Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Submitted for post by Samantha.

Well everyone it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas….. Actually it's looked a lot like Christmas since the day after Halloween. Retailers seem to have started the purchasing push even earlier than usual this year. The economy has been a hot topic lately and the holiday season can compound the economic strain already on many families. Has your Christmas shopping changed at all this year?

I usually start my shopping sometime around August because between my husband's family and my family we have a lot of people to buy for. Spreading it out makes it a lot easier to handle at the register! This year however, I've been remiss and now I'm feeling the crunch. We've scaled back this year (except on our daughter) and this season I've decided to give gifts based on retail value. If I set aside $30 to spend on a relative but find an item they would enjoy marked ½ off- then guess what? I just saved $15.

In past years I would've felt the need to make up the dollar amount by purchasing something else to along with their gift. Websites like and are very helpful in tracking the places to get the most bang for your buck. Do you have any budgeting secrets? We would love to know how you plan to have yourself a Merry Little Christmas without breaking the bank!


themrs said...

i've cut back alot this year too. i'm trying hard to find gifts that are meaningful as opposed to expensive. it's hard! i usually start early too and it didn't happen this year. my problem is that i love the people in my life so much, i tend to go overboard. i just want to buy them lots of things! this year its not a financial possibility so that makes it easier to stay under control.

Nina Bell said...

When my brothers and sister and I were in our twenties and started having our own families, Christmas expensives just spiraled out of control trying to buy for everyone.

We decided at one point to just purchase an ornament for each family as our gift to our brother or sister. At that point we still gave gifts to the children.

It really was such a nice idea because now, 25 years later, we all have such beautiful ornaments for our tree and home. We also have quite a few memories to go with them.

It also makes decorating that much more fun each year as I take every ornament out and remember who gave it to me and the memories of the Christmas Holiday that goes along with it.

T-bag said...

we do that too! I love the ornaments! It's too hard and expensive to keep up with birthdays, Christmas, graduation.

CincyMom said...

I just found a buy one webkinz/ get one free deal at a florist so I picked up a few. Perfect for the surprise gift exchanges that pop up.

I love the ornament idea. We do that for godchildren.

We have mutually decided to 86 gift giving with some friends. Doesn't mean you can't still get together and exchange cookies or something. It's really not about the gift but time with family and reflecting on the season.

Some families I know only give three gifts to their children--mimicking the wise men's three gifts.

And if you have a budget but find something that doesn't cost the top amount you planned to spend, don't buy "filler" presents until you've spent the limit. Pocket the savings.

Daisy said...

I've had a Christmas Club savings account for several years. Twice a month the bank transfers money from my checking to the Christmas Club. The first week in November the money is transferred back to my checking. It by no means covers Christmas, but it sure helps take the bite out of the pocketbook.

FIONA said...

On the topic of ornaments...I love to pick one or 2 up from every place we travel to.

We get a new ornament for our daughter each year. And love to unwrap and look at the ones she has made over the years.

When hubby and I were first together, we were poor, but happy ski bums. The first batch of ornaments we hung we made from dough and painted each one.

A few have survived, including the star that goes on top of the tree.

My daughter gets such a kick out of hearing the stories that go with each ornament.

It takes a while to decorate the tree, but it is so personal.

We will be decorating our tree Saturday, which happens to be my birthday, so it will be extra special.

And yea, I am following a budget this year and it still will be a great Christmas.

We are cutting the aunts and uncles as well, mutual decsion of course.

BEE said...

The biggest change is that we are not putting anything on credit. In the past I would save up X amount of cash to buy presents and then put additional present costs on the credit card. Not this year. With everything going on in the economy we made our New Years resolution be debt ( credit cards, 1 student loan and hospital bills)free by next Christmas.

We are also doing more crafty things and spending less. For my niece I bought a ton of Halloween costumes and accessories AFTER Halloween. I painted a large hat box with pink and white stripes and polka dots and will put all the dress up stuff in that for her present. I spent about 1/2 of what I normally would, and got a ton of stuff for her that she will love!

We have also opted not to buy presents for friends or their children this year...we all mutually agreed.

And this year is the year that we will NOT send presents to family that we do not really have relationships with. I am done sending presents "just because" or because I feel obligated to send something because they send our kids stuff etc. Might sound Grinchy but we just can't do it anymore!

Nina Bell, I am going to start doing an ornament exchange with our siblings...great idea!

Guinevere said...

