In Christmases past, I’ve given my extended family a head’s up that I’m on a budget and they should lower their output on gifts for my family, but that doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. We’re still outspent a million-to-one on gifts. Maybe by now they’ve caught on that I don’t do big gifts on St. Christmas Day and will just give me $19 in cash (which sounds better every time I bring it up).

I hope in the future I’ll have a chance to show my appreciation to my kids’ grandparents with grander gestures. Instead of $10 photo gifts, I’d love to take them out for a nice meal or experience or maybe get $20 photo gifts. But that’s not this year.

I figured that I’m not the first frazzled person wanting to stay within budget but who also doesn’t want to make pillow cases from old sweaters as gifts, so I decided to surf the webs for like-minded people (instead of watching another episode of “Outlander”). I found this post from Mommy on Purpose that gave me a few more guidelines. I especially liked these two:

  • One shopping trip in November. One 1-2 weeks before Christmas. That is all.
  • Cut back on gift buying without cutting back on gift giving

The two shopping trip idea makes sense. I attempted to do a big holiday shop this past Saturday at A.C. Moore because I had some coupons. I had a 55% off coupon and I wanted to use it to buy a Thomas and Friends wooden railway expansion pack for my son (we have some tracks and trains already from when my daughter was little, and he loves to play with them). Those things are expensive! However, the selection was small and checking Amazon prices, even at 55% off it was still about what I could get online.

I also had a 30% off total purchase coupon. I bought a make-a-robot kit for the cousin gift exchange, some ornaments for the kids to decorate for my mom, and a few miscellaneous things (including a $2 iced tea for me and a $1 calendar, also for me). When I checked out, the 30% off total price coupon expired a few hours earlier so I could only use 55% off the most expensive item. I spent $29 on stuff that may or may not have been a good deal, and I only knocked out one present (and the supplies to make three small things). I used to think A.C. Moore was an amazing value with coupons, but now that I have checked prices online, I know it isn’t. Though I appreciate that the $1 things it sells are made of wood and not plastic.

So, a second big shop is needed. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going shopping with my mom. We get to spend a day together and it’s fun. Since I’ll have the day off, I can try to pack in as many stores as possible and bring a list. She can help me with ideas for my dad and brother, and I can pick out things she can get for the kids. Wins all around! I’ll probably do an extra trip for stocking things – but will not get more than 5 things for the kids’ stockings.

I don’t like to buy a lot of gifts on Amazon, but this year it’s probably easier to since the prices are good and it keeps me out of stores where I can impulse buy. I’ll try to stick to the two-shopping-days plan, and do the rest online in a big lump.

Holiday Spending 2017 totals:

Money spent (total, rounded up): $29.49

  • Gifts: 28
  • Christmas Etc: $1.49

Gift budget remaining: $471

I made a spreadsheet to track gifts and money, which helped a lot. My sister and I agreed to just exchange gifts for our kids, which took two people off my list, but I added an Angel Tree gift and another two kids (I’m going to use tip #2 from above and buy them a family gift because they’re siblings, instead of individual gifts). I also decided not to buy a live tree this year, and instead borrowed a 4-ft pre-lit artificial tree.

And I know it’s not called St. Christmas Day.

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