The following is a guest post from Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. Read more about Kyle immediately following the post.
Before I was a frugal Dad, I was a Dad who absolutely dreaded getting the credit card bill in early January. I would consistently overspend in December on gifts and eating out. Then I would try to figure out how to pay the bills. I knew there had to be a better way and it wasn’t until my first child came along 10 years ago that I took action and developed frugal Christmas spending habits. As we get close to the craziness of the holiday season, here are my five best tips for keeping this Christmas frugal yet memorable.
Gift Budget – The singles best way to keep Christmas frugal is to create a gift list of what you want to buy and how much you can afford to purchase for each person on your list. This makes you accountable to your spending. Stay disciplined in your buying and you will avoid those big credit card bills in January.
Shop All Year Long – If you start your shopping the last few weeks before Christmas the retail machine will typically have you over a barrel. They can set prices to meet demand and you have zero negotiating power. Instead, create your shopping list earlier in the year so you can shop sales and clearance racks all year long and store the gifts in your closet until Christmas. In other words, shop when nobody else is, you will be in a much better negotiating position, especially when shopping online sites like eBay.com.
Think Outside the Box – Consider making gifts this year. This can be in the form of baked goods, homemade jellies and jams, or my favorite, personal gift certificates. Do you have a talent that you can share with someone, or a skill the gift recipient would find very helpful? If so, then give them your time in the form of a personal gift certificate. Personal gift certificates my wife and I have given out over the years include babysitting, computer help, and yard work. On a personal note, my wife and I were given a babysitting certificate from some friends so I could take her out to dinner once a month for an entire year. What a great gift that was, by far the best gift I received that year.
Gifts from the Heart – If you are buying gifts for Grandparents, consider a photo gift of your children. Last year my wife and I, with our kids help, created a framed photo collage for the grandparents and it was a tremendous hit. We only spent $20 on supplies and frames to create gifts they now treasure. Also, consider sites like Shutterfly.com and Snapfish.com for some really neat and inexpensive photo gifts like coffee mugs and photo books.
Traditions That Help Others – I always try to implement new family traditions that focus on the true meaning of Christmas, not the stuff we get. Last year, I took my oldest son and daughter out to ring the Salvation Army bell. What a great experience for all of us and a great opportunity to talk to my kids about those less fortunate than us. I was blown away with the number of people who dropped their spare change in the kettle, took a candy cane from my kids, and then looked me in the eye and said how great it was that I was doing this with my kids. Truly gave me chills and is something we will do for years to come.
Do you have any tips to share on how you make Christmas frugal, yet memorable in your home?
About The Author: Kyle James owns and operate a website called Rather-Be-Shopping.com which specializes in coupon codes for over 750 stores, organized in 25 shopping categories. He also has a blog, where he writes about frugal living and personal finance tips as well as other musings about the adventures and mis-adventures of raising 3 active kids.