Sunday, November 20, 2011

simplify and give generously

This year, we are discussing how to give more generously and simultaneously cut back.  We love to give gifts.  I love to shop for people and think - oh so and so will love that, or he really needs this or... whatever.  And I think gift giving is a great tradition!!  But, it's a time of year when people can go nuts. or broke.  And the truth is your dad probably doesn't want that electronic toy as much as he wants you not to break the bank over his gifts.  But we love to give to our loved ones.  Therein lies the dilemma.  For me anyway.  Here are some practical things we're implementing.   

But first... a little background

I love to wrap presents.  For several years, most people in my family have given me all their gifts for one another (except the gifts for me) and I wrap them all.  They get stacked in a secret closet with post-its tha say who it's for and who it's from.  Then, I lock myself in the basement and wrap them.  Ribbons, bows, tags and all.  I love it! 

Last Christmas was the first Christmas where Ben and I were in our own place.  We weren't actually going to be around for a couple weeks in December, so a Christmas tree seemed wasteful.  But Ben surprised me with one anyway :) It was little. and cute. and special. and fun to decorate.  It was the first Christmas we had presents under our own tree (instead of at my parents' house) so naturally I picked coordinating red and silver paper and ribbons and all the wrapped presents looked beautiful.  For 2 weeks.  Then they were opened and thrown away (except the pretty ribbon).  In the future, when we have more discretionary spending money, I will probably go back to a beautiful, coordinating wrapping extravaganza.  But, this year, I'm going simpler.

Low-Key Wrapping.  Did I mention my love for wrapping.  It might be irrational to like presents wrapped all pretty, but I do.  However, I do not really want to spend $ 200 in wrapping supplies, most of which will be thrown away.  So, I've been browsing and have seen some ideas - one of which I'm going to adopt to satisfy both my love for cute wrapping and my love for sticking to the budget.  (especially on things that are insignificant.  like pretty wrapping paper).

newspaper wrapping; simple ribbon; gift tags with initials

this might be the winner since I already have brown paper wrapping (from walmart in the mailing section); just add ribbon and i'd probably use tags instead of stamps b/c I don't have stamps.

Plan Ahead.  In January of this year, we predicted all gift giving expenses - birthdays, cards, weddings, postage, wrapping, christmas, christmas donations.  We added up that total and divided by 12 (months).  We set the money aside in cash each month.  We keep a copy of the original list on hand so that we remember how much we budgeted for so-and-so's wedding in June.  Because the cash starts to add up (as most gift $$ is spent during the last month of the year), it's always tempting to spend more on the birthdays and weddings throughout the year.  But we try stick to the budget.  (nope, we are not perfect at this.)  That way, when December rolls around, we have the cash on hand to shop for our loved ones.  And as long as we stick to the budget, we can give generously.  because we planned ahead.  this is a LOW STRESS LEVEL/ HIGH FUN LEVEL way to Christmas shop :)

Christmas Cards. We have also decided not to send out Christmas cards. This year anyway.  I actually love getting other people's Christmas cards - cards, pictures, life story letters, letters written in the voice of the family pet, you name it!  I love it. I read them all.  And I love to send cards- the good old fashioned, hand written, hand addressed, snail mail way.  But, we don't have kids and quite frankly, who wants to see pictures of me and Ben?  Probably only the people who our parents send letters to.  And our pictures are in those.  We figure that we can write a year's update on this blog or perhaps in an email and save on the postage.  When we have kids, you'll get cute cards!  In the meantime, it's gonna be a one way relationship:  You send us one but you probably won't get one.  It's not personal.  Just monetary. :)

Give Generously.  It's nice to over-budget for gifts and come up short because we like to buy a goat through World Vision or adopt a child whose parents are MIA or donate gifts to the local homeless shelter or whatever.  You can even go to a shopping mall and find someone to donate to.  Just do it.  It's a great reminder of how blessed we are to be able to give generously to those we love and to our "neighbors" we don't know.

in what ways do you keep your christmas spending in check? 

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