8 Guilt-free tips to minimize Christmas spending

12-11 Christmas

I was already a few purchases into my holiday season when a friend of mine said she’d really enjoy a no-spend or buy-nothing Christmas. She envisioned swaps of artwork, clothing, and books between friends who could give freely from what they already had without adding to the stress and pressure of the holiday shopping season.

I budgeted around $400 for holiday gifts, but I probably won’t end up spending that much at all since I shifted my focus to giving experiences and artwork rather than purchased goods (though the unicorn calendar was a great buy and I stand by it).

Here are some ways you can reduce or eliminate your holiday spend without feeling like you’re downsizing the holiday cheer factor.

  1. Give your time. When I asked a friend what she wanted for Christmas this year, she thought about it and said that she’d love a day we spend together more than anything I could wrap up and give to her. Pencil a friend onto your calendar for a day of movies, hanging out, or even going out to window shop and try on the most hilarious Goodwill outfit you can find.
  2. Create something. One of my hobbies is painting, and I plan on creating art for many of the people on my list this year. It’s something that means a lot to both me and the recipient, since I create something personalized and inspired for each person on my gift list. You could also write letters or poetry, draw something, make homemade bath products, or sew something for your recipient.
  3. Cook something. So technically you’ll have to buy ingredients, but baking some cookies or cooking someone’s favorite meal for them is a great way to put your time and energy into showing your love for them.
  4. Regift. If you got some gifts last year that are still hanging around, new or barely used, give them to someone on your list who will love them and have a good home for them. And if you can’t bear to regift, then admit to yourself that you’re not using them and send them to the local charity store.
  5. Host a party. Instead of shopping for a personalized and unique gift for everyone on your list, you can opt to host a holiday party instead! You can focus your time and energy on preparing a delicious meal and ask everyone to bring their favorite dessert for a mouthwatering pot-luck of treats.

If you’re a dedicated gifter who just wants to reduce the budget instead of shoestring it entirely, try the following ideas!

  1. Try the “four things” holiday gift. Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great way to give gifts to the kids in the family so all bases are covered, while maintaining a frugal gift budget.
  2. Shop local. Buy from local crafters and shops instead of Amazon Priming everything* or shopping big box stores. Check your city’s calendar for local craft shows, which are all over the place leading up to the holidays!
  3. Shop handmade. ETSY ALL THE THINGS*.

*Some people have no reasonable options but to purchase from large sellers like Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc., due to finances, schedule constraints, physical ability, etc. Your own mental and physical wellbeing is more important than shopping local or small.

Are you planning on a “less is more” holiday this year? Tell me your gifting plans!

PS. If you’re in the Cleveland, Ohio area, don’t miss your chance to buy tickets for the Jolobokaflod fundraiser for the nonprofit Reading Room CLE on December 21! The Reading Room promotes literacy in the Cleveland area through a nonprofit bookstore that supports educational and artistic programming.

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Giving the thought that counts

With Christmas just around the corner, many people are scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.  I don’t know if it’s my new minimalist outlook on life (I somehow doubt it), but I am finding myself very much indifferent to Christmas this year.  I have no decorations up at home (definitely minimalist of me), and even when helping my friend decorate her tree or seeing my mother’s decorated home, I have no flutter of excitement about it this year.  Maybe it’s because I’ve seen roughly 0.0005 inches of snow so far, and it’s late December.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a little kid about to get a ton of presents.  I know several people who have also said they’re just not getting into it this year.  Maybe the world will end today, who knows?  (Mayan calendar joke, not really predicting the apocalypse). I’ve even tried a marathon of all the Doctor Who Christmas specials, to no avail.  Though I am now afraid of a lot of Christmas decorations.

I do have a feeling that taking my sister to see our dad tomorrow might instill some Christmas spirit into my soul, and I definitely foresee some more excitement on Monday when my family sits down to a family meal.

What I loved about my first Christmas out of college was that I had enough money to buy everyone a REALLY AWESOME GIFT.  I spent a ton of money.  Looking back, I am mildly ashamed. For instance, I bought a Rock Band set that was played once.  Once.  There’s a hundred bucks.  I also bought “us” (I was married at the time) a Wii Fit, which I did play a lot but had to leave behind when I left.  So there’s another hundred bucks.  I bought my friend some books, and I got my sister stuff I don’t even remember but at the time I thought she would like, I got gifts for aunts and uncles and cousins and looking back, I realize that I just liked shopping.  I liked the thrill, and maybe even the stress, of needing to find a gift for someone.

Most people tend to really get into the holiday stress.  It’s almost like a badge of honor to drive yourself clinically insane trying to find gifts.  Here’s a secret: No you don’t! That is a man-made stress.  You do not have to give in to the cultural frenzy of Christmas Shopping.

This year, I’m much more purposeful in my gift-giving.

