How to have a budget-friendly Christmas

By Sheryl Smolkin

Every December you resolve to spend less on Christmas and every January you have a huge credit card bill that blows the family budget out of the water. Part of the problem is that you are so busy and that in desperation, you end up doing a “hit and run” at the mall on the busiest shopping days of the year.

Here are 10 ideas how you can reduce costs while at the same time giving more meaningful gifts that create lasting memories for your family and friends.

  1. Buy fewer gifts: If you normally buy multiple gifts for your children, explain to them you will be buying one gift this year and that each of them can select a charity of their choice to which you will make a donation in their name.
  2. Give your time: Make coupon that can be redeemed for your time. Seniors will appreciate snow shovelling, lawn mowing and rides to appointments. Kids will love cooking lessons or homework help.
  3. Meals on wheels: Is your best friend coping with three children under five? Has your neighbour just come home from the hospital after surgery? Nutritious, tasty frozen meals that can be easily warmed up are always welcome.
  4. Entertainment: Regardless of the size of your community, there are sports events, concerts and school plays. While professional theatre and sports tickets can be expensive, local events are much less costly. Do some research and plan a memorable and unexpected outing for two.
  5. Re-gift: Re-gifting is only a no-no if you aren’t upfront about it. Gently-read books in good condition make a great gift. If you are downsizing, your kids or grandkids may be thrilled to have the vase or tea set they have admired for years.
  6. Pictures, videos: With the advent of digital photography, most people no longer actually print pictures. I realized this when my granddaughter asked me why there were no pictures of her on my walls. Print and frame special family pictures or put them together in a small, inexpensive purse-sized album.
  7. Shop online: Shopping online can save you time and money. You can comparison shop to find the best prices. Often prices are lower than in “bricks and mortar” stores. Free delivery in many cases is a real bonus, particularly if your friends and family members are spread across the country.
  8. Give consumables: Most people have enough stuff. But if your cranberry sauce, apple pie or homemade chocolate truffles are the talk of the town, they make great gifts for teachers, neighbours and your hairdresser. Unless it’s a “top-secret” recipe consider including it with the gift.
  9. Cookie exchanges: Between people dropping in and house guests staying for extended periods, the holiday period means lots of entertaining. One way to keep the cookie jar full of a variety of yummy treats is for a group of friends or neighbours to each bake multiple batches of their specialty and arrange a cookie exchange.
  10. Boxing Day shopping: By Boxing Day the last thing you may want to think about is next Christmas, but it’s the best time to get deeply-discounted wrapping paper, cards and ribbons. Also, if electronics like a TV or computer are on your list, the most economical approach may be to give an IOU and actually buy the item between Christmas and New Year’s.

Also see: Budget-friendly holiday gifts

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