It has taken LB and I a LOT of hard work to get to where we are with our budget. Just thinking about how far we've come with our credit cards makes me want to avoid them like the plague going forward. But then... December rolls around. Besides the BEAST that is Christmas, we've got 4 kids birthdays, 3 adult birthdays, and a MASSIVE trip home to Oregon (rental car, hotels a few nights, food, inevitable shopping). Any little things we can do in order to lessen the financial burden in December, WE DO IT. As I've noted before, we put $40/paycheck into our Christmas fund... we're definitely kicking that amount up next year. We also try to shop early and often for Christmas to spread out the financial burden and to make sure that we NEVER pay increased costs for rush shipping. Once I decide what I am getting for someone, I order it right then and there. The money comes out of the Christmas fund and I move on to the next person on my list.
So, if you are already in December and you haven't been budgeting for Christmas, what are you going to do? Never fear! I've got a few tips for you!
Don't Buy Gifts for Everyone.
You read that right. It is definitely not too late to tell some of your extended family or friends that you'd like to forgo gifts for each other this year. Don't be surprised if you're met by a huge smile of relief on the face of the would-be gift receiver. If you're really concerned about the reaction, you could note in your Christmas card or via email that instead of gifts for everyone this year, you are:
- Making a $50 donation to your favorite charity
- Spending that money traveling to see family (this is what the Bennett's are doing!)
- Listening to Dave/Treana and they say that you can't afford it. Owning your financial position and being up front about it GOES A LONG WAY!
- Fold and send one of your kiddos' drawings and have the kiddo sign it for the receiver. It could be the next Picasso!
Some of my favorite things in the world are baked goods. More specifically, LB's chocolate chip cookies. They are heavenly and he gets requests for them frequently. To take care of a ton of people at once for gifts have a baking day with your friends. Everyone can bring one recipe and the extra ingredients it calls for and all of you can bake for a day listening to Christmas music. While the girls are doing the hard work (Read: having all the fun) send partners/boyfriends/baking haters out to the dollar store or Michael's to pick up some tins and colored saran wrap. Your favorite people will receive a tin filled with baking yummies and you've saved a ton of time, stress, and money.
Don't Send a Christmas Card via Snail Mail.
For real. This is an extra $100 easy that you could forgo. Send an email with a nice couple of pictures of you and your family and a couple of paragraphs on a family update. Same effect, without the same cost.
Declutter your house.
With all the entertaining you might be doing, you might as well be decluttering. As you find things you want/need to get rid of, think about doing a quick craigslist post. You can also just set aside the stuff you don’t want to deal with and drop it off at a Goodwill or similar organization. By donating you get a good feeling PLUS you can get a tax break by claiming the donations.
Re-Gift, Re-use, Recycle.
I know, I know. A ton of people are going to HATE this suggestion, but hear me out. If, in the process of decluttering, you find that you have a ton of frames that you haven't used and really don't need (man, do I wish that this was ever the case for us!), print out a picture that you love or a saying or order a piece of art off of Etsy, frame it and gift it. Let's say you got a cute knick knack or book that you know you are just never going to use... wrap it up nicely and gift it. Now listen, you don't have to make a big show about re-gifting. Make sure it is dust free, wrapped nicely and send it off to a new home.
MOMMAS, listen up. All of those clothes that your babies never wore or wore once and didn't have a blow out in? GIFT THEM. Send them with a special note that says something like, "I can't think of any other kiddo that I would want to wear my baby's treasured clothing." Never in my WILDEST dreams would I ever ever ever be offended by a gift like this. In instances like these it is the note that makes all the difference. Don't just throw gifted clothes into a garbage bag and toss them to your momma friend. Package them nicely with a sweet note and BOOM. Gift handled.
Not Traveling? Offer to House/Dog Sit!
I wish that we would have done this last year. We are traveling this year and are hiring a friend's brother as a house/dog sitter. Gone are the days where I feel comfortable asking friends to watch our puppies. It is relatively affordable to just hire someone and so we do that instead. Even though dog parents are just like people parents and think that their dogs are just the best, most perfect dogs ever, I recognize that they are a HUGE increased burden on people with their own routines and lives.
That said, if you have a few friends that need help, you could make a killing! Just tell them all that you are willing to watch their dogs for $12-15/day (since it's the holidays, I would probably charge more). You can definitely take on 2 or three houses of doggies to go and walk and feed and check in on over the holidays. I'd recommend only house sitting one house though... that could get a bit nutty. Either way, it could all equal a nice bit of extra cashola for the debt snowball!
So, what are your ideas to make December less financially painful?
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