This year’s Christmas shopping trips could be more stressful than usual thanks to the country’s economic woes. For most everyone, money will be tight this season and each of us will probably be cutting back on our holiday spending. To avoid ending overspending this year, prepare your budget and think creatively. Take a moment, grab a cup of coffee and a notebook and get yourself organized BEFORE you hit the stores. The first thing that goes into your notebook is the amount you have to spend this season. It goes on page 1. Think about how much you can actually afford and then be prepared to assign a per person budget for each of your gift recipients. On the following page make a list of those people. Who do you need to buy for this year? Write down everyone. Yes, all those teacher and Scout leader gifts add up; so put down all your recipients.
Next, take a look at that list. Jot down any gift ideas you already have and be ready to add to those as new thoughts come to you. In terms of the gift recipients, are there some things you can do to narrow it down? If you have a numerous extended family members on your list, you may be able to approach your family members with the idea of drawing names. This allows everyone to get one nice gift. Our family draws names each Thanksgiving and we all agree on a set dollar amount to be spent. We always keep it a secret until the gifts are exchanged.
If your group is older, let each member draw a name and then before Christmas donate an agreed upon amount money to a charity. Each person should think about their person and choose a charity that represents someone special about them. For example, if the person you picked loves to cook, you may choose to donate to a soup kitchen. If the person’s favorite celebrity is Oprah or Brad Pitt, you may choose to donate to their non-profit foundation. The point is to put thought behind your choice. The fun here is that when you all gather at Christmas you make a game of it. You can hand out a list of each charity that received a contribution and then let everyone guess which charity received a donation in their name! After the guessing is done, let everyone give their recipient the donation card from the charity and tell all the guests why they chose the specific charity for that person.
For your immediate family think about gifts that they could use, would be fun, special or creative. A gift to our son one year hit all those criteria. He was planning his Acapulco spring break. Rather than pile shirts, sweaters or video games under the tree for him, we gave him a gift we knew he could use.. a Visa gift card to help defray some of the costs of his trip. I designed and made a t-shirt with a Mexican theme, picked up some great free travel books at the local Auto Club, wrote a poem and wrapped everything separately. I then numbered them so he opened the gift card last. He was thrilled with the money, yet this theme gift was fun to open on Christmas morning.
Now you have your list, you’ve come up with some gift ideas and you have a budget. Next, gather all your store coupons and put them in the notebook. Put the notebook in your purse, briefcase or car each day. Now you are prepared to shop wherever you are each day. Just like that famous American Express motto.. “Don’t leave home without it!” Having your list and ideas on hand will help you avoid impulse purchases, keep you organized and help you to save time and MONEY. I have done this for years and am always able to stay within my budget. It takes some effort but you can prevail. Don’t let the economic news dampen your holiday spirit and always remember gift giving is about the thought behind the gift.
If you would like to see more creative and unique holiday gift and celebration ideas, I have shared them at Celebration Ideas Online Holiday Fun.