If you celebrate Christmas in your family, you know it can be an expensive holiday. Between giving gifts to family, friends, maybe coworkers or service providers, decorating, baking, and attending parties that might require special outfits and babysitters. . . sometimes this can be over thousands of dollars. Yikes! I don’t know about you, but many people can’t afford that out of their monthly budget in one swoop. One of my viewers reached out to ask if I had any fun and budget-friendly ideas to celebrate Christmas on a budget. Well, of course, I do!
I love the Christmas season so much, but I can understand how tempting it is to overspend and go into debt. Right now, we have 14 nieces/nephews all under the age of 10, so it’s just insane for us! Remember, when I started my journey, I was thousands of dollars in debt, and I worked hard to bring myself and my family out of it while still enjoying our life.
I had to get creative with celebrations like Christmas because we had to make them a lot more fun, affordable, and easier on the parents. I created a special debt-free Christmas challenge to help you along this journey, and we’ll be running that during November.
The first thing we did was cut out the big, traditional Christmas dinner. I know some of you just fainted when you read that, but stay with me!
If any of you are responsible for cooking Christmas dinner, then you know it’s chaotic to try to cook such a large meal and get it in place for everyone. Imagine me with 14 grandkids without anybody spilling or throwing a fit, and you know then ten more adults on top of that!
What did we do instead? We switched to doing finger foods and hors d’oeuvres throughout the entire day. In the morning, we serve cinnamon buns; in the afternoon, we have cheese and crackers and a veggie tray, and then in the evening, we enjoy appetizers. All the families split it, so the budget is low and easier on the parents. Another bonus? Picky kids (and adults!) can eat stuff they actually like. I can’t be the only one who has cooked all day to have some of my grandchildren eat only a roll, right?
Gifts can take up a huge part of the budget, so when planning Christmas on a budget, this was one of the areas I really had to examine for changes. With such a large extended family, we decided to draw names like a pollyanna. So I have six kids, and each of my kids gets to pick a cousin’s name. So that means I only have to buy six gifts instead of 14 gifts.
Since my siblings and I are all adults, there isn’t stuff we need. So my brothers and sisters and I decided not to exchange gifts with each other this year.
We also decided to make a three-gift rule. I created a whole post about this, but essentially this is the idea of something you want, something you need, and something to read. This helps us stay on budget and helps with not having a lot of extra clutter in the house.
Ultimately we know that Christmas is about being together and doing things together. Most of the time, these are the traditions we remember, and they are the cheapest. My challenge for you is to think back to your childhood memories and what made holidays special for you. My guess is those memories are usually around some sort of tradition.
Growing up, I remember we always decorated our house in November on Thanksgiving night. One of my favorite memories is baking Christmas cookies with my mom and my sisters. I also remember Christmas morning when we would all rush downstairs and see all the presents under the tree. Another thing we did in my childhood, my parents invited neighborhood families over to make gingerbread houses together. Then we’d judge them and declare a winner.
I love baking homemade cinnamon rolls together every Christmas morning, frosting Christmas cookies together, and sleeping on the living room floor in sleeping bags on Christmas Eve (although this can be a little tricky if you have little Santa watchers in your house!).
I can’t remember many, if any, of the gifts I got growing up. Can you? So my question for you is why do you care so much about spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars for your kids at Christmas? What is it you are trying to prove? I challenge you to take control and make those memories for them that don’t involve spending a ton of money. Make your own annual family Christmas traditions.
What will your kids remember when they are adults? Set those traditions now, and stop trying to buy their memories because it’s not going to continue to happen that way. It’s just not worth it to go broke this Christmas and get what I call the January Christmas Hangover. That’s when you realize all of your money is spent and you’re thousands of dollars worth of debt and now you have to pay it off. The toys you just purchased are just sitting at the bottom of your toy box not being played with. That’s the worst feeling.
Christmas on a budget might sound like a Debbie Downer idea but think of your bigger goals like paying off debt, having an emergency fund, saving for retirement, or college education. These are things that last a lifetime rather than a couple of hours one morning a year. I know it’s hard to resist overspending, especially when they advertise so many deals. But focus on your budget, your goals, and join our 30-Days to a Debt-Free Christmas Challenge in November to help you stay debt-free this year.