The Easy Way to Do Christmas on a Budget: What Can You Do Less Of?

Managing Money / Thursday, November 17th, 2011

This post is part three in a series about Christmas on a Budget. You can see part one here and part two here.

In the last installment in this series, we talked about eliminating things from your Christmas as a way of saving money and making your holiday more enjoyable.

Hopefully you were able to identify one or two things that you were willing (maybe even excited) to do without this year. (Check out the comments of that post. Cheri is going to skip the tree and do more decorating instead. I love that she’s focusing on what she enjoys.)

But doing Christmas on a budget doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There may be things that you want to keep as part of your holiday, but scaling them back would provide you with a bit of breathing room.

Cutting Back on Cards

Christmas cards were used as an example in part one of this series (What can you do without?) and they’re a good illustration for this part (What can you do less of?) as well.

If Christmas cards are a drain on your time or wallet, they don’t’ have to be cut out entirely. Simply evaluating your list and sending cards to a smaller group — like out of town family and friends — might make more sense.

Backing Off the Baking

My husband’s office manager makes us a huge basket of baked goods every year. It’s an amazing gift and my family actually starts asking about it in mid-December, because it’s anticipated that much. The number of goodies she includes is part of what makes it so special, but last year she mentioned that she may have to scale it back a bit.

I can hardly blame her. I know I’ve found myself in the kitchen after midnight more than once, slapping icing on sugar cookies that took much too long to finish.

If that describes you, try limiting your baking to a few favorites. That way you get the experience, without the extra exhaustion or expense. You could even ask each family member to name theirs and then bake them together as a family activity.

Keeping Gifts in Perspective

Ah, gifts. This is where most of the expense of Christmas comes in, isn’t it? It’s hard to know where to draw the line with gift buying, especially for your kids.

For me, buying gifts for my two kids often goes like this: I think I’m done and then I’ll run across just one more thing for one of them, so I have to buy something else for the other. Then, just when the number of gifts is evened out, the dollar amount isn’t, so I try to make that right, but then the number of gifts is unequal again.

In fact, buying Christmas gifts for the kids is a lot like trimming bangs: I’m always trying to even things up and I usually go too far.

But then I started hearing about people who would buy each of their kids three gifts to represent the three wise men in the Christmas story. I thought that was really neat. And smart.

And a friend in real life told me how she buys each of her kids four gifts, using this little rhyme:

Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read

I loved that too.

Oh how I wish I had known of those things when my kids were younger. It would have saved me a lot of time, energy, and money. And I think the kids would have enjoyed their gifts more, too.

So what about you? Do you have ways you cut back to make Christmas more enjoyable? Do you follow a guideline for gifts to keep you from overspending?

This post is part of Frugal Fridays and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

13 Replies to “The Easy Way to Do Christmas on a Budget: What Can You Do Less Of?”

  1. We follow that saying for Christmas gifts as well… Makes you appreciate your gifts more! Christmas isn’t supposed to be all about gifts, so I’m trying to bring the true meaning of Christmas back to stay!

  2. Sales are definitely the way to go for Christmas gifts, and buying throughout the year can help you land even better sales. I’m not that organized, though, so the sales I hit are usually right after Thanksgiving.

  3. This is the first year we’re really buying gifts for our son (he’s 2.5) and we are doing, “something you want, something you need, something to do and something to read.” :)

    1. Tanya, I love “something to do.” Is that like an outing/experience gift or an activity toy type gift? Enjoy Christmas with him at this magical age!

      1. We are hoping to be creative with it over the years. Same with “something to read,” we are thinking we won’t just get him a book every year. This year something to do is some wooden puzzles. Haven’t figured out something to read yet :) Something you want is a replica University of Michigan football helmet and something you need will probably be new winter boots. He’ll also get one big and a couple little gifts from “Santa” until he figures that fib out :)

  4. There certainly are a lot of traditions that we take for granted for Christmas. I’ve been cutting back a bit on the spending and the baking this year. It’s hard with the kids though because I feel like they should have huge piles under the Christmas tree when reality is they feel overwhelmed by the huge piles.

  5. Hi Julie! This is perfect:) I am seriously loving your post! It is so informative and I think my subscribers would really enjoy reading this. I would love for you to come share it at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways on Frugally Sustainable ( I really hope that you will put Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways on your list of carnivals to visit and link to each Wednesday!

    Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable
    Here’s the link:

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