How to Cut Christmas Expenses when You Have Children

Sometimes Christmas gets to be expensive. If you have children in the house it can be especially difficult to cut back. This guide will help you to find ways to cut costs at Christmas time, without making the season any less merry for you and your family.


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    Figure out how much you spent last year. Even if you weren't buying $200 electronics for everyone, costs add up quickly at Christmas. If you saved the receipts use them but if not try to reconstruct your spending from memory. Include everything, from gifts and tree decorations to the food.
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    Figure out how much you have to spend this year. Figure out what areas won't get as much money spent on them this year. Will gifts be less expensive? Will you not go to the ballet or orchestra this year?
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    Find the right time to talk to your children. Unless your children are infants you will have to talk to them and let them know you're not spending as much this year. Tell them early, before Thanksgiving would be preferred, but as early as possible. Don't tell them when they're in a bad mood, and never use it as a type of punishment or as the "winning" statement in an argument. Children understand much more than we give them credit for, so just be honest about why you want to cut costs. Have you lost your job? Do you hate the commercialism? Do you think your family has lost sight of everything but gifts?
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    Let go of perfection. TV, magazines, books, movies, every time we turn around we are bombarded with the idea of a "perfect" Christmas. The next time you catch yourself saying wistfully "Oh, wouldn't that just be great if our Christmas was like that," take note. Often times, the decorations you see, these perfect rooms, would look ridiculous in real life. It may look pretty in pictures, but who wants to have to fight their way through 15 holiday throw pillows to find the couch? If Uncle Greg didn't get drunk and go on his rant about the government every year, wouldn't it be just that little bit sadder? Embrace your family's quirks and oddities, and realize that what you see from the media is only carefully crafted images, not real rooms or real people.
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    Consider why you celebrate Christmas. Everyone celebrates Christmas for different reasons. Some people celebrate time with family, some celebrate hope and the renewal of light, others celebrate Jesus. It is entirely up to you why you celebrate it. Once you have figured out why you celebrate, try to incorporate that into your holiday more than anything else. If you celebrate for family, perhaps you should have a potluck together and forgo gift giving. If you celebrate for Jesus, perhaps you should go to church more often in December, or make a bigger deal out of it.
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    Cut down on gift giving. Make a list of everyone you bought presents for last year and how much you spent.
    • Gifts for extended family. Do you buy gifts for all your relatives, even the ones you never see? Talk to your family about gift giving and have some solutions at the ready. Would a gift exchange where everyone only buys for one person work? Would eliminating gifts for everyone over 16 be the solution? Talk it over and set price limits for gifts as well. Nothing over $10 is common for gift exchanges. If they insist that you buy gifts for everyone, simply say it won't be happening this year.
    • Gifts for friends. Do you and your friends buy each other expensive gifts every Christmas? Talk about other solutions with them. Instead of buying gifts for each other, perhaps you should all go out for lunch or coffee?
    • Gifts for everyone else. Do you give gifts to everyone who enters your home during the holiday season, as well as the mail carrier, garbage man, paper boy, and every other person you meet? Often this type of gift can be eliminated completely. If you don't know them well enough to buy them a gift and give it to them as you would a friend, why are you buying gifts for them at all? While it's nice to thank service people for the jobs they do, if you do insist on giving them gifts keep it small and not homemade. A bag of m&ms or Christmas candy would be plenty, and wrapped candies can be bought in bulk and distributed amongst all of them.
    • Gifts for your significant other. Do you and your significant other exchange expensive gifts? Would you be happier hiring a babysitter and giving yourselves the gift of a night on the town?
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    Be careful about gifts to your children. Set up a budget just for gifts for your children with your significant other. It doesn't have to be large, only make it what you can afford or what you want to spend. Stick to your budget no matter what! So your son won't get that new computer, and your daughter won't get the $300 makeup kit. Alright, they'll survive. Consider instead
    • practical gifts. They may not be as much fun, but if you know they're going to need new clothes or toothbrushes or backpacks anyway, give them to the children as gifts. This doesn't mean they have to be boring. Perhaps the toothbrushes can be glittery, and the backpacks can have pins the children can arrange themselves.
    • Crafting gifts. Craft supplies for younger children are often very inexpensive. It wouldn't cost much to fill a bag with crafty supplies for a young child. If one of your children enjoys sewing, often interesting and inexpensive fabric can be found in thrift stores in the form of sheets and shirts or dresses.
    • Handmade gifts. Use your talents whenever possible! If you're handy with a sewing machine, maybe you could make the child who enjoys cooking an apron, or a new shirt or pajamas. Hats, scarves, and mittens are popular gifts and not too difficult if you can knit or crochet.
    • Experience gifts. Most people find they don't remember the gifts they received as a child in any case, so give your kids the gift of an experience with you! You can make coupons or gift certificates easily by hand or on the computer. Make them valid for one dinner of the child's choosing, a day spent just with you, a trip to the zoo, or for one night of a later bedtime.
