Miel already shared her strategies for staying out of holiday debt, so now it’s my go to add my personal ideas:
- Cousin Gift Exchange – This will our first year of doing a gift exchange with the cousins on both sides of our family. Previously I felt the kids were a bit too young to fully engage, but this year I’m ready to put the gift purchases in their hands (last year Makenna did make some sweet beaded necklaces in addition to the books we bought together, but previously I had opted for Powell’s gift cards for the older cousins). They each earned $25 cleaning Miel’s place before she returned from Africa and we’ll pay them the same for getting our place party perfect. They are pretty excited about being able to buy the presents themselves.
- Only “eat out” at holiday parties – We typically have a budget of $200 to spend at restaurants each month, but this month we are committed to not eating out at all. This will help us to afford our annual holiday bash. Even though we are tight on cash, we couldn’t think of breaking tradition after fifteen years of hosting our Danish-themed julefrokost. Plus, since we share the love, we’ve been invited to plenty of festivities that we’ll enjoy way more than any restaurant.
- Hostess with the Mostest – After fifteen years, I’ve got the formula down pretty well. The nice thing is that my spread can be pretty impressive without being that expensive. I make a huge potato leek soup that can feed an army, delicious open-faced sandwiches, and I keep the dessert to cookies and chocolate. Plenty of Danish Carlsberg is our biggest expense, but this year we’ll probably get a token case, since we often buy more than we need any way (we literally end up with enough beer for the rest of winter!) The truth is that we don’t need to impress our friends, since I know we’re just happy to celebrate with each other.
- Shop Grocery Outlet & Costco – Lately we’ve been saving a lot on our grocery bill by shopping at grocery outlet to supplement our stocked pantry from Costco. Going to Grocery Outlet instead of New Seasons/Trader Joes on a weekly basis has saved us about 50% on our grocery bill. Now that Miel is town, I’m looking forward to going to Costco together and splitting our bulk groceries for another 50% savings…at least up front, even if we’ll need to go more often.
- Keep My Calculator Handy – When I do need to shop, I’m going to keep my calculator handy with my gift lists. Items can add up quickly, and I don’t want to realize at the register that I’m over my spending limit. Once I’m done with the purchase, I’ll track in my holiday budget tracker.
- Forgo Expensive Experiences – This year we’re going to opt out of the Nutcracker, and bundle up the family for a walk along the river to look at the Christmas Ships instead. We’ll take pics in front of our own tree instead of visiting Santa (plus, Makenna freaked out when she first sat on Santa’s lap and I don’t want to put Teagan through that trauma). We’ll buy a slightly smaller tree through our church fundraiser rather than pay over a $100 for one that towers to the top of our twelve foot ceiling.
- Not pre-purchase for birthdays – My older two kids birthdays are both in January, so I’ve always felt it perfectly justified to buy both gifts at the same time. While it has saved me some time, I’ve often ended up overspending as a result. Instead, I’ll reevaluate after the holidays have past and decide if there’s anything they still would really love and make sure that it’s budgeted for together with any party plans.
- Keep Practicing Gratitude – While our holiday budget may be small compared to some, I know that we are so very lucky to have the luxury of a cozy home. We may be budget-conscious this season, but that doesn’t mean we’re destitute. We are so very fortunate to have so many blessings in our lives and we’ll continue to be as generous as possible. Our budget still includes some purchases for families in need through Grace Memorial.
What personal ways can you save money this season and feel good about it?