I just read an interesting statistic about holiday spending. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation here in the U.S., the average person celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah will spend $804.42 this year–up more than 5% over last year.
My friends, let’s vow not get into financial trouble in the next three weeks. I think we can all agree that overspending and taking on debt simply doesn’t reflect the values of these holidays. Yet it can be all too easy to slip into a sort of holiday frenzy and pull out the credit card in our desire to bless our loved ones.
If you still have some presents to purchase, consider these ideas:
1. Used books
Used bookstores can be treasure troves of great titles. A used book is just as pleasurable to read as a new book, and the savings can be significant. A friend of mine who was on a very tight budget once bought used books for all ten people on her gift list for $25. My family loves and encourages used books.
2. Thrift store find
I love rummaging around thrift stores, and am always amazed by what can be found within. Some gift ideas include cookware, dishes, books, craft supplies and cashmere sweaters.
Stores like Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods are all great places to shop for special food items. You could put together a bag with gourmet pasta, spaghetti sauce and a chunk of good Parmesan cheese for under $15, or give items like specialty flours, high-end chocolate, nuts, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, favorite snacks, etc.
Always welcome, you could give a bottle of French lemonade or your recipient’s favorite wine, a six-pack of gourmet soda or an assortment of microbrewery beers.
5. A donation
Most of us have those people on our gift lists who really do have everything, and would love nothing more than a donation made in their name to a charitable cause. Print out the details of your donation on a pretty piece of paper and wrap it in a box for a special presentation.
6. Something handmade
Often the best presents are the things we create ourselves. A plate of fudge, a hand-knit scarf, a pillow, a hand-strung bead necklace, or a CD of family photos would all be welcome gifts. Use up some of those supplies you already have on hand, and you’ll reduce clutter, too.
7. Creative supplies
Give a budding artist paints and brushes or blank canvases; give your favorite writer a fat, blank notebook. Give pretty papers and stickers to a scrapbooker, seeds to a gardener, or a generous bag of instant yeast to a baker. Many of the craft retailers have sales and online coupons during December.
How about you? Are you going to spend $804 this year, or will you cruise through December without overspending and taking on any debt? I’d love to hear your ideas for simplifying and keeping the holidays merry and bright.
You might also enjoy one of this blog’s most popular posts, “One Real Family’s Real Simple Christmas.” This true story about how my friends the McDonalds radically simpliifed their Christmas celebration was later picked up by the Chicago Tribune.
P.S. Once again, Happy Simple Living will be embarking on the January Money Diet beginning January 1, 2015. If you’d like to undertake the challenge of going 31 days without spending a penny on anything but the barest essentials, please join us. Start the new year financially strong!