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    Cut down on food. So you always buy an enormous turkey, only a little gets eaten, then you're stuck with leftovers for two weeks before you finally throw the rest out. Why bother? Consider every item that goes on the menu carefully. Will it get eaten? How much do you really need? Would one kind of pie be plenty, even though you usually get three? Do you need to make 15 batches of cookies? Try to use coupons whenever possible and keep an eye out for sales.
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    Cut down on decorations. Do you need new decorations, or are the ones from last year still in perfect condition? Do you need to buy a live tree, or would spending a little extra on a fake tree that will last for years be a better plan? Are live greens for the mantel and wreath necessary? Inventory all of your current Christmas decorations and plan where you'll put them long before you head for the decorations isle. Most Christmas decorations can be used year after year, but if you need new ornaments, why not let the children make them? It will be much more fun, the ornaments will have more meaning, and it will cost less!
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    Consider unusual decorations. Maybe instead of a full tree, you'll cut a branch from one of your own trees and stick it upright in a pot. Maybe you'll cluster the houseplants together and decorate those, or perhaps the lonely stuffed animals in the attic will get a second life as decorations, with festive ribbons around their necks. Don't get caught in thinking "traditional" decorations are the only way to go. Be creative!
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    Cut back on donations. No one wants to skimp at Christmas and make their donations to others be the place that suffers. But sometimes, if you're donating hundreds of dollars to several organizations, that's where the cutting has to be done. Especially if you're in a money crisis, it's important to consider where you and your family stand as well. That's not to say you should give up donations all together! Certainly still give. Just cut your donation sizes down, and give only to a few charities you really admire. You can also donate your time to them, which is something that's just as necessary as money, but won't cost you anything but the gas or bus fair to get where you need to go!
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    Cut down on activities. Skiing trip on the 11-14th, the symphony on the 15th, The Nutcracker on the 17th, a Christmas production on the 20th. During Christmas there's a lot going on that costs money to get into. Pick only the ones that you and your family ALL enjoy and that you can afford.
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    Keep kids busy. With all this cutting down and cutting back, kids can feel like it isn't really Christmas. Don't think spending less money and having less fun go hand in hand. There are lots of fun, inexpensive things that you can do as a family to still have a wonderful holiday season. Some ideas are:
    • Make a gingerbread house, and don't fuss over it looking perfect.
    • Make a batch of cookies and let everyone have one cookie they can decorate any way they want - even if that means an inch and a half thick layer of frosting or half a jar of sprinkles.
    • Look at Christmas lights. You can drive around looking at them or just take a walk through your own neighbourhood in the evening.
    • Turn off all the lights except for the ones on the tree and sit around together, talking. Tell them what Christmas was like when you were a child. Have everyone share favorite Christmas memories, what their favorite gift received was, what the perfect gift they gave someone was.
    • Go to a public library and check out Christmas themed books. You may have to place them on hold early in the season. Read one book every night until Christmas, of course finishing with Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
    • Watch Christmas specials and movies together. Don't worry about renting them, just watch the ones you already have or the ones that are on TV.
    • Have everyone (including you!) write a letter about what they hope the new year brings. Maybe someone's looking for love, or a new job. Maybe they just want to go to the movies. Fold the letters up and hide them. Put them away with the Christmas decorations and read them again next Christmas Eve. It lets everyone see how they've grown and changed.
    • Look online for Christmas crafts that are age appropriate for your children. Many of them can be made with items most people already have at home.
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    If at first you don't succeed.... If this Christmas didn't go how you wanted it to, don't give up! Any change in Christmas can seem like a big deal, and sometimes the changes we make we realize we hate. Maybe you've learned it really is important that you have Grandma's peach cobbler on Christmas, or that you go to see The Nutcracker. But you have learned, and now you're better prepared for next year!
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  • Wikihow, ehow, and Family Fun are good places to check for Christmas craft projects.
  • There are many websites that list the Christmas specials and movies scheduled to be played that year, and what channels they will be on. Always be sure to double check the time.
  • Good Christmas books to look into are
    • The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, **The Nutcracker,
    • Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren, Ilon Wikland, and Florence Lamborn,
    • Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry,
    • The American girl Christmas books. There are different ones for each doll/character, and the titles are "(one of the dolls names)'s surprise)
    • The Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury for Kids
    • The Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed (better for older children).

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Categories: Christmas | Christmas for Kids