Planning for Christmas

I love to give gifts. I wish that I had so much money that I could just hand out fabulous cashmere scarves and gloves to every person I meet. Unfortunately, that is not an option for me and I assume that most of you reading this blog have your limits too. Since most of us do not have an infinite amount of money, I have proposed the following suggestions for gift giving this Christmas season:

1. Draw names. I honestly believe people are really relieved when you suggest switching over to this.

2. Instead of drawing names play a really fun game of dirty Santa. I grew up with an enormous extended family and we always drew names. Plus we each received two gifts from the matriarch and patriarch of the family. Along the way we stopped doing that and started playing dirty Santa which is really hysterical in a big family. I enjoy the jokes and the hysterics of it all so much that I wouldn't want to go back to exchanging boring gifts and passing them around for inspection.

3. Completely stop swapping gift cards (ahem, I mean presents) with everyone except your immediate family. There may be a lot of resistance to this one and some boycotting. But hey, no one can force you to give right? Now before you start calling me names that begin with an "S" (scrooge), hear me out on this. Christmas is supposed to be a time when we appreciate and celebrate our precious savior, eat cookies, decorate the tree, go caroling, sledding, attend parties, mail and receive cards and basically immerse ourselves in the merriment of the season. What it isn't supposed to be is stressful. I mean, I don't remember reading anything about waiting in line to purchase an iPhone and getting trampled entering a store in my version of the nativity story. So - just think about number 3 a little bit. Let it roll around in your head for a few days before you reject it whole heartily. This is something that we do in our family and it has worked for us. Because it means that we focus on each other when we are together and celebrating our own little traditions of the season instead of maxing ourselves out financially. Of course, homemade gifts like a loaf of pumpkin bread or a jar of your homemade hot cocoa mix don't count.

Whether you are buying for just your children or for your entire family aunts and uncles too, it's not too late to plan your Christmas spending. Here's how I do it: make a list of every person you are buying for including teachers, neighbors and family. Then assign a dollar amount to each person.
Mom - $35
Dad - $35
Brother - $20
Aunt - $15
Neighbor - $10 .... you get the point. Then write down your other expenses because surely gifts isn't it.

Here are some categories to include:
Christmas tree (if you buy a fresh one)
Christmas cards
Decor (any new or replacements for lights/ornaments)
Holiday food
Christmas eve dinner
Holiday Party expenses
Special holiday activities (movies, train rides etc.)
Hostess gifts.....

List them all out, assign dollar amounts and then add it up. You may be shocked to find out what you are really spending on Christmas. We did this last night and even though I thought my budget was pretty sparse for gifts, once I added my additional Christmas expenses I was surprised to see how much Christmas 2014 is costing me. So much so that under the tree skirt category where I had anticipated buying a new one this year, I wrote "better luck next year". Unless of course, I find some rockin deal on one after Christmas. Instead, I will need to just make do with some fabric or an old sheet or something. I will figure it out and to be honest, it's not a need - it's a luxury. So ask yourself when looking at your list: are these needs or luxuries? Could I make do this year with my current lights and wreath and maybe look for a good deal after the holidays are over? Just some food for thought. It's not too late to make a plan for Christmas.