I like getting and giving ornaments, as well!

I have an Xmas budget that I try to stick to pretty closely. I do end up charging things, but luckily I don't usually have any big expenses in January and February (no important birthdays or anything), so I can pay the charges off relatively quickly.

cali-mom said...

Well this year we decided to do all of our shopping on Black friday. We got everything for our kids but stocking stuffers. We are done. We also went w/a "family" gift this year instead of buying a bunch of expensive toys our kids wont play w/long.
We also opted out of our annual gift exchange w/the cousins. And I'm not buying gifts for my grandparents or FIL and his wife, per there requests.

I too LOVE the ornament idea and I think I will be bringing that up on Christmas Eve w/my family for next year. Thanks for the idea.

I do buy a new ornament for our tree and one each for my kids every year, when they grow up and move out they can take there ornaments with them.

Saint said...

I love the ornament idea. We usually do food gifts, which I love, but the ornaments last and are only out at a special time.

I am almost finished my shopping :). One of my kids has a birthday near Christmas. The year I had her, I was finished early. She was my Christmas present. Best. Present. Ever. I LOVED the peace of being done. I loved being anxiety-free. I haven't been able to do it since, but I am trying this year. I didn't start until Black Friday, and I want it all in place by the 17th. Wish me luck!

Anya said...

Thanks, Samantha for a timely article. I am going to check out the websites you mention tommorrow.

I think my main goal will be to stick closely to a list this year. I usually am much more practical when I am drawing up a list. Once I get in the store I often lose perspective either because I become unrealistic about how much I am spending or because I just want to get OUT of there - no matter what the cost! :-)

MonicaW42 said...

I spoil my niece and nephew at Christmas. Now that my son is grown I have the chance to get my toy shopping on through them. My immediate family still exchanges gifts with each other. We also have kept many family traditions that are dear to all of us.
My mom still gives me an ornament each year as she knows I am an ornament whore.

scarfoot said...

I try to start shopping really early. I'm not one of those anal people that you are imagining, but I only get paid once a month and I don't use credit cards. Purchasing for Christmas really stresses me out when I think "I only have one more paycheck until Christmas!" So I drive my family crazy, but I start very early (which I believe is cheaper, as well). This year I was done by November 1.

Don't throw rotten vegetables at me!

I have to say that I really enjoy the season so much more having it all done early. The pressure to go shopping and have it all done is virtually non-existent because the major gifts are done. I am able to relax and enjoy Christmas more. And I have to say that online shopping makes shopping so much easier.

themrs said...

scarfoot- i normally do the same. my goal is usually to be done by thanksgiving. it really does make the season so much more enjoyable. i don't have to fight the crowds and try to scrounge up all that money at the last minute. this year i hadnt even started by thanksgiving! i'm regretting it now :)

FIONA said...

How about stocking traditions?

We LOVE stockings in my house!

Everyone always gets lots of new lip balm-dry climate, and no one goes anywhere without one in their pocket.

I always try to find different ones, not Bonnie Bell or chap stick, but the good ones you find at ski shops, the resorts, wilderness stores. It is always a fun thing for me and I have not even started my hunt yet!

Then I always put in something cheesy and inspirational.

We always get a good laugh at what hubby puts in my stocking because it always so random!

Last year it was a golden retriever key chain-I have a lab! :)

Daisy said...

Stockings are a big tradition at our house. My husband and kids always get gift cards for movies, starbucks, music, etc.

After I'd given my family Starbucks for a few years they finally took the hint and gave me one last year.

dotsicle said...

Big changes this year in gift-giving. We are on the edge of losing our home, and other family members are headed in that direction, so we are not exchanging any wrapped gifts this year. We'll get together on several occasions for food and fun. (I do like the "ornament" idea, though. Maybe I could figure out a way to do THAT.)

Mom said...

Ornaments - LOVE them! Always have! My H and I purchase them on every vacation. We have lots of lighthouse ornaments for all the lighthouses we have visited on the Great Lakes! Just last year, my mom gave me several of the ones I made for her and my dad when I was little. They are some of my favorites. My sister started her children on an ornament collection when they were babies. My nephew had his own xmas tree last year and my sister boxed up all 27+ (at least one for each year) for him! It is so neat! We started the same tradition for our son!

Fiona - I'm a big Lab lover! We have two - a soon-to-be 12 year old yellow Lab and soon-to-be 5 year old black Lab! We have LOTS 'o puppy ornaments on the tree too! Now my son who is 22 mos looks and point "puppy! puppy!" when he sees the ornaments.

