The Christmas season is such an exhilarating time of year as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Schedules fill up quickly, as we make plans to see friends and family, weekends are filled with parties and pageant rehearsals, and afternoons are spent baking cookies or watching Christmas movies and sipping hot cocoa.
Being so busy often leaves little time for planning and preparation of our hearts and our wallets regarding Christmas gifts. We often feel obligated to buy for everyone we know and overspend.
This Christmas season, vow to be intentional. Take a few moments to really reflect on the meaning of Christmas: to celebrate God’s greatest gift, the birth of Jesus Christ. Focus your eyes on Jesus during this busy season. Keep Him in the midst of every party and every present that you give. Remove the pressure to conform to the world’s messages of overspending on Christmas gifts and using debt to do so. That’s not the way to celebrate Jesus’ birthday! We give gifts to imitate God’s gift to us, not to out-do one another and to win over the hearts of loved ones with our money.
Next, take an hour or so to plan out a budget and make a list of whom you’d like to give gifts. Ask your husband and your children whom they would like to add to the list. Create a budget of how much you can realistically spend. Once the list and budget are captured, use these great money-saving ideas to give meaningful gifts that you can afford.
- Use cash for all purchases: It’s easier to spend more when you don’t actually see the money leave your hands. Get an envelope and store your cash and your list inside. Take the envelope with you when you buy Christmas gifts. Using only cash minimizes the chances of overspending versus using any type of plastic, even debit cards.
- Buy photo gifts: You can easily turn any photo into a wonderful gift at a local photo shop or online. You can create calendars, posters, note cards, mouse pads, stickers, coffee mugs, playing cards and much more. Depending on which gifts you choose, you can spend about 30 to 40 percent less per item than traditional gifts, like clothing or jewelry. Sign up on or around Thanksgiving with sites like Walgreens, Kodak, Shutterfly or Snapfish to receive specials and coupons via e-mail. This option takes some planning and preparation (don’t forget about shipping and processing time), but allows you to give very personal gifts without spending a fortune.
- Give a family gift: If your gift list is long, it’s great to stretch your budget and give something the whole family will love. Pick up a great family movie on sale, microwave popcorn and theatre-style candy and you have a great family gift for around $25. Board games are another option the entire family can enjoy.
- Give children the gift of simplicity: Take the kids in your life back to a simpler time by giving classic toys and books. Crayons and coloring books are great gifts for around $5 that are perfect for nieces, nephews and friends of your children. Toys like jump ropes, jacks, yo-yo’s, kites and Pick-Up-Sticks are relatively inexpensive and will provide children with hours of fun. Classic books range from $5 to $10 at bookstores.
- Give ornaments: Purchase really cute Christmas ornaments at craft stores, department stores and discount stores for $10 or less. Ornaments are perfect gifts for sisters, friends, co-workers and Bible study members. Recipients can enjoy this present year after year by putting it on their Christmas tree.
- Give from your kitchen: Baked goods are great for friends, neighbors, and service people like your babysitter or mail carrier. Other great options are to pour hot cocoa mix or the measured ingredients for oatmeal cookies (minus any liquid or perishable items) into a mason jar, tie a ribbon and voila, a yummy gift!
- Give the gift of time: Make coupons that you can give to almost anyone on your list. Popular ideas include a lunch date, babysitting, help with a project or uninterrupted phone time for someone who doesn’t live close by. These creative ideas are personal and let your loved ones know you care, but don’t cost any money up front, if at all.
- Simplify the wrapping: You can give beautifully wrapped gifts without spending a fortune. Buy plain brown or white paper bags from a craft store. Decorate the bag with festive tissue paper and ribbon or stickers. Create inexpensive nametags on cardstock or make snowflakes out of coffee filters and handwrite names on them.
Use plain gift boxes and skip the wrapping paper altogether. Dress up the boxes with stickers or get the children involved and let them draw Christmas scenes on the lids. Use decorative ribbon to secure. (See #10 for another great money-saving tip related to wrapping.)
- Repurpose old Christmas cards: If you’ve saved old Christmas cards that you’ve received over the years, you can repurpose them. (This is another great project to do with your kids.) Cut the front panel off the old card. Write your personalized message to the recipient on the back with a calligraphy pen. You can also glue a family picture to the front and decorate with glitter and craft scissors. Buy some inexpensive envelopes and stamps. You’ll have unique semi-homemade cards that cost next to nothing.
- Stock up for next Christmas: With all the money that you saved from using these ideas, you’ll be able to stock up for next year. Christmas cards, wrapping paper, gift bags, boxes, tissue paper and Christmas décor are marked down 50 percent or more the day after Christmas. By planning ahead, you won’t have to splurge and pay full price on these items next year.
Enjoy your gift giving and above all, remember the reason we give: “We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 (NIV).
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