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Controlling My Christmas Shopping


Christmas shopping bags

I read today that consumers plan to spend an average of $1047.83 this year on Christmas shopping and holiday purchases. My first thought is what a ton of money to spend in one month! But then I realized I usually have no idea how much we’re spending each Christmas or where our money is going.

We’ve never saved for or created a clear Christmas budget. I just try to keep things low and hope it turns out okay. I start early, I use sales, and I’m skilled at convincing my kids they still want the toy they told me about in November and that I already bought. So far this year I’ve just been using our budget’s gift category to the max these past few months, and then supplementing with earnings from my freelance work. It sounds sloppy because it is.

We can’t keep this up. Luckily there’s still time to control my Christmas shopping. Here are some things I’m trying:

1. Limiting the Number of Gifts We Give

For our kids we’re doing the trendy-though-controversial gift-giving concept of “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” Then they’ll get a board game for the whole family.

My husband and I decided to just do small stocking stuffers for each other, nothing more. But we also pondered if some other gifts could be omitted. We both come from large families that do gift exchanges, and as our families keep growing and moving far apart, this has started to cause stress, overwhelm, and loss of the true spirit of giving and receiving. At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, I proposed to each side of the family the idea of no longer exchanging gifts. It was… not popular. But it did start a good conversation, and I think next year we may just say no thank you and bow out entirely.

2. Planning Ahead and Looking for Sales and Freebies

I always look for deals, but now I’m sticking only to the things on the list (no emotional, “come on, it’s Christmas” shopping). I’m also making better use of free items, like a cousin’s hand-me-down plane my son will love. I was even able to score a free 21-pound turkey when I spent $100 at our grocery store the week before Thanksgiving. Booya.

3. Consolidating and Simplifying

I love the chance to connect with a few close neighbors and friends at Christmas, but I’m keeping it simple and giving everyone the same thing—Christmas potpourri. I made it last year, and it was a hit. It’s easy to assemble, I have leftover supplies from last December, and I only need to buy oranges and cranberries.

4. Using Gift Cards and Store Credit

Close to $1 billion of gift cards went unredeemed in 2015. I plan to use the stash of random cards in my purse for gifts. Our local bookstore also offers store credit when you sell them used books, so I have some unused credit I’ll put towards the kids (“Darth Vader and Son” books here we come).

Controlling our Christmas shopping is changing our behavior and it hurts sometimes. My husband and I had a moment of truth standing in Target on the afternoon of Black Friday. We had gone there for something specific for the business, but the displays of DVDs on sale sucked my movie-loving husband in. As he showed me a stack of of movies we could buy, we had to look each other in the eye and accept they just weren’t in the budget. It was a buzzkill, but it frees us up for the purchases we really do want to make this time of year.

How do you save on gift-giving during the holidays?

What is Financial Security?


Every year, I set a word. A goal perhaps. But just one word.

This year my word was Stronger. For those that have been following my journey here, you can probably imagine why I wanted to be stronger. Our last several years have been hard on so many levels…homeless, job loss, interstate move, children leaving home.

I think I have succeeded in becoming stronger. I don’t cry near as often. I am very content, even happy with my life these days. And I am hopeful that the future will be better.

I wanted my word to be Build. I wanted to build my business, a house and a life. But I knew I needed more strength, I/we were still recovering from the hard years and losses.

Looking Forward

Lately, I’ve begun thinking about 2020 and my personal goals. It is a year that will bring even more change. And mostly likely, more alone time. I’m okay with that.

And I know it means more work time. I am so grateful that I truly love what I do and the clients I get the pleasure to work with. But with that in mind, I’ve been thinking about my word for 2020.

What has come to mind has been Financial Security. (Yes, I know it’s more than one word, anyone no a single word that means financial security?)

But frankly, I am not sure how I define financial security. A couple of years ago, I would have said a corporate job with a good salary and benefits. But I tried that…and it’s definitely not what I have in mind.

I recognize that I have lots of psychological hang ups about money. I don’t recognize them all, but I am definitely learning. And the BAD community continues to help me recognize them, and I really do appreciate that. But I also recognize there are many things I value more than money…time with my kids, ability to have a life and job I love.

So now, if Financial Security is to be my word for 2020, I need to figure out how I define that for myself.

How do you define financial security?