Save on Stress as You Budget for Christmas
by Karen Whiting
It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year! It’s almost the most stressful time of the year, too! It follows a time of thanking God and thinking of your blessings, so before shopping, be thankful for your budget, large or tiny.
It’s important to balance reality of your finances with hopes and dreams of an extravagant holiday. Overspending could produce a stressful New Year, so be realistic.
Stay on budget
If you can’t afford a great gift for everyone, especially children, consider giving a small token with a promise. Buy a special book or small gift and write a note with a promise of an outing or a time you’ll redeem the token for a larger gift. Set limits for your child.
You might even create a special catalog of gifts to choose, with a few items on each page where the child can circle one per page. Each page can be a different price range ($50, $10, $5, or $1 pages). With permission, take a few photos at your local Christian bookstore to be sure your child will choose a book, music, or movie that helps his or her spiritual growth.
Some families remind their children that the wise men gave Jesus three gifts and that’s how many they can expect too.
The three gifts could represent three categories. Gold is for the more costly item. Myrrh, used on the body, is for something for their bodies, which could be clothing or jewelry. For frankincense, read Psalm 141:2 to talk about prayers as incense; therefore, the third gift will be something to help their spiritual growth.
If you’re blessed with enough money to buy more gifts, consider adding a reminder of God’s love that lasts through the year such as a CD, DVD, or a devotional book.
Consider adding little touches for the needy children on your list. Drop off a gift card for a local Christian retail store and a toy store to a neighbor facing financial problems.
For angel trees and other charity drives, add a little extra. For example, if you picked jeans for a youngster, stuff the pockets with a dollar bill, tiny book, a note telling them that Jesus loves them, or other items. Those little surprises will bring extra joy at Christmas.
Plans and Giving
List all the people with whom you plan to exchange gifts. Remember to add needy children from an angel tree or other source. Look at the money you have and allocate how much you can spend on each person. Create a shopping list and stick to your spending limits. Think about what you can make to give if you are crafty or a good cook. Consider bargaining services for crafty friends in exchange for their handcrafts. Check Pinterest for ideas. If you know you are short on funds this year, see if some gift exchanges can be switched to drawing a name, or consider giving a game or video to a family instead of individual gifts.
Encourage your children to make cards or gifts to help them focus on giving rather than just receiving. They might be able to do extra chores, offer to work for a neighbor, or even make and sell items. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkegkkei6d4 for T-shirts even a young child can make.
Ask your local Christian retailer for suggestions and let them know your budget per person. They can be your personal shopper since they know their inventory plus items they can order. Ask what dates they plan to hold special sales or if they will have coupons to use.
Enlist outside gift givers to make the holiday special for your children. If you plan on a special gift for your child, like a play kitchen, let family and friends who give the child gifts know the theme so they can add complementary items. Or, create a list with choices for those shoppers.
Plan ahead for the next year
Record what you spend this year and total it up. Plan on how to save that much for next year or even a little more. Strategize better money habits and ways to save a little throughout the year for easier holidays in the future.
Budget time too!
Along with budgeting, pull out your calendar now and be sure to schedule time for family and devotions. Spend time praying over the budget and for wisdom on how to allocate the money you have for this season. Be mindful that Christmas should focus on Jesus and love more than dollars spent, so spend time talking and singing about Jesus throughout the season.
Karen Whiting is an international speaker, mathematician, and award winning author of eighteen books for families and children. Her newest book, The One Year Devotions for Active Boys includes some money sense devotions in the end of September. Nature Girl: a guide to caring for God’s creation, her other new release, includes recycled crafts and cards to make.
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