Cash Smarter

November 29, 2016  by: Aaron Crowe

How I’m Trying to Rein Christmas Spending

How I’m Trying to Rein Christmas Spending

Every year around Thanksgiving, I vow to buy fewer Christmas gifts and rein in my Christmas spending. I’m rarely successful.

I try to spend only cash, but that usually doesn’t work and I end up facing a big credit card bill in January. It’s not something I want to do again and again.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, especially with a child (our daughter is now 12) and seeing her light up on Christmas morning as she opens her gifts. But seeing many of her gifts unused a month later always gets me to thinking about how we’ve got to buy her fewer gifts next year.

The man with a plan

This year I have what I think is a better plan to lessen our Christmas spending, though I suspect a few of my Christmas spending habits may continue.

My plan is to buy her one big-ticket, “wow” item that she really wants, and then a few other gifts to make the tree look like it has some company for the holidays.

I won’t say here what that gift will be, but it should surpass the skateboard she got for her birthday. We’ll see how it goes over.

Another part of the plan is to remind her that of the three or so plays and other events we’re going to as a family during the Christmas season, they’re meant to be gifts for the entire family to enjoy. I know that sounds like a cheap way to get out of buying Christmas presents, but I’m a big believer that experiences are often better gifts than physical things, and leave a better memory of Christmas than a mass of presents to open. Some splurges are worth buying, as I’ve written about before.

We live near San Francisco and have tickets to go to Beach Blanket Babylon a week before Christmas Day, and then go out to dinner in the city. We had tickets last December, but only my wife and daughter could go because I had to stay home to deal with a broken water pipe in our front yard that water was exploding out of.

I’m also trying to get “rush” tickets to “A Christmas Carol” in San Francisco, though so far I’ve been unsuccessful and I’m doubtful that will happen. We will probably go to a Cirque du Soleil show in S.F. soon and I’m also hoping to get “rush” tickets for $40 each to “The King and I” in S.F. It should be a busy month.

Christmas spending problems of the past

I’m guessing that many people have the same Christmas spending problems I have. While I’m not a fan of going out shopping, I do like buying gifts for people I love, especially gifts that they’ll really enjoy and that are unique to them.

For example, I’m always listening for gift ideas from my wife — either through specific things she talks about throughout the year that she wants, or from seeing how she reacts to certain things.

I try to set a budget for how much I’m going to spend at Christmas, and I’m an early shopper — which can be a good thing but can leave me more time to find other gifts that I think my wife, daughter or someone else will really love.

My vow this year is to stick to that budget and to not give in and buy last-minute gifts. For example, my wife and I are buying good, quality bikes for each of us this Christmas. We’ve agreed to spend only a little more on each other on a surprise gift or two.

Another way I’m trying to cut back on Christmas spending is to spend less time on websites such as Amazon or anyplace else where I can shop from my phone or laptop computer. It’s too easy to find “deals” that are impulse buys I should be avoiding.

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2 thoughts on “How I’m Trying to Rein Christmas Spending

  1. Christmas is a time for giving. “It’s better to give, than to receive.” As a family, we tried not to put a huge emphasis on gifts. We pretty much did exactly what you as planning on doing this year. One big gift per child, and a few small one too. Of course, gifts for close friends and relatives. Also, before we started shopping we agreed to stick to a $$ amount per person. That really helped. Something we started a few years ago, (not just for Christmas), we donate to our relative’s or best friend’s favorite charity, instead of a traditional gift. That goes over very well for the “person that has everything.”

    1. Aaron Crowe says:

      Those are some great ideas. I especially like the idea about sticking to a dollar amount per person. Thanks for sharing.

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