Tis the season for charity, food, family and empty wallets. Not only are we saving up for a cold winter ahead, buying winter shoes, jackets and the like, but we are also throwing Christmas into the mix! Though Black Friday is over, this isn’t stopping Americans and Springfieldians from buying gifts for their loved ones while breaking the bank in the process!
According to a recent Gallup poll, the average American plans on spending around $752 on gifts this year…that number jumps up to $831 when you don’t include those who don’t celebrate Christmas or plan on not buying gifts this year. This doesn’t include buying food for Christmas dinner, travel expenses some families will have and the like. But is all this spending necessary? Have we lost the spirit of Christmas in a frenzy of superfluous seasonal spending in the efforts of looking good or showing others how much we care based on the price tag?
Christmas on a Budget
I do love Christmas – the sights, the smells, the songs, and celebrations do reawaken nostalgic images of carefree days as a child, filled with wonderment. But all that fades away when we realize we are now adults and have responsibilities – that childlike awe is replaced with stress, budgeting, and prayers to make it to January financially unscathed.
I have spent the last several Christmases in SE Asia where, while Christmas is celebrated for religious purposes, it is not the black-Friday frenzy we see here in the U.S. of A. Last year, when I asked my Asian-raised daughter what she wanted, she was happy with a bracelet-making set and new coloring pencils.
She has lived in Springfield, Mo with me since May of 2016, and her Christmas list has changed quite a bit and has left me wondering if it was a good idea to expose her to this consumption-based culture. Gone are the days when all she wanted was a “magic wand” or “a pretty pink dress.” Some of the things on her list this year include a leather jacket, an easy-bake oven, make-up (she is eight by the way), and two first-class tickets to Malaysia. She is going back to visit family for about 10 days in January for Chinese New Year and decided flying coach was not appealing to her…meanwhile, I scrape and save just to find the money for the tickets in the first place! But I, yet again, digress….
Tips for Christmas Shopping on a Budget
You can have Christmas on a budget even if you missed those black Friday and small-business Saturday sales. Here are some tips to do your Christmas shopping on a budget:
- First, set a budget and stick to it. I tend to set a higher budget for the kids than I do for the adults, and I rarely go over that budget. Another philosophy I adopted after living in Malaysia for a decade is if you don’t have the money, don’t spend it! I don’t particularly like shopping on credit – it is too easy to spend more than you intend…after all, you can always pay it off later. This mindset is dangerous and has ravaged many American’s budgets. Do something different this year and remember, for things to change, first I must change!
- Do NOT drink and do any online shopping! There is actually a term for this called SUI – shopping under the influence and it has put many shoppers over budget on items. Alcohol lowers inhibitions. What is worse is that Google and FaceBook know – They know your interests, your age range and even the best time to show ads to you based on targeting. Add a glass cranberry cinnamon whisky sour or a pumpkin spiced white Russian and you may find yourself off on the deep end of your credit card.
- It’s not the amount of money you spend, it’s the memories you make. I know that sounds corny, but some of my best memories around Christmas included decorating the tree, making paper snowflake strings and having hot cocoa with my sisters. Sure, the presents got us out of bed earlier than normal, but I can’t remember most of the presents I received as a kid – it was the feeling of Christmas that stands out the most.
All in all, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get your kiddos or loved ones those big-ticket items – you are setting boundaries which is a good thing! A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect whether that is financial, emotional, physical or whatever. Set your budget, stick to it and relish in knowing that one of your New Year’s Resolutions will not be to get out of the debt you created over Christmas!