Now, even though I have been guilty of over-buying, especially when it’s a ‘good deal,’ the only thing I’ve over-bought lately is paper towels. You can never have too many paper towels, right? That’s what my Dad believes, and his philosophy rubbed off on me. But seriously. I asked my 8 year old boy to inventory the paper products before I went to Costco. Serious error on my part. Now we have close to 40 paper towel rolls in the garage.
But I digress. My intent here is not to talk about buying habits, but to give some solid advice about NOT accumulating ‘stuff.’ I’ve gathered 6 helpful tips for staying within your means for the Holidays.
- Establish a Holiday Budget — Decide what you can afford, together with your spouse/family, and stick to it. Try to plan for everything: gifts, meals out, travel expenses, special ingredients, wrapping materials, etc.
- When you are out shopping, make sure to have a list with you — Stick to your list. Now, you can allow yourself some impulse buys, just make sure it’s something you had in mind. Not something the store has in mind for you. Retailers are so good at placing the good deals on endcaps or pricing their surplus attractively, and we tend to fall for it. Beware of wandering through malls and other stores, and DON’T bring your children, they will fall for the marketing and displays too!
- Before you bring an item home, or even put it on the cart, think about it — Is it something you need or is it just something you want? Can you afford it, will it fit in your home, will it be on sale after Christmas, etc….
In the past, I have fallen for marketing lures. I remember the time years ago at Christmas when I really over-bought everything from wrapping paper to presents. I’m really glad my husband didn’t do the numbers like the accountant in “Skipping Christmas” to find out how much I spent that year. I am especially vulnerable to marketing at that time of year, wanting everything to be ‘perfect’ for the special day.
- Focus on making memories — Remember, trying to buy the perfect Christmas is notrealistic. The things we remember best are the memories we make as we bake together, do crafts, sing carols, create a Nativity play, and serve others together. It’s the traditions or activities that mean the most, not the number of presents under the tree. One of my best Christmases, almost everything we received was homemade by my mother; red flannel nightgowns, puppets and a puppet theater. We spent the day putting together puppet shows and had a ball.
- Encourage gratitude — Instead of a spirit of entitlement, as many children have these days, let’s teach gratitude and giving by encouraging them to either make or buy gifts for others, including their teacher. Also, have each child write a thank you note to grandparents, aunts and uncles they received a gift from. We tried this last year and it caused the children to think about the generosity of others and their own gratitude. An added benefit: the grandparents were so tickled!
- Start a family tradition that helps someone in need — Whether they need companionship (the elderly) food, or something fun under the tree, you can easily find a family service opportunity. Last Christmas, we used the money from our Christmas jar (which we put change in throughout the year) to buy presents for elderly. The gym had a “senior” tree with items they needed. Many of the things were actual needs, like pajamas, winter gloves, and so on. We took the kids shopping with us and they were surprised by how quickly our money dwindled.
To sum up, be careful this season, don’t go into debt for the Holidays! Know what you have to spend, use your list, don’t fall for marketing lures, and spend time making memories and focusing on others. These are the ingredients for a truly memorable Holiday season.
The Christmas Jar by Jason Wright