Christmas is fun! And sometimes expensive. While trying not to sound like Charlie Brown in his Christmas special, the crass commercialism is difficult to avoid this time of year. Of course the worst possible scenario is to try to enjoy the season on credit, only to get the depressing bill in January. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for saving some money while you enjoy the festivities of December.
- Make a Christmas budget and STICK TO IT! Decide what you want to spend on each family member. Try a Secret Santa exchange if extended family or work colleagues expect gifts.
- Buy used toys for your kids. Try Craigslist, Offer Up, Freecycle, Let Go or Facebook Marketplace for Lego tables, train sets, bikes, scooters, toy kitchens, playhouses, dollhouses and other durable toys. Some toys are so seldom used or used for such a short time that you can get amazing bargains on used ones. Also think about selling some outgrown toys this time of year for Christmas money.
- Purchase wrapping paper and supplies at the dollar store. I was amazed to find pretty paper in 50 square foot rolls for $1. The Christmas candy and stocking stuffers for $1 were also a tempting bargain.
- Make the same gift for everyone. This one saves sanity, too. Other than my spouse and kids, all of our teachers, siblings, grandparents and neighbors all get a lovely batch of whatever I made: jam, mini bread loaves, ornaments, etc. This year I made pumpkin butter out of free pumpkins leftover from Halloween pumpkin patches. Score! This also takes advantage of buying in bulk. Plus, it keeps me out of stores where I am likely to spend more than I intended.
- Stay away from the mall. There are very few bargains to be had and many temptations to flee. I used to enjoy the festive feel of the mall this time of year. While it was nice, it tended to focus my mind on earthly things. Colossians 3:2 instructs us to focus on heavenly things – that is, what matters for eternity. So let the mall trips be confined to one special night for finding an Angel Tree gift or some charitable purchase. Well, maybe a stop at Chick-Fil-A for a peppermint milkshake is sort of heavenly. Just be sure to pray before you eat it. You will need supernatural help to get rid of the calories.
- If you are at all creative, try upcycling. Take inventory of what you have and imagine what it could become. Thanks to Pinterest it is easy to find instructions and examples for turning old t-shirts into tote bags, fence boards into coasters or candlesticks into doll tables.
- Have a potluck Christmas party. The most expensive line item when having a party is food. Concentrate on the fun and fellowship and share the work and cost burden by asking everyone to bring a dish.
Being frugal allows us to be generous. This is a season of generosity. Use those extra dollars to surprise someone with a need. What are your favorite tips for saving holiday cash?