I love Christmas! I love holidays! Some, like me, look forward to the music, decorations, parties and festivities. However, due to the economy this past year, there are many who are not looking forward to it and are wishing it would just go away this year. No matter how tight your budget, you can have a joyous holiday by remembering the purpose of the holiday and yes, "keep Christ in Christmas."
Time is the greatest gift you can give another person. I encountered a deaf and blind lady this week. I felt helpless in trying to communicate with her. I finally realized that human touch was "it" as far as showing her kindness. If that were me, what would I want? There are many who are shut-ins in nursing homes, homeless shelters and children's facilities who simply long for human contact. Whether or not you have money for lavish Christmas gifts, you and I have time that we could give to help someone else have a nice holiday season.
I also encountered a joyful woman this week. She is taking care of her husband and enjoying working on projects for others for Christmas. She knits hats and all sorts of other items to donate. She is joyful as she looks to helping others. Again, a recurrent theme in many of my columns, it is not about me. Life is about what I can do for others and what God can do through me.
With all that said, I have found some inexpensive gifts for Christmas that might help for those living on a budget this Christmas ... and basically we are the majority folks.
Set Realistic Expectations From The Start
If you do the "Santa thingy" it is probably best if the most wanted gifts are from Santa, and are in the stockings. Anything else comes from parents. The reason behind this is: if we have a tough year (and who isn't these days) we can focus on buying the gift and let the kids know that mom and dad don't have much money this Christmas for gifts. That way children don't become confused about their worth or wonder why he didn't get as many gifts as last year or as many as their friends. As long as they get the one gift, Santa's done his job. If you have young children, you can start this tradition.
Some Frugal Gift Ideas:
- Do not give gift cards. There are exceptions to this rule (keep reading), but in general, gift cards will cause you to spend more money than you might otherwise. The reason for this is that while you might find a perfectly nice gift for $5 or $10, you might be reluctant to give a card in that amount.
- Create a scrapbook. I did this for my husband one year, and I loved watching his face as he "relived" his life beginning with his late parents, cousins and friends, and up to the present age with the kids. This was my all time favorite gift to him. It was time consuming, to say the least, but worth it.
- Buy one present for a whole family. If there is a family of two, three, four or more on your list, you can save a lot of money by purchasing one gift for all of them. Consider the gift of a movie night with a $5 Movie Stars gift card packaged in a basket with a bag of microwave popcorn, a couple of sodas and some movie-size candy. This is a great family gift for $10 or less. Another option for a family is an age-appropriate board game.
- Buy for two. In much the same way, you can save money by purchasing a single present for the couples on your list. Some nice frugal options include a pair of movie tickets, a DVD, a pair of stemmed glasses, or a bag of gourmet coffee packaged with a couple of chocolate spoons.
- Break the gift card rule. While gift cards are generally expensive gifts, there are a few times (like the Movie Stars example above) when a little can go a long way. Similarly, a $5 gift card to Starbucks is perfectly acceptable and will be appreciated on a cold winter morning. The best gift card deal, though, is from Restaurant.com (see resources below) - at this Web site, you can get $25 gift cards to select restaurants for just $10. These make great frugal gifts.
- Buy used and save the difference. Most of us would probably prefer to give and receive new items, as opposed to used. However, you can sometimes find new merchandise in second hand locations. Try yard sales, thrift stores and even Ebay for some great deals on brand new merchandise.
- Make a gift. What about homemade cookies, fudge, bread or any other treat? These are almost always appreciated and can be quite frugal to make, especially if you make large batches.
- Search the dollar sections at Target, Walgreens and other stores. You can find some terrific stocking stuffers or token gifts in these sections, particularly if you shop early. Great finds include reed diffusers, nail polish kits, bath sets, note cards, hair accessories, pretty pens, toys, tools and a wide assortment of other items - all for $1.
- Give the gift of time. I know I am repeating myself, but never underestimate this: Give "coupons" for babysitting, house cleaning, errand running, etc.
- Give photos - and not just to grandparents. A framed photo can make a thoughtful gift for any special person in your life. A woman can give a photo of herself in a masculine frame to the man in her life. A dog-lover might like receiving a photo of his favorite pooch in a cute themed frame. Give your best friend a photo of the two of you together. And of course, grandparents love getting photos of their grandkids. My all time favorite gift from my husband was some enlarged photos I'd never seen of the children. He enlarged them, put matting around them and framed them. I wept as I opened one after the other. They adorn my walls to this day.
- Enjoy the freebies during this season including, concerts, parades, looking at decorations and lights at night, and church plays and candlelight services.
Having a frugal Christmas does not mean you cannot celebrate and experience joy. If fact, if you add a bit of frugality to your Christmas, you may find come January that joy continues as you have simplified your life in such a way that brings freedom from debt and worry.