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One of the most dreaded things about Christmas and other holidays at that time of year (other than your in-laws coming to visit) is trying to do your holiday shopping. Not only are the stores crowded, but you always seem to end up spending more than you planned on unexpected requests to Santa!
According to studies, people spend about $1,000 on Christmas gifts each year – and even more if you have children! The average parents spends $250-$450 per child. I don’t know about you, but I do not have an extra grand lying around in December!
Some people are even so desperate when Christmas rolls around, they dip into their 401k’s and other retirement savings!
Please, I beg of you, do not do this!
Instead, I am going to give you six simple ways that you can start getting ready now for the holidays! They’re stressful enough without the dread of going into debt for a toy that will never be played with again!
Start Gift Shopping in August
Did you try to find a Hatchimal or Fingerling in November in the last couple of years? (If you don’t know what those are, you probably don’t have children!) Not only were they impossible to find, but if you were lucky enough to find them on Ebay, they cost over five times what they originally sold for!
However, if you had been looking in September or October, you would have been able to find them. In fact, several of 2018’s hottest toys (like Little Live Wrapples) are already available on pre-order on Amazon right now, and it’s barely August! And they keep selling out, even though they won’t be available until October!
Some stores also allow you to set gifts on layaway, to pay a little bit at a time.
Start Saving Now
Set aside an envelope, or even just a place in your budget, to save $50 per month. This will add up to $600 at the end of the year that you can spend on gifts! Even if you can’t do a full $50, any amount will help make a difference!
If you know about how much you usually spend, and you can afford to do so, divide up that amount by 12. That will give you how much you need to put aside every month.
One way to start saving now is using the Acorns app, which is like a digital way of saving your spare change. Each time you make a purchase on your credit or debit card, it will round up the amount to the next whole number and invest that money. It actually adds up pretty quickly!
Sell Current Toys
As my children outgrow toys and clothes, we re-sell them on Facebook groups for our geographical area. I put this money aside to spend on future birthday and Christmas gifts.
We always choose toys for our children to donate at Christmastime, but these are typically current toys they no longer play with. For toys and clothes are simply don’t apply to our kids anymore, we re-sell those.
We actually had a garage sale a few weeks ago, and we ended up making around $500 from it! I actually thought we didn’t have anything we could sell until I started going through my kids’ closets.
I’m embarrassed to admit how much of a hoarder I was.
Supplement with Gift Cards
There are so many ways to earn gift cards for Amazon, Target, and other stores that are easy to do! My family will save all of these up until the end of the year.
Last year, we had around $1,000 in gift cards that we used to pay for Christmas! And then for birthdays the following year, since our children did not need to be that spoiled. Which leads us to our next point…
Reconsider Your Gifting Habits
It needs to be mentioned that spending $250-$450 each Christmas per child is a bit much for most budgets! If you are feeling the need to spend more than your budget and income allow for, then you may need to reconsider your gifting habits (especially with regards to your children).
There is no need to go into debt (and that includes credit card debt!) or to dip into your savings and retirement accounts for Christmas. It’s important to be wise with your money, and to teach your children that prudent spending is more important than the latest toys; otherwise, they will struggle learning those lessons as adults.
Draw Names and Set Limits
I am the oldest of 10 children. My mom has 12 siblings, and my dad has 7 siblings. I’ve lost track of how many cousins I have! It would be impossible for us to get Christmas presents for everyone, so we draw names.
The way this works is each child in the immediate family draws a sibling’s name. Then the extended family (my aunts and uncles) draw family names. This means that my parents’ family is responsible for getting gifts for one of my mom’s siblings and their family, and one of my dad’s siblings and their family. These gifts are always family gifts (like a board game or matching outfits) that can be enjoyed together.
We also set limits on how much each gift can cost. Some years, when money is especially tight, we stipulate that the gifts have to be homemade (like knitting scarves or hats). This keeps us from having to rob a bank to provide gifts for all 100+ extended family members!
Even though the holiday season feels far away, it’s closer than you think it is! So give these tips a try, and enjoy a less stressful holiday with your loved ones!