Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Spending

Well guys, its two weeks before Christmas, and I’m going to be finishing up my shopping this weekend. After our first two years of marriage, Mr. DFx40 and I realized that we needed to prepare a little better for Christmas. So our third year of marriage we started saving $25 a month for Christmas related expenses. We also accumulate $100-$150 in cashback on our credit card every year. That makes our Christmas budget $400-450, but we rarely spend that much. This year we will be buying presents for 32 people this year, and here are a few tips on how we keep our costs down:

Couples Gifts
My brother and his fiancé love movies. More specifically, they love Disney movies. For them we will purchase one or two movies that we know they want. Then we will add popcorn, hot chocolate, or some other edible gift to round it out. This will cost between $20-$30.
Last year we stumbled across some deeply discounted wine in June. We paired these with books, movies, and other edible gifts for the couples we knew would appreciate the wine. Because we had the ability to purchase the wine early, we were able to spend $20-$25 on each couple.

Picture Exchange
My aunt suggested a great idea a few years ago. Every three years when we get together we exchange pictures as our gift. These pictures mean more than a gift because we only get to see them 2 times a year. This year we took our pictures at our local Botanic Gardens, which were free to visit. They also allow amateur photos if you don’t use a tripod. We have a printer that prints good quality photos (most printers do these days) so the only substantial cost here is buying a frame for each family. Because we all knew the arrangement, we were able to look for discounted frames throughout the year.

Draw Names
This is what the adults did on Mr. DFx40’s side of the family when there were 15 people to buy presents for instead of 5. It worked great because everyone bought gifts for the three children, but only one adult gift. This meant we could spend $30-$40 on a good gift (or less, we changed the limit over time) and still save money over buying 15 cheap $5 gifts.

Christmas Gift Exchange Game
We play the Christmas gift exchange game at our office’s Christmas party every year. The limit is $10 so most of the time we purchase edible items and just work it into the food budget. When I was younger we got together with my father’s first cousins (16 people) and played this game. Because of that experience, I can offer some advice. This game might not work with young children who don’t understand why their gift is being “stolen.”

Just Visit
I believe that the reason Thanksgiving is so awesome is because you get together with family, eat, play games, have fun, and don’t have to worry about presents. Sometimes I actually enjoy Thanksgiving more than Christmas because of this. There is nothing wrong with getting together and not giving presents. However, if you’re like my mother and can’t (or won’t?) bear the thought of Christmas with no gifts, consider the next tip.

Adopt a family
We were very blessed this year and we were able to adopt a local family with our bible study group. The family is made up of 9 children ranging from 2 months to 15 years old. The two youngest children live with their mother and the other 7 children live with their grandparents. We were able to purchase each child a pair of jeans, three shirts, pajamas, and stocking stuffers. We also bought each child a bible with his or her name engraved on it, a few family games, and a restaurant gift card and free night of babysitting for the grandparents. There were ten of us to split the costs, so we were able to come up with the money pretty painlessly. This will be the most rewarding and appreciated gift I have ever given.

What about you…how does your family handle gift exchanges? Have you ever gone the non-traditional route and not given presents?

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