How much do you plan to spend on holiday gifts this year? Do you have a budget or do you just “wing it” every year? According to an August 2021 article on the website of financial guru Dave Ramsey, Americans plan to spend $650.00 on Christmas gifts in 2021.
I hate waste, whether it’s money, food, resources, etc. One of my pet peeves is money that is thrown out the window buying gifts for people—gifts that the recipient doesn’t want or need. It makes my blood boil. But that’s a rant for next month’s blog.
If you celebrate the Christmas holiday, it shouldn’t matter to you what the average American plans to spend. What should matter instead is what you want and can afford to spend. If you want to spend less this year than you have historically, these are the steps I’ve taken over the years to reduce Christmas spending.
1. Start with Last Years’ Christmas List
Make a list of all the people you bought Christmas gifts for last year. In terms of the “who,” this should include family, friends, bosses, coworkers, service providers, secret Santas, etc. Don’t leave anyone out.
Here’s a basic spreadsheet you can download if you don’t already have one. If you’re a digital person, take it a step further and save your list in the cloud so it’s (drum roll please—lol) at your fingertips on your smartphone and so you can update it anytime and anywhere. If you’re a paper person and prefer that route, go for it. It doesn’t matter how you create your list, so long as you create it.
2. Create This Year’s List:
Now take a few minutes to think about people you want to buy for this year for the first time and add them to Column A.
Once you have a comprehensive list (or close to it) in Column A of people you bought for last year, review that list and break it down even further into 2 lists:
- people you DON’T WANT TO buy for again (Column B) and
- those you WANT TO buy for again (Column C).
Essentially you’re taking every name in Column A from last year and determining whether or not you want to buy a gift for them this year. Every name either has to go in either Column B or C. This may be a harsh process, so allow me to elaborate by providing examples from my own life. In my younger days, our family celebrated the Christmas holidays with extended family including aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. We didn’t want to leave anyone out, so many times we purchased (or made) a gift for every person in attendance on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. Over the years, the family got smarter. We either eliminated gifts for extended family members or had a Yankee swap instead. So people who originally were in my Column A list eventually got moved to Column B. The only people my husband and I “buy for” these days are our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. Why do I have “buy for” in quotes? Because we give our kids what they want and/or need… cash!
If this is a new and revolutionary process for you, give it some thought. What if you only bought gifts for those who mean the most to you. Would you be okay with that? Would they be okay with that? What would you do with all the money you save? If you still have time, I suggest you start a conversation with (extended) family members and discuss how you want to handle the upcoming holiday. If it’s too late for this year, then start talking about next year.
3. Select Those You NO LONGER Want to Buy for:
For those people listed in Column B (people you NO LONGER want to buy for), consider having a conversation with them proposing that you no longer buy gifts for one another. Don’t assume they’ll be upset. Perhaps they’ll be thrilled by the thought of saving time and money by buying fewer gifts. Another option to propose is that you do an activity together. Check out my blog One Less Gift; One More Memory for some other great ideas including donations.
4. Select Those You WANT to Buy for this Year:
For those listed in Column C (those you WANT to buy for again this year), I suggest reaching out to them in advance and asking them what they’d like or need. Get specifics regarding the make, model, size, color, etc. so there’s no confusion. If possible, perhaps they can create a “Wish List” on the website of their favorite retailer and share it with you? Examples include Amazon and Giftster. If they are children, ask their parents what their kids want/need.
If you’re looking for ideas, check out my blog My Top 50 Gift Suggestions for a Clutter- & Stress-Free Holiday for a list of great options you may not have already thought of. Other options can be found in my blog Thoughtful Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas. And if you exchange gifts with individuals, I suggest you mutually agree on a price limit in advance to avoid hurt feelings, etc.
When it comes to buying for young children, don’t be the person who wants to be the most popular by buying the largest and/or most expensive gift you can find in order to make a huge impact—whether visual, emotional, or both. Think about the recipient and their parents. Do they have the room to accommodate it? Do they want their child to have that (it’s always a good idea to ask first)? Are there more important things they could use instead if the family is on a fixed income? How about giving them an experience? Bottom line—think about the recipient; not yourself!
5. Set Your Budget:
In Column D, note the maximum amount you want to spend for each person. Make sure that the total spending amount is something you can happily live with so you don’t go into debt. If you’d like, you can take it a step further (as I do) and use this spreadsheet as your shopping list by documenting gift ideas specific to each person in Column E and the retailer in Column F you can visit (online or in-person) to buy it. As you purchase each gift, make sure you document the amount you spent on each gift/person in Column G for future reference. It will be interesting to see if it was below budget or over budget. Last but not least, you can track what each person gifted you in Column H so you can plan accordingly next year.
6. Plan for Next Year:
Come the holidays, exchange your gifts and learn from the experience. What went right? What went wrong? If there are things that need to be tweaked to make the experience better for next year, discuss that with loved ones. But don’t wait until next year—do it this year while it’s still fresh in your mind. I know I’m compulsive, but I suggest tweaking this spreadsheet (either digitally or on paper) this year for next year. In fact, I duplicate the spreadsheet and relabel it for the following year so it’s ready to go. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can keep all years in the same spreadsheet for comparison purposes.
Summary: The Additional Benefits of Trimming Your List:
If you reduce the number of gifts and/or the value of the Christmas gifts you buy, you should save money. However, the advantages go well beyond that. If you’re more intentional with gift exchange and let people know in advance the gifts you buy and/or would like (for yourself or your kids), you should have:
- less clutter in your home in terms of unwanted gifts
- less likelihood you’re contributing to clutter in the homes of your loved ones
- more time and energy by cutting back on shopping
- less stress because shopping should be easier when you know specifically what to buy
- less mental clutter to focus on other more important things
- more time to spend on things and with the people you love
- improved relationships due to open and honest conversations with people about gifts so there are no hurt feelings after the gift exchange
If you have questions about any of these steps, please contact me. I’d love to help you!
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
LET ME HELP YOU:
What are some of the worst gifts you (or your kids) have received and why? Please comment below– perhaps your story can help someone else