Christmas on a Budget

It is that time of year again.  The holidays.  Whether you celebrate Hanukah, Christmas or any other holiday at this time of year, one thing is the same…. Your budget is at risk.  Growing up, Christmas gifts were measured by height in that you stacked all the boxes and see just how high they were that year.  We got many, many, many gifts.  Earlier this week, I heard a question on a radio show asking what the best gift was that you have ever received as a child.  Sadly, with all those gifts, no one item even stuck out in my memory.  I had several memories of gifts that missed the mark as these have become the stuff of legend in my family but as for that one big game-changing gift, I drew blanks.  

My wife and I have done a very good job of managing our kids’ expectations regarding gift giving.  We get a small handful of gifts but almost each one is something meaningful and hopefully memorable.  

Funny story… one year my parents visited on Christmas.  When the kids FINALLY went to bed on Christmas eve, we stealthily grabbed all the presents from their hiding spots and placed them under the tree.  My parents went to their car where they had hidden the gifts that they bought for our family.  When we looked at the different wrappings, we noticed that the grandparents out-gifted Mom, Dad and Santa combined by a crazy margin.  To avoid any questions, we quickly replaced several gift tags to say that several of the gifts from the grandparents were now from Santa Claus.  My first reaction was guilt, wondering if perhaps we didn’t get the children enough.  I often have that same feeling when I hear stories of what their friends received.  I quickly let those feelings pass and realized that my children have never wanted for anything.  The excitement opening each and every gift has been genuine, and I never got the sense that they were jealous of what others received.  

So, back to the present…. This year more than most, I have finances on my mind.  Partially due to this blog but more so due to the changes I have made in the past year or so.  As the season approached, I did a few things to minimize the sizable impact to our December budget.  I started to order a few gifts awhile ago in order to spread the spending just a bit.  We knew the large gifts that we wanted to get for each kid, so we planned ahead and budgeted for those larger expenditures.  All of that combined to give me a pretty good feeling about the budget this year.  

Well, I totally miscalculated.  It appears that the gifts are not the only budget buster.  As we approach the holiday, we have gone to countless holiday parties, lunches, friend get-togethers, etc.  Each of those has its own costs attached to it.  Whether that is a cash bar, meeting at a restaurant or grabbing those “little” gifts for the people you are meeting.  All-in-all, I am at least conscious of this and doing my best to lessen the impact but overall, these are expenses that I will definitely need to plan better for in the future.  Some things I plan on doing to counter this are: Having a drink or two at home before going out to minimize the bar tab, having a snack at home before going out to minimize the food tab, and planning experiences that we would already do with other families instead of getting together at a restaurant.    

What are your thoughts on how to minimize expenses at this time of year?  Do you think my ideas make sense or am I simply being a scrooge?  Let’s discuss it in the comments section.  

Also, I would like to wish each and every one of you a HAPPY HOLIDAY and want to say thank you for reading.