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Setting and Stretching Your Christmas Budget

A group of Local Knoxville Mommy Bloggers are tackling Holiday topics to save you time and money these holidays:
Blue Frog Creations, Coupon Katie, Coupon Mommie, Couponing in Critical Times, Coupons Are Money, Frugally Farming Family, Frugalissa Finds, Knoxmoms.com, Knoxville Mamabelle, Knoxville on a Dime, and Sharing Savings with You.

I did a few posts last month about setting and staying on a Christmas budget. It received such a great response I decided to post it again as part of this series. As always I would love to hear more of your ideas or great frugal finds from this year!

We should start with first things first-Setting a Christmas Budget.

As a side note, I know everyone has different ideas/traditions around holiday gift giving. This is something THE HUSBAND and I had to work through early in our marriage. (I love to give gifts, he is more on the anti-commercialization of Christmas side.  We have come to appreciate each others ideas and we now have a good compromise.) I am not trying to talk anyone into change I just wanted to offer some tips to help you spend whatever amount of money you chose to spend on gifts the best way you can!

1.Set Your Christmas Budget. What have you saved for Christmas gift giving? What can you comfortably afford for Christmas gift giving?
As far as a dollar amount for your Christmas budget I would never try to throw out a number. It will be different for every family, for us it is different every year! Just make sure it is the right number for you or your family.

2.After you set your budget, make a list of all the people you would like to buy gifts for. If you have never written it all out here is a simple gift spending worksheet that might be helpful.

3.Make a list of all the miscellaneous Christmas items you will buy.
Wrapping paper, Christmas cards, stamps, baking supplies, etc. All these things add up and should go into your Christmas budget. Thinking of all of these things beforehand will help keep you from overspending.

3.Assign a dollar amount per gift for each person/ item on your list. Add those number up- if they are more than your budget you will have to cut numbers or people or items.

I know these ideas may sound a bit scroogeish to some of you, but setting a budget early on and committing to it will help you joyfully and freely spend whatever money you have allotted for each gift. You will not have to stress in the store about your budget and how you are doing, you will know. Christmas shopping will be more enjoyable.

These are a few of the things I am doing to stretch our Christmas budget.

1. Shop early– I know it is a little late for this tip but it may help you out for next year. Several of you commented on what great deals you get right after Christmas.  You can find great deals on toys, clothing and wrapping paper.
If you shop early it is helpful to dedicate on storage space to gifts and keep a list there of everything you have. That way, when Christmas comes around you will know what you have without having to drag it all out of your closet.

2. Use Deal Site Deals- There are so many deal sites available now! They can help you save a lot of money on your Christmas budget. You could give family members a night out or a day at the spa for half price. If you have out of town relatives you can search there city’s deals. I bought the Body Shop Groupon and both of my sisters will be getting some awesome Body Shop products for Christmas.
There are a few other deal sites I have used and trust- Living Social, Half off Depot, Plum District, and FlutterToday.  If you have any other favorites let me know.

3. Make creative and frugal gift baskets.

4. Give homemade gift certificates.We did this last year for my brother and sister-in-law. We used a deal site to buy them a gift card for dinner at at restaurant we knew they liked and also gave them a homemade gift certificate for a night of babysitting. (We would have babysat anyway but it was fun to include that in their date night gift.)

You could make these for anything or anyone- baby sitting, cleaning, car wash etc. You could make them for your children- watch their favorite movie, stay up 30 late, pick dinner one night. You could help your children make them for your spouse. The possibilities are endless. You can find several templates online, my favorites I found at Real Simple.

4.Comparison Shop Online

5.Keep an eye out of online freebies. As we get closer to the holidays you will see several freebies pop up. There are usually several photo card and photo book deals that are free or close to and make great gifts.

6.Consider making your own gifts or baking your own gifts. This is a goal of mine. I do not have a crafty bone in my body but I dream of making cute homemade gifts for my kids (and nieces and nephews). I am making some plans now to help that happen next year.

7. Sign up for Swagbucks. This is another tip that would be good to start now but probably not super helpful until next year. That being said, it is not unlikely that using Swagbucks to search online everyday for the next year will earn you a couple hundred dollars in Amazon (or other gift cards) to use for Christmas presents next year. This alone has really changed my Christmas budget.

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