I’m happy to say that I spent $451 on Christmas, with a $500 budget!

Here are some tips for how I made this work:

  • I made a spreadsheet with five columns: Name, Gifts Purchased, Gifts to Buy, Money Spent, and Money to Spend. I kept a running total of what I spent and what was left. I could constantly readjust before I made additional purchases.
  • As I mentioned previously, I followed advice to only have two shopping trips. I went on a big shop with my mom and knocked out a lot (and had a good day with my mom), and then I immediately updated my Amazon shopping cart with what else I needed to get. I made one extra Target run for two last gifts, and stayed under budget for those.
  • I stayed firm on my limits. For instance, I bought supplies to make a gift, and I gave one of those to my kid’s teacher. I wanted to add a gift card or another small gift on top of that, but I left it with the homemade gift and a nice card. I also decided not to give my usual gift to a friends’ kids, because I knew my friend would understand and probably is fine with less toys around the house, anyway. And, if I bought something that was inexpensive, I didn’t supplement anything with it it to reach the cap of what I could spend. Finally, I budgeted money to buy small gifts for the kids I mentor, but unexpectedly didn’t see them again before their winter break in order to give them anything. Sorry, kids.
  • I cut back on gifts for my kids (see previous post). I spent a total of $140 on them. It went a long way.

I think the spreadsheet helped the most, and it made me feel less panicked about money and kept me organized. I had to confront the numbers every day, and eventually got used to cutting corners. I got my shopping done a whole week before Christmas, and that’s been awesome to not think about. And my Christmas cards are mailed out. Listen, I’m amazing.

This has still been a stressful holiday season, but not having any additional debt because of gifts has been a benefit. The last few weeks have been hard, though. I’ve taken on preparing for Christmas as a part-time job, and it’s unpaid and thankless and I’ve been very pitiful about it all.

Next year I’ll know how to stay on budget, but I also need to delegate or give up tasks. I would love to come up with more “no gift” arrangements with family, too. I try to put some thought into what I get for people, but it’s hard to be thoughtful and frugal (I think I managed okay). I’d also rather spend time with my friends and not online shopping for hours.

Here’s the breakdown for the $451:

Gifts for family: $393

Gifts for Angel Tree/Toys for Tots: $30

Cards/decorations/misc candy/supplies for three homemade gifts: $28

I just wrapped up (sorry) an evening of wrapping presents, drinking egg nog, and watching A Very Murray Christmas (hey, I like it). It should shock no one that I also hate wrapping gifts, but it was nice to see again what I hope are good gifts for my family.

I think my favorite find is the Thomas and Friends train set with Sir Topham Hat in a bathing costume. What year is this show set in?

I also got my daughter one of those multi-ink pens. She got very upset with me last week that I wouldn’t let her buy one with her money at a book fair because I told her someone may have gotten her one for Christmas. She cried and said no one would even know she wanted it, but I had bought her one weeks earlier. It cost $3 but now it’s her big gift.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Thanks for reading. Put down your wallets if you haven’t already.