My H is a police officer and, well, you guessed it....each year I try to find him a police-themed ornament. A few years back I put them all on one tree, so he has his own "Police" tree which we keep in our family room.

Okay.....what was the question???? LOL!

I take alot of photographs and try to make calendars or photo albums for people on my gift list. I also bake for days leading up to Xmas and I couple the baked yummies with Xmas towels and potholders that I pick up at TJ Max/Marshall's/Home Goods last season.

This year, I found a great frame shop that does name/message frames where you have, say, your last name as the matte in cutouts and then you place pics in those cutouts. A five-letter matte and frame is about $35 at this place (big time steal), so I bought a few for close family members.

There is an heirloom baptismal gown in my H's family that the grandchildren have worn (it was first worn by my H's great-grandmother). I'm having the same frame shop encase it (hanging) in a big (gown is VERY long) shadow box for my MIL. We are all pitching in for that one special gift. If more children want to use it, we can simply take it out of the frame from the back end. I can't wait to see my MIL's face when she unwraps it.

Ultimately for me and my H, we love giving gifts, be it purchased or homemade. We really try to think about the person we are giving to and what would make them smile.

I also love wrapping! I save ribbons and things from gifts over the year and come up with "theme" packages. This year my son will get a Sesame Street themed gift and Grover will be on top of the package! I buy most of my ribbon after the holidays when it's being clearanced out or recycle.

I just realized I have been rambling on. G'nite all.

Anya said...

Dotsicle: I am truly sorry to hear that you are going through hard financial times. I like your idea of signifying the season by spending time with family and having good meals together.

Honestly I can only remember a few of the items I gave and got last season, but I do remember the time together and the delicious meals shared with family. It may be corny, but it's the truth! :-)

nomoredrama said...

I love Christmas and I love giving gifts. This is kind of my downfall. Of course, this year I am scaling back on the amount I spend per family member. I'm only exchanging with a few friends. Now that I'm paying student loans back, I'm living from paycheck to paycheck basically.

Dotsicle, I am also sorry to hear about your financial troubles. So many people are in that situation because of this noxious economy. If you have kids, there are programs that can help with maybe a few gifts for them to unwrap. I think your idea of spending time with friends and family is a good one though.

Mom said...

Dot -
Sorry to hear about the stresses your family is facing this holiday season. Absolutely nothing beats time spent with family, especially around the table. Thoughts and prayers coming your way....

Lizabeth said...

I was recently in a baking mood and made chocolate truffles (its a REALLY easy recipe). I saw something on food network where Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) made homemade caramels then wrapped them in paper like at a candy store, so I thought it would be fun to try that. The truffles were phenomenal as usual, but there is something about wrapping and unwrapping a candy that make it seem so much more special :). Because of that my mom and I plan to do some candy making and have chocolate truffles and peanut butter fudge pieces individually wrapped, then give that out to friends at church and neighbors. The customary hard candy that my mom is known for may also get made, but we agreed that its nice to do something different. I work for a small management company, so its just my boss (and his wife) and one coworker-- I gave each of them a bag of truffles and they were VERY impressed at how good they were. Can't beat something really simple with great presentation!

Dot, I'm so sorry for the situations your family is going through. I hope all goes well though and you're able to celebrate in a new kind of way with everyone!

FIONA said...

OMG! I L O V E Ina, the Barefoot Contessa. They are always drinking...sooo funny.

Mom said...

Ditto on Ina Garten. We have almost all of her cookbooks. I think a new one just came out. Some of my favorite little drinks came from her show. The "sidecar" is an oldie but goodie, easy to make and yummy!

Jane said...

We are cutting back this year, not so much because of the economy but because our kids are older and they need to learn the value of a dollar. I told my kids that the only thing I really wanted for Christmas this year was to see the movie Marley and Me that opens on Christmas Day. I am a dog lover and I can think of anything more fun to do.

Jane said...

I save money at Christmas by always paying with cash. I always spend less when I pay with cash than when I use my credit card. I think when you know the money is going to leave your purse, you are always less likely to part with it.

Kari Lynn said...

I offer free babysitting to my friends and family so that they can go Christmas shopping. It doesn't cost me anything and it is a great gift. Sometimes I am there for a whole day and that could get pretty expensive if they had to pay someone.

By the way, I love this blog and these off topic posts.

