Christmas is coming! That three-word sentence is something either people despise or relish. Some people really enjoy when Christmas approaches. They love all the lights, festivities, parades, turkey and stuffing, decorating and gifts. Or, that three-word sentence can make you feel depressed, unmotivated, stressed and strapped for cash. Christmas should be something you enjoy, but when you live on one income, it also has to be a time where you don’t feel deficient if you don’t spend a lot of money.
Who do you really need to buy for?
For a long time, my husband’s family has not bought each other gifts except for the children in the family. My husband and I agreed even before we married not to buy each other gifts. If we really needed something or wanted something, and had the money, we would purchase it ourselves. On my side of the family, we did exchange gifts. I have to say I’ve always felt relieved when dealing with my husband’s family. Gifts were not a major part of the Christmas get together. It was more about what food we were going to eat this year. Were we going to do the traditional Portuguese (my husband is Portuguese) dishes and have Caldo Verde (a potato, collard, chorizo soup – it’s delicious) and cod fish with potatoes and chick peas called Bacalhau, or were we going to have a roast prime rib? With my family, it is still important that we all be around the table together with a turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and everything else that goes with it, but gifts were also part of the equation. What do I get adult siblings who really aren’t in need of anything, and even more difficult, when my parents were alive, what do I get elderly parents that have everything?
What could you do outside of giving everyone a gift?
Last year, my sister-in-law suggested that we do the gift-giving in a different and more affordable way. Each person buys one gift $15.00 to $20.00 maximum and puts it under the tree. Everyone’s name goes into a hat and one by one each person is called on to pick a gift. Now, you don’t have to pick a gift from under the Christmas tree – you can steal a gift from someone who has already picked a gift. The person you steal from can then either steal the gift back, or steal from another person, or choose another gift from under the tree. Usually called White Elephant this game also goes under the names Dirty Santa or Thieving Elves. Whatever the name, it turns out to be a fun time, it can get loud especially around my husband’s family (there’s a lot of stealing that goes on), but everyone ends up with a gift. For someone with a family on one income, it means you don’t have to spend much money but not give up giving and getting a gift. After trying this last year, we decided to do it again this year on both sides of the families.
Some things we bought last year to give you an idea are a 6-pack of beer, your “favourite hockey team” winter toque, a board game, beer glasses, winter mittens, gift card to the liquor store, Chihuahua piggy bank, hot chocolate gift set, mugs, tea set, chocolates, the list goes on. As you can see, alcohol is popular and usually is the gift that gets stolen the most! This is just an idea to make spending less at Christmas time but everyone gets to participate in the gift giving.
Stockings are more fun.
When my kids were little I started giving them each a stocking with little, inexpensive gifts in them. I used to have a stocking when I was young and I always found it was the best present and it was the most exciting to open. Of course, when I was young, you were excited to get some nuts and a big, juicy orange in your stocking! My grown-up kids still love their stocking, and I find it’s a good way not to go present crazy. They get some small things in their stocking like shampoo, body wash, a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. In my daughter’s stocking, I’ll put a nail polish, a lipstick, some hair ties and then give each child some money to go out after Christmas when the sales are on to buy something they would like. It keeps costs down and I’m not running all over town to buy gifts they don’t really want.
Christmas can be an expensive time, especially for a young family on one income, but you can keep the costs down by not buying for each person. Really, any adult in the family doesn’t need another adult buying them something. For me, Christmas is all about the little ones anyway. Maybe stick to buying the children one gift and then go with something like the White Elephant game and have fun with it. I wish we had thought of this many years ago when buying each person a gift can become unaffordable. Instead, buy a silly gift, try the White Elephant game, and do lots of stealing!