She's the countdown queen always counting down to the next big event. Skipping, singing...44 more days! As soon as the jubilant words were in earshot, I was overcome with a huge sense of anxiety. My heart began racing. Adrenaline was coursing through my extremities.
44 more days to substantial debt?
I used to LOVE Christmas. Days of baking cookies, making crafts, decorating, listening to favorite holiday tunes of John Denver and Amy Grant, laying beneath beautiful lights, cozying up to a warm fire sipping hot chocolate or an eggnog latte.
These days, I'm agonizing over the upcoming holiday and the sense of dread associated with it. I love Christmas, just don't love the expectation of stuff. I want to celebrate Christ and family. I want to give, but perhaps not in the same way we have in the past. I want to be carefree in our celebration of Christ's birth, but not have the holiday focused on consumerism.
The Credit Card Christmas
Like many Americans, we've been hit with numerous financial setbacks. These have been results from the downturn in the housing market, to multiple medical bills, to rising food and gas prices to necessary home repairs to renters who fail to pay their rents and damage homes, etc. I'm sure many are in the same boat. We're facing tough times and trying to continue to manage on one income. We've never lived high on the hog. I've always been frugal, but life has just happened.
There once was a time when we had financial abundance. We were blessed to give generously and abundantly, but now I'm happy if we can tithe, pay our bills and buy groceries. If we were to have a Christmas like we used to, it would be a credit card Christmas. There's no way around it. We're not at a point where we set aside a few dollars monthly to build a Christmas fund. We've been hit with unexpected expenses and they don't seem to be letting up. In 2009, Forbes posted an article noting the average American Christmas-celebrating family spends $751 on gifts, $41.50 on a Christmas tree, $33.00 on cards and postage, $23 on flowers (poinsettias), $52 on decorating, $960 on travel, and an additional $200-$500 on food. Just looking at these numbers, which look rather conservative to me, total an extra $2360.50 burden on the average family budget.
If You're Going to Buy, Some Ideas on Saving
I've known families who have limited their gift-giving budget to $50 per child. $50 doesn't go a long way these days, so how do we stretch the dollar and purchase quality gifts?
There are many websites that offer deep discount deals. One of my favorites for clothing and shoes right now is 6pm.com I've found many deals to clothe our family. With our move to the Midwest, I've had to buy the kids boots and coats since we were a shorts, flip-flops and tank tops family. Luckily, I've found great deals on warm winter wear. In addition, our kids grow out of their clothes so quickly, paying retail seems wasteful. If you sign up for updates on 6pm.com, they'll send you a deal of the day every morning. I've been able to purchase quality items for 75% off MSRP. I especially like 6pm.com because they allow me to pay through my Paypal account. Throughout the year I sell items on ebay to raise funds for such clothing purchases without having to dip into our household account.
CNBC compiled a list of sites for great steals and deals. You can find them here. Great deals can always be found on ebay, half.com, amazon, overstock.com, etc. I just don't like bidding. The pressure and anticipation are just too much for me.
Another website I learned of recently is TheClymb.com Again they send deals via email. Their site features outdoor gear, running apparel and more. I was able to find great deals on running shoes. They claim to have deals up to 85% off. Our family is such and outdoor/sports oriented family, a great deal of our spending budget goes toward sports gear.
If You're Going to Buy, Buy American
Some friends are seeking to buy American this Christmas. I've read posts asking about local/American companies to purchase from. ABC compiled a list of gift ideas from American companies found here. I saw Louisville Slugger on the list. For the baseball enthusiast, a personalized bat is a great idea. I've purchased them for coaches before and them make a great gift.
Another idea is to buy from handmade/homemade locally. Etsy.com is a wonderful site for a personalized gift. I know many mom friends who are trying to supplement their family income by selling on Etsy.com. In one family, the hub has been out of work for some time in the struggling California economy. His wife has been blessed through her tutu business. Please check out her site, Sweet Lily Tutus. She donates 20% of her income to help struggling women in Cambodia. What an awesome way to pay it forward!
Another great Etsy.com idea is a personalized necklace. You can find personalized necklaces with scripture, kids names, or just positive words.
If You're Going To Buy, Support a Great Cause
There are many great causes available if you're looking to purchase a gift to help impoverished people around the globe.
There are amazing gifts if you're passionate about ending the slave/sex trafficking trade. Some of my favorites are:
International Princess Project which helps women in India. Their website is http://www.punjammies.com A couple years ago I purchased punjammies for my mom and mother-in-law. They are made from cozy cotton and I love knowing the purchase helps save women from the torment of the slave/sex trade.
31 Bits helps women in Uganda They make unique, stylish jewelry. The prices are wonderfully affordable!
For the hipster in your life, how about a trendy handmade, crocheted hat from Krochet Kids International? The hat purchase helps provide opportunity, education and an occupation for peoples in Northern Uganda and Peru.
Helping Kids Around the Globe- Honor Gifts
One of my favorite organizations is Childcare Worldwide. There are many ways you can give gifts through sponsorship, survival packs and more or a gift in honor of someone. This is a great opportunity for you to give outside your family to some in desperate need. They have a catalog of gifts and a card to let someone know you gave a gift in their honor.
World Vision is another great organization that allows you to give a gift in honor. Their catalog is here.
Samaritan's Purse is another organization helping those suffering. My hub went on a mission trip after Hurricane Katrina sponsored by Samaritan's Purse. They have a catalog here.
If You Choose to Cut Down On Spending, How Can We Celebrate?
Christmas has become so commercialized, I think we've lost the focus. I love focusing on Christ, family and giving, but hope to break this cycle of going in debt in the process. We can give of ourselves selflessly without feeling the overwhelming burden of compounding debt. How do we do this?
I just learned of The Jesse Tree yesterday. It's a 25 day advent devotional leading to draw us closer to Christ. Ann Voskamp has a downloadable devotional book available at her website, A Holy Experience. A Hundred Acre Wood has another great site with handmade ornaments for you to create with your kids, here.
There are many websites available for cutting spending:
I especially love the ideas like baking, singing Christmas carols, enjoying family time, playing games, watching classic Christmas movies, and reading Christmas stories.
If you have more great ideas for giving let me know. I love new ideas!