Santa Claus is Coming to Town! (And He’s Got His Hands in Your Wallet…)

Yep, this is it. The last six shopping days before Christmas are upon us, and I’ve barely started my shopping.

My challenge this year is much the same as in years past — not so much time (my parents and brothers and their families aren’t coming until the 30th, so I’ve got almost an extra week) as money. Americans have estimated they’ll spend over $700 per family this year on Christmas gifts, and I think the Canadian estimates are about the same. That’s more than half my month’s income, and absolutely unaffordable for me.

So how to keep the costs down, without being a Grinch? Here are some of my own top “thrift tips” on keeping Christmas expenses down:

First: Take the time to really think about each person on your gift list. Do they really belong there, or are you just giving because, well, they’re sort of family? (Check out my fifth tip for those folks–homemade brownies work wonders!) Can they afford to reciprocate, or will they feel burdened by the gift, and perhaps be perfectly happy with a Christmas card? What does each person remaining on your list really need? What are their hobbies and interests? What gift would give them lasting pleasure?

It always amazes me that people, especially parents and grandparents, will spend megabucks on things that have no real value to the recipient, or will satisfy only a passing whim. If you’re not rich, and even more so if the recipient is not rich, to spend good money to give someone a gift that they’ll use only once or twice seems to me both foolish and unkind.

Second: Shop from a list. Same deal as with groceries, or anything else for that matter. Not only does it guard against impulse purcahses, but it speeds up the process of gift buying tremendously. I can shop at the last minute (which I have to do because of ongoing committments in November and December that take up A LOT of time), and not feel rushed because I know what I’m getting, and I know where I’m getting it.

Third: Trash the ads, unless you’re comparison shopping for something already on your list. I don’t even look at all the ads that come my way at Christmas or any other time, and I deliver the darn things. The purpose of ads is to get you to consider buying things you don’t need, at prices you can’t afford. And you should be horribly pissed when someone offers something at 50 or 75 percent off, because that means that the original price is two or three times what it really should cost in the stores!

Fourth: Consider buying quality used goods. I just gave my daughter her Christmas gift (it was too big to box up or even hide for the next week, and I rightly thought she’d love to start using it now). It’s a table top loom that new would cost $722 CDN. Plus taxes. I paid $90, and it came with thread and a project already started. I bought new-condition used books at the public library book sale. One coffee table book for my dad has a list price of $85 new, $19 marked down at Amazon, $8 at the book sale. Again, no tax. My mom wants lots of wool for knitting — she suggested I get it at Value Village. I got a better deal, actually — quite often I manage to snag stuff like that free from friends at church who have decided they’re too old to knit. I’ll raid my stash and wrap it up. (In return, I gave her a list of books I’d like, and told her to buy used if she could get decent copies.)

Fifth: Do you craft, or bake? We have a long tradition in our family of hand crafted gifts. The first year or two of crafting, you might not feel your offerings are up to par, but consider some of your earlier efforts as stocking stuffers.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get at crafting, and the more your crafting will be in demand. I have a collection of dolls that were either made or were clothed by my daughter. She taught herself to knit and crochet and sew and hand spin and now weave, and she spends a great deal of time crafting. And everyone wants one of her dolls.
(Who wouldn’t want a Gandalf like this one? The afgahn behind Gandalf was a very early effort from her. I still enjoy its warmth.)

And for those friends who are close enough to merit a gift in your estimation, but not so close that you’ll want to spend megabuck, you can get a Tim Horton gift card, or you can bake. (This works really well for your paper carrier too, if you can’t afford a twenty. Just sayin’.)

Finally: What amazes me even more than the junk folks buy for other people is how much shoppers spend on themselves at Christmas time! Perhaps the biggest way for many consumers to cut spending is to simply not buy for themselves things that they wouldn’t buy at any other time of year.

Didn’t get exactly what you wanted for Christmas? Unless it’s a badly needed item (like a new winter coat and boots, in my case), let it pass. Enjoy the gifts you did get. And leave what you didn’t get until you won’t have a credit card hangover from buying it.

So. How do these tips sit with you? Are there any tips that you have that help you keep costs down?


About Ruth Cooke

Ruth Cooke B.A, M.Div., MPS is a writer, public speaker, and itinerant preacher whose areas of expertise and interest include poverty issues and solutions, parenting exceptional children, sexual orientation, and the place of religious institutions in society. If you would like Ruth to come preach, speak or lead a class or group, please contact her via email.
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4 Responses to Santa Claus is Coming to Town! (And He’s Got His Hands in Your Wallet…)

  1. onanotherfreakingmission says:

    Great ideas for cutting costs. This year is the tightest holiday we’ve had in years. Each year I go overboard and get my guys at least 2 major gifts, plus another ten small-ish ones. Not this year…about 6 each, and they’re all on the small side. I think I’ve spent maybe $600 total, as opposed to my normal 1.5K or so. We just can’t afford the heavy spending anymore. A really good site for books is book closeouts (which is now book outlet). They don’t always offer the newest books, but the prices are incredible, and they often have free shipping or super sales on genres. My kiddo’s a chef, so I got him a few dozen cookbooks. Retail would have been almost $1000 before shipping. Since I got them all (well, most anyway) through a free shipping deal, I got 4 huge and heavy boxes delivered to my door within a week for $95 total. It was fabulous. I kept some for his birthday, but gave the majority to him for Christmas a few years back. Those are the deals I just love.

    • Ruth Cooke says:

      Wow! Ona, I am so going to look up that site, because half of my Christmas list or more is usually books. I can get all my shopping done in January, and coast the rest of the year!

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