Saturday, September 27, 2008

Christmas buying tips for the frugal minded Christian

I love Christmas time - my kids and I have so much fun coming up with ideas for gifts for those we love. Frugal gift giving has become a yearly hobby we have gotten pretty savvy at.

Christmas is always closer than we think. Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of your dime and time this year while keeping Christ in the forefront of the Christmas season. The holidays shouldn't be stressful so put on your favorite striped socks and a goofy hat and set to making out your list. I suggest the socks and hat because wearing goofy, colorful things makes it kinda hard to feel uptight and irritated. If gifting and such creates in you a heart of irritation and stress step back and re-evaluate your purpose for the season. Then start again when your heart is back in the right place. Most of us, if not all of us, have this issue at least once a season. Recognizing it is the first step to squashing that blackness.

Anyway - here is that idea list.
  • First, if you are going to buy anything online don't immediately think eBay is the place to do it. While eBay does offer many items hard to find at the store you'll want to be sure to price check your particular item at a retail outlet to make sure you can't get it for cheaper. EBay doesn't always offer the lowest prices - remember to average in shipping when planning out your online buying budget.
  • Join Ebates. Having an Ebates membership will net you a return percentage for anything you purchase buy clicking through their website.
    How it works: Somewhere around 1000 merchants have teamed up with Ebates by offering Ebate members a percentage back when they click through Ebates to their stores. Sometimes it is 2 or 3% back but there are promotions that give you 10% back and sometimes more! I have almost always been given enough back to at least pay for my shipping costs. Also, when you sign up you get a bonus of $10 ($5 after October 31st) after you make any purchase that nets you a cash back percentage. If you refer a friend not only will they get this same sign up bonus but so will you! I have been a member of Ebates for a year now and have been very pleased with their service.
  • Get creative. We enjoy coming up with new, unique projects each year. One year we did a gift basket project and made around 15 baskets for our family and friends. These baskets were filled with home made hot chocolate mixes, smores on a stick, cookies, candies, and other yummy things we could make at home. These projects were so much fun and the kids loved participating and giving. Yes, they did take a little time and effort on our part but that is what made the gifts so special. Time spent is much more valuable than dollars.
  • Stay true to the meaning of Christmas no matter what those around you are doing. Gift giving and generosity have their place - after all, didn't God give us the best gift of all with the birth of his son? However, the holidays can easily become a heartless, greedy gift exchange when we allow ourselves to become ensnared in the popular gift wars that the season creates. Make a point to not allow yourself to get caught up in holiday gift exchange wars. The competition during Christmas to see which family can give out highest dollar load detracts from the true meaning of the holidays. Keep it simple and from the heart. Break the cycle, not only for yourself but for those children coming up behind you. They are watching.
  • Start shopping early. I read not long ago that one woman purchases paper lunch sacks and writes the names of all those she plans on gifting during the holidays. During the year if she sees a good deal that would be perfect for a certain person she adds that gift to their particular lunch sack. I think this is a fabulous idea and with all the CVSing and Wagging we do around here those sacks could have been filled up if we had started at the beginning of the year.
  • Barnes & Noble. After Christmas Barnes & Noble online has an amazing book sale here. You can always find good deals here year long but after the holidays they have an extreme sale with 1000's of books. Last year I purchased close to 80-some books for myself and my kids for less than $200. I went through Ebates for this, too and netted quite a bit of cash back. We have traded many of these books through the Paper Back Swap and a good number of them are still on our shelves for school use. If I had been in my right thinking at the time I would have purchased a good deal of children's books and coloring books to save and give out at Christmas time this year. I don't plan on making this same mistake again!
  • Instead of buying something for each person on your friends list or your kids' friends list have a gift exchange party! Make punch, buy a gift, and set out some home made treats. A carefully planned party can be much more fun and less expensive than shopping and spending a lot of money. Plus, what is better than being able to spend time with your friends? My kids have a Christmas gift exchange party every year with a $10 gift dollar maximum to keep it reasonable for everybody invited. They also request a dozen cookies for a cookie exchange, too, so everybody gets to take home a bag of treats. We usually are able to throw this party for under $30 and my kids love having all their friends over. With all the gifts set out and a modified game of Charades or Bingo to see who gets to pick first it becomes a fun party for all involved. **Note - with kids we don't do the 'gift stealing' part of the gift exchange but with adults it can really add to the gift exchange fun!
  • Pick up an extra box of food from the Angel Food Network if you have a local host and give it to a family in crisis - whether financial or emotional. Or, you can work with your church to find a few families in need and put together a charity box. Have your kids help and see what you are doing and it will prove to be an excellent life lesson.
  • Don't shop without a list and don't purchase something not on that list unless it has a specific purpose and an unbelievably low price tag.
  • Sleep on everything. Not literally, but if you want to purchase something really bad make sure you wait at least one night before you decide for sure. My husband and I both agree that sleeping on it really helps us decide what we need and don't need. 95% of the time we end up not wasting our money. We have never regretted doing this.
  • Budget, budget, budget. Have a set out, written down plan of how much money you have to spend then pray for guidance to help that money work for you and benefit your gift receivers.

Remember, as I said above, Christmas should never be a time of ugliness, irritation, and frustration. Don't allow stress to conquer you. If doing something nice for somebody else creates ill-will in your heart and mind then you need to take a step back and breath. Take it to God and give with a generous, happy heart.

2 comments:

Sandra Rowell said...

Thanks for the frugal ideas. I think this is going to be a great Christmas for us, despite the economy!

TiffanyM522 said...

I love the idea of a frugal Christian minded Christmas! This year I vow to focus on the meaning not the money. I got my Christmas cards at www.truechristmascards.com and then bought 5x7 frames from the dollar store. My family and friends can frame our family photo or the Christmas message included with every card!