So we are now into December and well into the Holiday season. So how do you prepare for Christmas and New Year on a budget?
Christmas has always been a big thing in our family. Partly because Thanksgiving isn’t really; i’m originally British so we don’t do Thanksgiving. We’ve also lived away from any US family in the last few years, so this has meant that Thanksgiving has dropped in priority.
When I say Christmas is a big deal in our house, I should point out we are talking about cultural Christmas, we are not a religious family so historically we have been more caught up in the consumer trappings, so presents, food and drink!
This can get expensive though, so how do we limit our costs. Firstly, we don’t buy a fresh tree each year. We are not big fans of cutting down fresh trees just to put in a house for a couple of weeks (plus the cats would eat the needles!). So we have an artificial tree that we’ve had a for a few years. The cost was probably less than a fresh tree and we get to use it for many years. Maybe for some people it isn’t as nice as a fresh tree, but it works for us.
Decorations are expensive too. We always buy ours the day after Christmas, when Target and similar places deep discount them. They also keep for many years we therefore don’t need to buy many each year. When we lived in Houston professional light installations were the norm on people’s houses, it would become a bit of an arms race to “keep up with the Jones”. This is very expensive and not something we have ever done. Here in Portland it doesn’t seem to very common, except in some very ritzy locations.
The other thing we do is typically buy presents during the year. This means we can take advantage of sales to pick things up. With a lot of Black Friday sales being on line we can make sure we pick and choose without braving the malls. The other thing myself and Tuffy do is we typically don’t buy presents for each other. We are both of the feeling that we would rather buy presents for each other during the year when we see things the other person would like. Sometimes Christmas feels like as excuse to just buy random stuff that no one actually wants. A quick trawl of any mall will see it is full of just useless junk that i’m pretty sure will be opened and then forgotten about by Boxing Day.
Obviously for the kids we do have to buy presents, but we try and budget, however we are aiming more for experiences that they will remember than items that might be forgotten in a week.
Eating and drinking is a big part of Christmas and New Year too. Again we try and budget, and not go too over the top. I’ll admit in the past we have maybe taken it too far, with lots of snacks, cookies and chocolate. In our old life making cocktails was a bit of a hobby of ours, however that can be an expensive hobby; also we have cut down on our alcohol consumption considerably.
The biggest area we save at the Holiday time is we don’t travel. The children much prefer a Christmas at home, and as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year are the most expensive times to fly we are okay with that.
So at this time of the year, we trying to balance our budget while not making us look like Grinches.