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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

November 22, 2010

          

What would Buddy the elf do for Christmas?

  In a recent Gallup poll, the average American consumer is planning to spend $715 this year on Christmas gifts. Although this is down slightly from this past year and significantly down from spending three years ago, it still is a lot of money.

            Christmas is meant to be a time of joy and fellowship, but for many it is a time of stress. First, many individuals are stressed by the cost. For most people, the gift list increases every year and the items to purchase have increased in value. By the time it is all done and the final cost is summed in January it is larger than most anticipate.

            Second, schedules are hectic at Christmas. Along with all the normal routines there are a variety of Christmas shows, office parties and open houses, and time to purchase gifts that intrudes on many people’s already packed schedule.

            I may not be the best to write about this, as my wife handles most of the Christmas holiday chores, but I have come across some tips I want to pass along.

            First, decide what you want Christmas to mean to you. Society has created an image of a Christmas driven by consumerism. You do not need to follow this path. If you are looking for something different this Christmas, try one of the following:

  1. Clean you closet and garage and give the items you do not use anymore to local organizations that will use them.
  2. Volunteer your time to spend with those who are looking for some company.
  3. Instead of purchasing gifts, give to a quality charity in honor of another individual. We gave my parents a goat and two chickens through a company called World Vision a couple years ago. They received a card saying a goat was given to a village that would be used to provide up to 16 cups of milk a day and would eventually produce offspring to help the village.  The chickens provide fresh eggs for a family, and extra eggs and chicks can be sold to pay for basic living items. 
  4. Have a simple activity to spend time together. I have found people have just as much fun playing cards or a board game as they do at a formal Christmas get-together.

 

Now, with this being said, I still like to give and receive some gifts for Christmas. I think most people enjoy finding things for other people they care about. I do not think there is anything wrong with giving gifts, but I would make sure your giving does not cause more hardship down the road. Here are a few more tips to help in your Christmas shopping:

  1. Come up with a plan. Decide whom you are going to include in the gift giving and how much you are going to spend on each person.
  2. Communicate. Especially if you are going to change how you give gifts. Ten years ago, my gift list included my parents and two brothers. Now, it has added my wife and daughter, a father-in-law, mother-in-law, two brothers-in-law, four sisters-in-law, four nephews, three nieces, seven staff members and probably many others who I will forget, but my wife will not. You have to decide where you are going to draw the line or your list can expand exponentially.
  3. Stick to your budget. If you know you sometime get carried away on Black Friday with purchases, try the envelope system. Put the amount of cash you are going to spend on each person in a separate envelope and leave your credit and debit cards at home.
  4. Start saving for next year. It is a little late to do this for 2010, but see if your bank offers a Christmas Club savings account where you can set up automatic withdrawals to go from your checking account to this savings account every month. When it is automatic, you do not have to worry about forgetting to do it, and $50 a month seems a lot more management than $600 at once.

 

I know right now many of you are nervous about the next two major holidays and what the six weeks will hold. It can be a very stressful time, but by planning ahead and sticking to your plan, it can be the most wonderful time of the year. If you have not done so yet, start your plan now and make it the best Christmas for you and your family.

Next week, I will pass along some frugal gift tips I have seen. If you have great gift ideas or Christmas celebrations that do not break the bank, let me know at andrewlong@fastmail.fm and I will pass it along.

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