“Christmas is a-comin’ and the geese are getting fat!” is a phrase from a song from long ago. It tends to get stuck in my head this time of year. The problem is the geese may be getting fat but with all the holidays, our bank accounts tend to get slim. Between the holiday parties, gift-giving, and general spending, we can not only lose sight of our physical health but our financial health as well. It’s easy to say, “It’s the holidays, the giving season!” without remembering the financial season you are currently in.
In my life, I’ve gone through times when it was my name hanging on a tree and someone adopted me for Christmas, to being able to adopt others for Christmas. Gift-giving is a sweet joy and something I gladly do every chance I get. But this joy that I love so much has also been hard on my relationship because we weren’t always as financially healthy as we are now. We didn’t have the same goals or understanding of where we wanted to be. I knew never to spend more than I had, but why couldn’t I spend ALL that I had? My husband is the saver of our relationship, and not being able to have a healthy savings account made him start growing grey hairs.
There is nothing wrong with giving gifts, right? It’s a good thing. Giving, in general, is probably the most important thing you can ever do. God loves a cheerful giver. But if you’re using debt to finance a gift, that isn’t really a gift. Or you could say that you are putting yourself into the gift too much by becoming a slave to the debt you took to give “good gifts” or the “perfect toy”. I can’t tell you not to give gifts; it isn’t in my nature and it’s not my job to tell you what you can and can’t do with your money. But I can hopefully help with a few ideas of things you can give that won’t break your bank account this holiday season.
Homemade goods- whether it’s candied pecans, quilts, and blankets, or decorations for my house I will tell you that anything hand made is held dear to my heart. Not because store-bought is terrible, but because of the thoughtfulness I know that goes into making something personal for me. I still have a hand-knitted blanket that a neighbor gave me when I was about 12 years old, and every time I see that blanket I don’t think about being warm; I think, someone looked at me and loved me so much they spent hours of their time making me a beautiful blanket. It is a gift that still touches me to this day.
Dollar store stocking stuffers- Do you have any idea what you can find in the dollar store? It’s amazing, everything from candy to learning supplies to kids’ toys. Your stockings will be full of things that will bring joy and it won’t be physically painful when they get tossed to the side for the rest of the day.
Time- It doesn’t matter how good of a gift you buy if you don’t put time into your relationships. The time friends and family spend together is far more valuable than gold. Take the time with your family and work on those relationships. A cup of cocoa and some quality listening time will go far in making it the best Christmas yet.
Take advantage of the free activities- In my hometown, we have the tree lighting ceremony and the Christmas bears/cards. There are amazing lights displays in town and through various neighborhoods, and a lot of churches have Christmas programs and caroling. It’s a great way to make the season feel bright and festive, and all you need to invest is a little gas, especially if you carpool with others.
Sell some stuff- if you find you need to buy some gifts, look around the house and see if you have extra items that you can exchange for some extra cash. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford, and stick to your budget by lightening the load of things you’ve collected over the years.
What about you? How do you save during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments so we can add some new way to spend a little less.