Kari Lynn said...

Oh one more thing

I also give my grandparents house a real heavy cleaning before the holidays. Of course shoveling sidewalks for the winter goes along with that. I am a local college student and I don't have much money so that is why I give the those type of gifts.

merryway said...

Years ago I tried collecting ornaments everywhere I went, it was hard because a lot of places didn't have them. I wish I had been smart of enough to realize I should have just gotten souvenirs to make ornaments out of, but I was too busy running around having fun. I have a few that I really cherish and one from a set of my mom's that I put in the curio this year. It's the last one of her oldest set. It's a big cheap plastic ball with silver bells inside that we hung on our silver tree with the rainbow light wheel shining on it.

Kari Lynn, how nice that you do that for your grandparents.

With everything else, I am almost done!!! The house is clean, the fish tank sparkles, Yule is everywhere, stockings up, boxes away AND the monthly shopping all done etc etc. you name I finally have it all under control. If I get the laundry folded and put away tonight, I can truly start all the fun holiday stuff tomorrow. See my cape blowing in the wind? :) I am SP and it seems like it took longer this year. I'm glad I started early. I take my little one to the same Santa house I took my son 25 years ago. We will start our baking and visiting. My bf's 10 year old son comes over and we decorate gingerbread houses and go look at lights while they shop. I have to put the houses together the night before. I'm looking forward to all these things. Hope everyone's feeling jolly!

A Mom-ynous said...

We've cut back on the kids gifts to each other--$10 a piece, strict limit. I was surprised at how well the kids dealt. Each "It's only $11" was met with, it is over the budget and they moved on peacefully.

DH and I aren't doing much at all for each other--we've ridden the gravy train for too long and I am just tired of all the crapola of materialisma and wasting my money.

Of course that is met by a budget increase for the kiddo's.

We are cutting our entire budget for our lifestyle next year (voluntarily to expedite eliminating debt!). So next Christmas will be strictly budgeted.

I didn't shop until Thanksgiving and only that early b/c American girl had free shipping. I've been finishing up all the kids and Christmas will be lovely.

Though there is a bit of gifts,they will all be consolidated to minimzie actual gift opening. We try to maintain quanty of gifts to around 3 or 4 though it sometimes requires cheating as items that come with separately package accessories are wrapped together.

So visibly, Christmas looks about the same every year.

We are cutting down on family gifts.

Sister has prohibited us to exchange with her as her and her hubby decided they cannot afford it and they would not feel comfortable receiving a gift since they cannot give one.

Saint said...

I love this thread, too.

Dotscicle, I will keep you and yours in my prayers. My husband's job will be over with in the next 12 months (I told him, work reeeeaaaalllly sloooooow on that last project, please,) so we're facing big changes. Our home is (almost) paid for, but we'll be forced to move almost certainly. I am not a big lover of change.
I really feel for you.

Fiona, I LOL at the lab key chain. Aren't men funny sometimes?

I LOVE Barefoot Ina, too. I LOVE her relationship with her hubby (so happy together.) I LOVE her house. I want to be her friend.

I do not do much decorating for Christmas. I like to put out the manger scene, best. I bought one cheap, that doesn't break, when my daughters were little. It has lots of animals and angels and shepherds and other extras. They played with those pieces for years all Christmas long. I'd find Pet Dr. Barbie's cats and dogs at the manger. Once I couldn't find Mary and Joseph. My daughter brought them out of her room. Apparently Mary had found herself kidnapped by bad guys and Joseph had to rescue her. The three Kings were playing the part of the bad guys. I hope the Good Lord found that as funny as I did!

My daughters kept American Girl in business for about 10 years. This will be the FIRST year in so long that not one item will be coming from them. I have soooo many doll clothes! I wish I could mail some to you A-Mom-ynous!

Mom, I hope you get the reaction from that Baptismal gown that we got from our Dad a few years back. My sister found a painting his father did during lean times, using my Dad's sister's hair and sticks to make paintbrushes. It's a lovely street scene, like something from the 1940's. She had it framed for him. He wept openly, and exclaimed, "Ahh! I miss my Pop!" His father had been dead since 1959, before seven of his children had even been born. At 70, my Dad could say he missed his father...

It was so touching. He was so grateful for the painting to remind him of his happy (though very poor) childhood and his excellent father.

I love Christmas. Merry Christmas and Very Happy Holidays to those who celebrate in other ways. :)