“We’re buying Christmas presents for 50 people?! Do we even know that many people?” I could hardly believe it.
Reed and I were sitting at our kitchen table, punching numbers and making lists. We compiled everyone we had purchased gifts for last Christmas, family and friends alike, and used it as a reference point for this year’s list. Long story, short: the list grew. This was a good thing, a happy thing, because this year’s shopping list represented a bigger family, and new friends added to our lives. We love gift-giving and felt excited to do it, but we also wondered if we could.
Anyone else ever feel equal parts terrified and thrilled to tackle your shopping list?
I think if we’re honest, the enormity of the task sometimes makes us want to shy away from budgeting, seeing the numbers, or keeping track of receipts. If we know how much we really spend, we might just have a heart attack! For many, ignorance is bliss come Christmas-time, and taking care of the credit card balance turns into a resolution for the new year.
Last year was our first Christmas together in our own home, and we were so excited. We got our tree, picked up some Christmas decor, bought each other nice gifts, blessed our friends and family with gifts, and enjoyed several festive dates around the Bay Area. Wonderful memories were made, but our budget was not kept. We learned some lessons, took some notes, and resolved to do better next year. With the Lord, we don’t experience guilt or shame, but we certainly felt convicted and challenged to be better stewards of our finances, no matter the season.
Now I understand that not everyone feels the need to use a budget. Perhaps your income and way of life is just different, and you don’t worry about having enough or making it work just right. That’s great! Perhaps Reed and I will get to that place one day, where there will be more wiggle room and a little more money to play with. I think we will always budget because it has truly been the path to financial breakthrough and peace, but I understand that many wise people live without one.
For now, we are focused on being in our present season and honoring God with what he has given us. Practically speaking, that means a strict budget. For two years now, we have been using Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Cash-flow Budget and it has been the absolute best tool for saving money, spending money wisely, and maintaining peace of mind. If you feel like you’re drowning or have no financial direction, I would highly recommend it! This ongoing budgeting strategy helped Reed and I figure out what was possible to spend this Christmas without compromising our goals, our peace, our values, or our generosity. Buying for 50 people sounded overwhelming, I mean, I didn’t know we even liked 50 people! Just kidding...mostly. But after the initial panic, we resolved to get creative, enjoy the process, and to not see the list as a checklist, but as 50 opportunities to bless, love, and honor. As we took a closer look, we realized that these people are only some of the many we wish we could give gifts to! We have been abundantly blessed with community in countless ways, faces, and places. We decided to not give into the pressure to impress, overspend, or stress about the “perfect gift.”
Ultimately, gift-giving is an expression of love and gratitude, and its value comes in many forms.
Be encouraged, friend. It’s not about the price tag. It’s not about proving to someone you care through a perfectly wrapped present. Buying something you can’t afford isn’t worth losing your peace or your plan. Remember: have fun! If you don’t feel joy as you shop for others, something is wrong. You’re missing the point. And I say that with all of the love in my heart, because I’ve been there too. If we make this season about presents, we fail to experience the real meaning of Christmas, and that would be the biggest shame of all.
Maybe you feel way in over your head already, and feel it’s too late to do this right. Nope. Never. It’s never too late to do the right thing. Cut back where you can, keep the rest simple, and heck, return some gifts if you really need to! There is not a loving friend or family member in the world who would wish you had spent what you didn’t have and sacrificed your joy in the process.
So as Christmas nears, I thought I would share some simple tips for budget-friendly Christmas shopping that have truly helped Reed and I have tons of fun, save money, and resist the temptation to what we can’t. I hope they help and inspire you this Christmas!
5 Tips for Budget-Friendly Christmas Shopping
#1 - Make a Christmas Shopping Ledger.
Reed and I made a spending ledger that included our overall budget, the names of each person we were buying for, what we got them, how much it cost, etc. Budget on the high end and spend low. We were thrilled to find we spent UNDER what we had designated to each person, giving us more wiggle room for gift-wrap, shipping, etc. You could simplify this however suits you best or even add some sections! Here is a PDF of the one I made with some examples of how to use it.
#2 - Skip the expensive stores for gift wrap.
Believe me, I love the little stores that focus on paper goods...I’m a total gift wrap and wrapping paper nerd. It has to feel nice, fold nice, and look nice. Reed rolls his eyes at me every year over this! But here’s the truth: it’s in these marginal purchases where your money disappears. Instead of getting specialty wrapping paper, head to Target, Walmart, HomeGoods, or Marshall’s! I bought all of our gift wrap from Marshall’s and every roll of wrapping paper, ribbon, and boxes of tags were under $5 each.
#3 - Sentimental wins every time.
Confession: I like nice things. I do, I really do. And honestly, God’s not mad at stuff. It’s all about how important stuff is to us. I have expensive taste, I like nice things, but I’ve learned over time, that it really is the thought that counts. Take time to think about what’s going on in each person’s life. What are their interests? What is unique about this season? What’s that one show, place, or shop they really love? What’s a memory or common interest you can tap into? Put thought into each gift and I promise it will shine.
#4 - Don’t forget about shipping!
Reed and I did much of our long-distance shopping on Amazon, because nothing beats Prime shipping costs! With Amazon, you can still include a personal note, gift-wrap, and their options for gifts are truly endless. Shipping can rack up the cost of a gift to almost double what you had planned, and let’s be honest...no one wants to stand in line at the Post Office this time of year. So as you budget and plan, keep shipping in mind. If the shipping increases the cost beyond your budget, pick a different gift!
#5 - Take your Christmas shopping one day at a time.
If you’re anything like me, you get on a roll and you just want to get it all finished in one day. This isn’t realistic, and will usually result in purchases you’ll regret. If it’s about the thought, and not the price, or checking off your list...then don’t buy into the pressure that time is running out! I mean, geeze...the stores aren’t going to shut down, sell out, or disappear! If you have a plan and you’re keeping an eye on what you’re buying...there is no need to panic. With our budget, Reed and I have had to section our Christmas shopping into three different segments. This required patience and intentional spending, but as I’ve mentioned, we just don’t want to do Christmas any other way.
What tip was most helpful for YOU? What are some tips you have for Christmas spending? Share in the comments below!