As the crisp October air whips through our valley, my dogs unearth their winter coat, and chili simmers on the stove, these signs typically signal autumn time in our home. Yet as I spend this month writing 31 Days of Balancing Beauty and the Budget, October alerts me to something a bit more pressing – my holiday budget.
Over the course of next two months, statistics state that 90% of us will buy things we can’t afford. Quite frankly, that grieves me because I know the regret that will occur when January’s credit card statements roll into the mail box. The plethora of deep emotions that come into play when talking personal finance and budgeting reach many of us. Over spending often comes through procrastination. By being proactive and thinking ahead now, hopefully we can resist the last minute impulse buys and creatively tackle the holiday budget blues together.
Get on the Same Page with Your Spouse or Extended Family.
If finances are tight, this can be a difficult conversation to confront, but one that needs to be addressed right away. Take a hard look at the dreaded “B” word (budget) to determine set boundaries for holiday spending. If digging out of debt is a present issue, consider having a family meeting to brainstorm alternatives to excessive gifts. Explain to the children where you stand this Christmas, and invite them in the process of making this the most unique and meaningful Christmas ever.
Give of Your Time
A few years ago, our extended family discussed what we really wanted our Christmas legacy to look like. We concluded it wasn’t about tearing through present after present of things we didn’t need, or necessarily want, but truly instilling a love of giving, serving, and focusing on the gift of our Savior. The first year, we began by picking one name with which to exchange a present, but now we spend our Christmas afternoon and evening preparing meals for refugee families and delivering them to their homes. The moments we’ve shared, and the life stories we have heard from these precious families fleeing their homes for freedom in our country have ministered more to our children than any present ever could.

We spend time creating care packages for the homeless which my family keeps in our car throughout the winter months. Since I have a love for bargains and use my coupons strategically, I gather stock piled items to create blessing baskets to give to refugees, as well as others in need. One of our main goals is to specifically use them this time of year as teaching tool for our children to offset the materialism that tends to erodes the soul when it’s all about “what am I getting or is that ALL.”
Many of us spend time making Christmas cookies. For over a decade, our extended family has put a small twist on the traditional cookie making days by creating plates of cookies for our neighbors (many of who we don’t know), and them delivering them door to door as we Christmas carol.
It’s the little, simple things that make the big impact.

Creative Gift Giving

This may not be an option for your family, but brainstorm traditions and creative ways to celebrate and enjoy the fullness of Christmas without the stress of breaking the budget. Here are a few alternatives we have done for gifts over the years – picked names, exchanged “love” gifts (only hand made gifts allowed), shared the funniest gift for $5 or under, as well as observing the modeling of the Three Wise Man, and have given only three gifts. One tradition that has withstood the test of time is giving small gifts on Christmas, but then waiting to give our one big gift on January 1st. This allows us to purchase the main gift AFTER Christmas when everything is deeply discounted, plus it draws out the anticipation for the children. It takes a lot of pressure off of having all the Christmas shopping done during the busiest time of the year. Yes, this is one of my most highly recommend fun, traditions.

Who says you have to do what every one else does?

giving frozen cookie dough as gift Can I Freeze Cookie Dough?

When it comes to gift giving for friends, teachers, or co-workers try something new by giving frozen cookie dough or homemade gifts. Not only it is a frugal, homemade alternative, but your friends will rave about it being one of their favorite gifts of the season. Hit your local thrift store and purchase beautiful second hand plates, bowls, trays and baskets to use as containers. Any of those will make wonderful packaging. Remember that with a $1 can of spray paint, the color can be transformed in minutes, so if it’s $2 at a yard sale, but it has ugly, yellow flowers, it can quickly become a beautiful holiday red.
Holiday Hospitality
Hospitality is about creating a “Welcome Home” mentality, a place to “make yourself at home.” A place to come away refreshed and renewed, yet a place where real life happens. Those are the homes that I want to visit, yet often, we hold such strong reservations about opening our home because of what we “don’t” have. Consider that reservation a challenge to find all the things you do have that you can creatively re-purpose.

Food can be simple. Vases, bowls, cake plates, wine glasses and thrift store glass ware transform the ordinary to extraordinary for holiday entertaining.

One of my love languages comes in the form of a hot, brown liquid. Yes, I am easy to please, and I think your guests are too. By thinking creatively, and barely touching your holiday budget, set up a DIY Coffee bar. Not only is it a delicious way to draw conversation around the table, but guests go home with a gift bag they will immediately put to use.

There are just so many creative ways that we can approach this holiday season by balancing both beauty and a budget, yet it does require us to to be proactive.  Hopefully, some of my brainstorming has allowed your creative juices to flow.

I’d love to hear how your ideas on how you plan to balance your holiday budget.

(This was originally shared at (in)courage.)