Nest Guest #3 [Sam]

Today's guest is Sam who blogs over at Little Band of Characters. She's writing on something that is at the forefront of my mind right now - spending over the holidays and staying on budget! I love a lot of her tips on saving money and being wise and am already putting them into practice. Thanks, Sam. Enjoy!

We got this feeling. December 26th 2010 rolled around and we thought, now what? The Christmas tree began to get that stale air to it and the wrapping paper was calling for the curb and we asked ourselves that question we never wanted to admit the answer to:

Was it worth it?

According to the CBC, the average Canadian spent $1397 (per person) on “Christmas” in 2011, including gifts ($613), entertaining ($307), trips ($360), and misc ($148). Per couple, we’re talking $2794. On Christmas.

For the double-income family, this represents almost one month of pay for one earner; for the single-income family, this represents almost one month of pay for the whole family*.

If my husband and I lived by this average, $2794 would knock us over financially. The only way we could pull this spending off is with credit, and in a country facing a sea-to-shining-sea personal debt crisis, I have no doubt in my mind that this is how a few families would have pulled it off as well.

So, I want to help your family out this holiday season by sharing a few personal tips on how my husband and I managed to spend a grand total of $600 on Christmas 2011, and aim to spend a grand total of $500 this year. Gifts, entertaining, gas, lights & all. Oh yeah, and we added a new member to the fam.

Setting the Budget

First of all, we created a budget. I’ll just be candid and share ours with you:
Gifts for each other ($150), Secret Santas ($90), Parents ($75), Gas ($80), Cards ($50), Wrapping Paper ($10), Entertaining ($25), Incidentals ($20), all for a Grand Total of $500. As you can see, there is room in the budget to trim, in case we need to (we could just opt to do no entertaining, or send e-mails instead of cards, or use newspaper instead of wrapping paper: this right here would save us $85).
I’m not saying this should be your template budget. If you’re on a strict plan like we are, be encouraged to know that something like this is possible. If you have slightly more wiggle room, change up the numbers or add categories where you must – but remember that you don’t need to use the credit card to achieve your goals.

Here’s how we’re staying in the above lines:

Exchanging Gifts

There are some families who truly believe they don’t need gifts to feel ‘complete’ at Christmas. These families have got it together, don’t get me wrong. They are right on target. But I come from a long line of gift-givers who love the fun of the hunt, and the thrill of tearing open wrapping paper. I’m not exempt from this. Watching John open gift after gift gives me great joy, and I know he feels the same. So, we needed to figure out a way to keep our budget in check while filling the stockings.

The “Four Somethings” Rule has proven magical for us in terms of helping us to not go overboard. By following this “rule”, you can have all of your bases covered, and still have a few “things” to unwrap. This rule works, whether you’re buying for your spouse or your child. Here it goes:

1. Something you want
2. Something you need
3. Something to wear
4. Something to read

Consider the list with your gift-receiver in mind, and you’ll see that it covers a good array of gifts while keeping your budget (and list) manageable.

Keeping an eye online. Amazon, Zulily, Etsy, Shutterfly, StyleMyChild, TeamBuy and DealFind all offer excellent deals on products regularly. As I write this, I see iPhone cases available for $5, two gorgeous scarves available for $19, $49 four-course dinner meals for two, local getaways for a steal, free photobooks, and complimentary shipping on a variety of sites listed above. Check back every day and you just might find the perfect gift for the right price.

Keeping it simple. John and I are usually not in want. Nine times out of ten we purchase the things we want or need throughout the year. Remembering that helps me to keep buckets of eco-friendly shaving cream at bay.

Staying away from the dollar store. Just because it’s $1 doesn’t mean you should buy it. And you'll probably end up spending $10 there anyways.

Supporting local artists or Doing It Myself. Not everyone can be crafty (and if you can, you really should be using this talent!), but spending $20 on a homemade product can often mean a lot more than spending $30 on a factory-made good. Buying goods and products that carry a story brings a lot more weight (and conversation) to the table and this goes far over a Christmas feast. Not only are you giving a gift, but you’re sharing the story of how you came to find it!

If you don’t know where to start, try checking out this etsy storeor this oneor this one!

Keeping the car closer to the driveway. For the last 3 years, John and I have traveled from one family to another in the matter of days. Not only is traveling all over the province completely exhausting, but it’s a poor use of gas. This year we’re changing things up by asking family to meet us halfway.

Vistaprinting. John and I like to send cheesy Christmas photos to family & friends each year. Last year, we spent $50 on purchasing cards, printing photos, and buying stamps. This year, we took the Vistaprint route and designed our own cards: for $30 we printed 50 cards.

Cookie Swapping. Last year, a friend of mine hosted a cookie swap, which was a great way to put together a variety of goodies for any hosting we needed to do!

Choosing the Right Time. Choose to entertain after dinner – the cost of preparing a dessert (especially if you’re cookie-swapping) is a lot less substantial than preparing a whole dinner. Who says you need to provide a turkey?

This year, I want to avoid debt, keep perspective, and meet January with no financial regrets. Christmastime can be fun and exciting while still meeting our budgeting requirements. I want to wake up on the 26th and say yes, the savings were worth it.

*Based on the 2011 average Canadian salary of $883/week or $46 000/year.

1 comment:

  1. wowwweee the average canadian is doing quite well, I did not know that stat!

    You have a good budget Sam, and I'm sure you're going to stick to it. I think you're right to put a good chunk of your budget on gifts for your spouse. We do the same. Gifting to each other is so special! Also - you don't have to be crafty to DIY! I'm very un-crafty but Christmas 2011 and Christmas 2012 has been almost all handmade in our fam! :)