on hand so that we remember how much we budgeted for so-and-so’s wedding in June.
Because the cash starts to add up (as most gift $$ is spent during the last month of the year), it’s sometimes tempting to spend more on the birthdays and weddings throughout the year. But we try stick to the budget. (Of course, we’re not perfect at it, and sometimes have to add more money in towards the end of the year.) That way, when December rolls around, we have the cash on hand to shop for our loved ones. And as long as we stick to the budget, we can give generously, because we planned ahead. This is a LOW STRESS LEVEL/ HIGH FUN LEVEL way to Christmas shop.
(PSA – we use YNAB for budgeting now. YNAB is the bomb and makes budgeting for sinking funds like Christmas gifts really really easy.)
I actually love getting other people’s Christmas cards – cards, pictures, life story letters, letters written in the voice of the family pet, you name it! I love it. I read them all. And I love to send cards- the good old fashioned, hand written, hand addressed, snail mail way.
But, we’ve decided not to send them for the time being. We’d rather get out of debt one day sooner, so Christmas cards is a lifestyle expense we’ve cut. We’ll send them to you sometime. In the meantime, it’s gonna be a one way relationship: You send us one but you probably won’t get one. It’s not personal. Just monetary.
It’s nice to over-budget for gifts and come up with a surplus because we like to buy a goat through World Vision or adopt a child whose parents are MIA or donate gifts to the local homeless shelter or whatever. My favorite way to give extra at Christmas is to find a local organization that you provide stuff for and the parents/families do their own shopping and give the gifts to their kids themselves. Removing myself from the equation allows parents to give with dignity!
Simplifying some Christmas activities, planning ahead, and sticking to a budget has allowed us to give generously to those we love and to our “neighbors” we don’t know.