I have been saving people money here for over 3 years. In that time there is one thing I hear more than anything, "How do I save on Christmas when I need to buy for everyone in my family?" This is a really hard question to answer. I have found that there is a lot of obligation buying going on.
Today after hearing this again from someone very overwhelmed by the obligation list, I decided it was time to officially address this.
You don't have to buy anything for anyone!
There I said it. Revel in that for a minute. The world won't end if you don't buy a $15 gift card for that family member you see 2 times a year.
It is 100% ok to look at your budget and say, "I can't afford to do this!" It is completely ok to not give a gift or to find a free alternative.
Why am I saying this?
It breaks my heart when I get e-mails and messages from people that say something like this.
Dear Coupon Queen,
I have a really hard question for you. I am really struggling this year to make ends meet but I know I have a lot of family to buy for. Between the kids, the parents, the extended family, co-workers, and teacher gifts I am so overwhelmed. I just can't afford to buy for everyone. How do you make it work?
Overwhelmed Reader's name here.
So what do we do about it?
- Set realistic expectations - Look at your budget and set a realistic amount for Christmas shopping. Take all emotion out of it and just look at the numbers. How much do you really have to spend? That can go a long way.
- Pick the priorities. - Have you shopped for those under your roof first? Sometimes the easiest way to handle things is to shop for those inside the house before taking care of the obligation list. If you do this after budgeting it tells you how much you have left for the rest of your list.
- Think Home Made - There are many gifts you can make without spending more than a few dollars. This may be a great alternative when money is tight.
- Don't Shop - I know that sounds so counter culture but just don't shop for them. If they can't appreciate a home made gift maybe a gift is not necessary.
- Give acts of Service - Maybe you can't afford to buy something for someone but you can help them weed a stubborn garden plot or clean out a garage. Offering to do these things can be really great gifts.
- Be Honest. - Many times people buy because the have to and no one says they can't. Tell your family the truth. If they judge you let them. It's better to annoy someone than put yourself into financial ruin.