In the first three parts of this series, we talked about ways to buy the same presents and Christmas trimmings for less than the typical $ 1,200 budget. We found that we could save over $ 200 of this money without skimping on a single thing, simply by spreading the cost of Christmas out over the year, buying presents early, and bulk-buying presents for friends.
Now let’s get serious. If you want to save yourself more than a couple of hundred dollars, you’re going to have to really think about the gifts that you hand out come Christmastime. Every year, everyone I know bemoans the commercialization of Christmas, and the fact that instead of a family focus, the children (and adults) are thinking about nothing more than the next shiny toy. And yet, when push comes to shove, they are right out there, squeezing themselves into the big retail stores to spend their hard-earned money on perpetuating this trend. If you want to get out of debt, and also restore meaning to your Christmastime, you need to put your money where your mouth is. Or rather, put you money back in your pocket, and put your heart where your mouth is.
The first step that you can take on this front is to draft up a schedule of events for Christmas. Try to get the other adults in the family to sign on to this and participate. The point of the schedule is to minimize the amount of time devoted to gifts, and to maximize the fulfilling, family-oriented activities.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to schedule a horse-drawn wagon ride, sledding, or a snowman building contest. Indoor activities can include making cookies, Christmas cards, and gift wrapping. My family likes to have a series of Christmas-themed contests, in which everyone competes for prizes.
If you want to reduce the gift-giving end of Christmas, you have to first find something to replace that ritual. Once you’ve provided a Christmastime that is truly memorable for reasons beyond the latest X-box game, you’ll be ready to reduce the expenses of gift giving by incorporating Yankee gift-swaps, present-making, and “experience” presents.
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