My wallet and I vow to do better every year, and most years we fail.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of giving. But for me, it is a time of empty wallets and “unique budgeting.” You know the kind of budgeting I’m talking about…..robbing Peter to pay Paul. Yea, these aren't my proudest moments, but it’s the truth. I definitely wasn't using the "B-Word". Here’s another truth I have to admit: when we had kids, Christmas slowly became an obsession of what toys we could get the kids and what gifts could we give to show someone we loved them.
Yes, we were giving, but for all the wrong reasons.
There was a lot of self-gratification in our spending. And our wallet was angry. We have 4 kids, 3 grandparents, 5 uncles, and who knows how many cousins! Christmas for us was an EXPENSE!
Our Christmas Spending had gone wild in all the wrong ways.
After robbing Peter to pay Paul, and watching our wallets "Make it Rain" in Wal-Mart in order to get our kids everything they wanted for Christmas, our kids would only play with the toys for a month. In some cases, the kids would play with the BOXES the toys came in instead of the actual toy! They would create rockets ship, train cars, and medieval weaponry. So I decided to wise up and sought advice from my mom tribe in order to get my Christmas spending under control.
My sister has automatic deposits that go into a “Christmas Account.” They use that money to buy whatever Christmas gifts they need. It works for her, but for me, I need all my money during the year to create a nice “nest egg.” (Which hatches whenever I catch the travel bug.)
I have another friend who doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all. Instead her family celebrates Kwanza. The few gifts she gives are more of the meaningful variety, rather than materialistic toys from commercials. She also spends considerably less during this giving season than I do. I mentioned that idea to the Grandparents, and they replied verbatim: “I don’t care what you do, I’m gonna buy my grand babies whatever I want to buy them!”
So with that logic, I decided to skip that plan. Well, I still want to teach them about Kwanza, but I will also keep the Christmas traditions.
One day I came across a Facebook post. It went something like this, “Something they want. Something they need. Something to wear. And something to read.”
In other words, our kids would ultimately receive 4 gifts each. Not just any 4 gifts, but 4 USEFUL gifts. I decided to give it a try. (What's the worst that could happen? I spend less during Christmas?! LOL) If 4 gifts is too many, read "Our 3 Gift Christmas."
Each of my kids received a toy from their list to Santa for the “Something they want”. We would limit this cost to $25 per kid, unless the gift was something that could be shared by all of the kids. (Like a gaming system, board games, or team play gear.)
In the “Something they need” category, I bought shoes. We all know how quickly kids grow out of shoes. The shoes we bought at the beginning of the school year are either too small now, looking like “buddies,” or are talking. (Talking is when the sole of the shoe is coming apart from the rest of the shoe.) We would spend about $45 or less per kid in this category. There are always shoe sales going on. Shoe Carnival always has the BOGO 1/2 Off deals.
For the “Something to Wear” spot, we would always get pajamas. And yes, I mean always. Again, kids grow like weeds. We would buy them their favorite PJs and put it in their Christmas Eve Box. The Christmas Eve Box would consist of their favorite movie snack, a mini-mason jar of Hot Cocoa Mix, a pack of popcorn, and of course, their new PJs.
The “Something to Read” was super easy. I would get the latest Dogman Book or fantasy novel or anything Pinkalicious. If I had trouble selecting inexpensive books, the staff at Novel are always helpful.
Our Christmas Spending usually is as follows: $100 for the “Something You Want”, $180 for the shoes under the “Something You Need”, $50 for PJs and maybe $40 for book with “Something to Read.” (I’m a librarian, so free books kinda just fall in my lap.) That’s a whopping $370 we spend for our kiddos during Christmas. At first, we were spending about…wince…$800-$1000. Yea, again, not my proudest moment.
To satisfy the adults in our family, we play Dirty Santa.
Each adults agrees to purchase 10 small gifts. These gifts range from a set of washcloths from Wal-Mart or holiday-themed lotion from Bath and Body Works to a tin of homemade cookies or a $20 Amazon card. (Seriously, it’s so random and so fun.) We play Christmas Trivia games using a Jeopardy Game that I create myself using PowerPoint. (You can also use KaHoots too.) If you answer the trivia question correctly, you get to retrieve a gift from under the tree or steal from someone else. Everyone LOVES this! We usually contribute about $50-75 worth of “gifts” for Dirty Santa.