My sister is getting some of my clothes and jewelry that I don’t wear (and she’s fine with this!).  She also was supposed to get a pair of leggings I bought her in Spain, but my mother put them in her room in a fit of cleaning, not realizing they were supposed to wait for Christmas, so whoops.

My mom is getting help cooking and cleaning, for one thing!  I am also currently researching area spas to get her a gift certificate for a massage.  She loves to be pampered.

My stepdad — and I can say this on the internet because he doesn’t read my blog — is getting a gift certificate to accompany a pilot on a thirty minute flight and get to fly the plane for part of the flight!  He drives a racecar as a HOBBY, so I had to find something thrilling for him.  This was perfect.  My backup gift was going to be a wine aerator because he’s super into wine and doesn’t have one.

My best friend and her family will be receiving a gift membership to their local zoo, because we go all the time and it will be great for them to be able to get in free whenever they want to visit.

In my opinion, the more experiences you can give to people in place of things, the better — all three of these things on my list are experiences.  Mom gets to go to a spa, Stepdad gets to fly a plane, and Best Friend & Kids get to go to the zoo.

The list goes on… some people do read my blog so I can’t go into other details.  But the important thing about this year, and how it should be for people every year, is that I’m going for quality over quantity.  If I put thought into a gift, and it’s really and truly something the recipient would appreciate, I’m golden.  If I put thought into something and it is a gift for a gift’s sake, I’m stopping myself.  I would rather schedule a lunch date with the person or get them a cup of coffee and catch up than give them something they won’t need or even want.

It’s just that simple.  When it’s the thought that counts, make sure it’s thought about the person and not the compulsion to give.  There’s plenty of thought about that already.

Happy Christmas!

The reason for the season

Today is Black Friday.  You may or may not have gone shopping at 4:00 this morning.  I know that my sister was at a store before the sun was up because she literally started a retail job TODAY.  Poor girl.

Anyway, today I want to bring your attention to the reason for the season.  No, it’s not (necessarily) Jesus.  It’s love and peace and giving.  Here are some ways you can embrace love and peace and giving without going to the mall:

  • Donate time, money, or gently used items to a charity, soup kitchen, or family in need during the season.  Make it a family tradition.
  • Make gifts: Make a delicious food item, put it on a pie plate from a thrift store, and include a note that the dish is theirs to keep or regift to someone else.  This is a nearly zero-waste gift. If baking or cooking isn’t your thing, consider making bath scrubs (in repurposed glass jars!), or make creative art pieces.
  • Spend time together: Spend time with your family and friends during the holidays, just catching up or doing something you enjoy like seeing a movie or treating yourself to a favorite restaurant.
  • Offer your services: Offer to do the dishes after the holiday meal, or spend some time watching your relatives’ or friends’ kids so the parents can get some time alone.  Every minute you spend helping someone else is a minute they get to themselves, and that is a wonderful gift to give.

These are just a few ideas for keeping the focus on family and love around the holidays. Share more ideas in the comments!

What are your favorite things-that-aren’t-things to get in the holiday season?

Guilt and sentimental attachment

One of the hardest things about getting rid of stuff I don’t use or need is that a lot of times, that stuff I don’t use or need was a gift from someone I care about and I don’t want to insult anyone by getting rid of things they gave me.

I’ve been carrying around a gorgeous glass chess set that my brother got me for Christmas when I was 12 for twelve years and I haven’t played a game of chess in probably five.  I just carry it around with me and stick it in a corner.

That’s just one example.

I have an old laptop computer my parents bought me when I went to college in 2006. I have every flower my boyfriend has given me, dried and in a vase and gathering dust because how on earth do you dust such a fragile item? I have ornaments and collectibles and stuffed animals and all manner of stuff and things that just get moved and organized from box to box, dwelling to dwelling.

But no more, I say!

I am taking an honest and frank look at the things I have.  And it’s hard, because when I start going through my Rubik’s Cube collection, my sister shrieks, “You can’t get rid of that one, I got that for you!” When I mention getting rid of things, my boyfriend comments, “None of my gifts, right?” When I purge my closet, my mother asks “Are you getting rid of anything I bought for you?”

I know I am not going to be happy in my new place if I have to take stuff just for the sake of having stuff.  What am I going to do with it? I have 500 square feet to work with, and that doesn’t leave a lot of space for knick-knacks and decorative items.  A few, yes.  All, no way.  I cannot fit those things into my new place.  My priorities have changed.  I want to live more simply, and I want to live for myself.  I feel like I have the burden of caring for other people’s gifts — things that I didn’t need in the first place and do not need to be happy — for the sake of the gift-givers’ happiness.  What’s up with that?

Side note: I am allowing myself one box of sentimental “stuff” that I am willing to store in my new place. One box.  If it’s too full, I will have to make some cutbacks.  In the box so far is a stuffed animal I have had since I was a child, a box of souvenirs from my dad’s travels to other countries, a baby blanket from when I was born, and some other things that I can’t remember and so probably don’t matter.

The purge continues!