Does the thought of Christmas shopping make you sigh, whimper and even whine a bit? If you live on One small income as we do I bet it does. Before we had kids our Christmas was small, just a gift or 2 for each other and gift cards for anyone we knew we would see who was a blood relative. And Most of that went on a credit card – with a wish and a prayer we could pay it off at tax time. Then we had kids, so did our friends and close relatives – and the cost to do Christmas nearly broke us. We didn’t enjoy it and our attitude was far from Christ Centered as you would want it to be for His birthday.
How do you go broke shopping for Christmas?
Some of the biggest mistakes we made in those early years at Christmas Time were avoidable.
- We waited until Black Friday to start shopping
- Gift Cards are more expansive than a gift.
- We didn’t put Christmas shopping into our Budget until November.
- Store-bought gifts were all we considered.
Are you guilty of some of these mistakes? Don’t feel like I’m judging you, we had no idea there was any other way to Shop for Christmas.
- The concept of a Christmas Budget never occurred to us.
- Shopping before Black Friday or Cyber Monday sounded ridiculous (isn’t that when all the deals come out?).
- We never thought long enough about who we shopped for to plan a gift they would love.
- I had no idea how to make anything so store-bought seemed logical.
OKay okay okay, so what changed? How did we learn How to Shop for Christmas All Year and Not Go Broke?
A little backstory…
Long ago in a distant time (the year was 2009) a Stay at Home Mom had a complete break down over her Millennial husbands’ habit of job hopping, the massive amount of debt they had accumulated – all brought on by lack of sleep from a year of colic with their newborn.
The same husband quit a job with no intention of finding a new job and their marriage came crumbling down. 2 children, 2 car payments, 1 mortgage, no insurance, on food stamps… and it was October – 2 Months before Christmas. We had nothing for anyone, our credit cards were maxed out and others provided Christmas gifts for our kids.
We were filled with thankfulness and an overwhelming feeling of being blessed beyond what we deserve. I still pray blessings over the angels that came through for us that year (and a couple since).
But along with that also came shame, guilt, embarrassment, and a motivation to never be in that position again.
After recovering from the brink of divorce (Read about that here) that same Wife turned Stay At Home Mom (Homeschool Mom, In-Home Nany Mom, and humble online entrepreneur) made a plan to never be in that position again. I realized last year that this plan is not the norm and I would love to share it with you.
Pst – Do you need some encouragement to keep pressing into that Daily Commitment?
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Changing our Christmas Shopping habits began with a principle – if we are faithful over a little He will make us rule over much. From that verse, we made a plan to honor God with the little we had – especially at Christmas.
Matthew 25:23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
How to Shop for Christmas All Year and Not Go Broke
Step 1 – Budget for Christmas shopping every month.
Let me shoot straight with you. Christmas comes every year; Same month, same day, same expectations that you will have gifts for those you care about. Waiting until November to begin putting it in your budget is nieve and sets you up to go broke shopping for it.
Wait, do you budget every month?
Dave Ramsey ~ A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where your money went.
We went through Financial Peace University in those crazy years (Thank you Valley View Church for hosting it and sponsoring us – It changed our lives). And in that class, we were able to get on the same page about our finances.
I already used a budget every month, but I only put on it the bills and non-negotiables (Gas, food, tithe, clothes, baby things, etc.) and if there was anything left over we went out to eat or who knows what else with that money.
Thanks to Financial Peace University we learned to save each month for those things instead and create a sort of bucket for other things we know we need to save for.
- Car Insurance
- Tag Renewal
- Car Tax
- Special Donations
We know these things happen every year. Yet when they come around it used to send us into a panic. We spent everything we made and so we panicked over where the extra money would come from. And we would go broke trying to squeeze money out of thin air to make the payments on time – or we would do without and sulk.
With a budget – that covers the whole year – we know how much we need, divide that by 12 and tuck a little back each month so we are ready when it’s time to pay for those irregular things. I call it planning backward and it is a lifesaver!
Planning backward for Christmas has helped keep the Joy in the Season as well as Keeping Christ at the Center of Christmas.
Joy has been the word God is pressing into my life this year. Check out what that’s looked like here at How To Cling to The Joy of The Lord Every Day!
I’d love to give you a Free 30 day’s of Joy Reading Plan to help you focus on Him this month.
And if you are into Illustrated Faith or Bible Journaling, be sure to check out the 30 Days of Joy Bible Journaling Tool Kit in the HopeJoyInChrist Shop!
What’s included in the Kit?
- A 30 Day Reading plan
- Journaling prompts
- 3 Pages of Doodling templates
- 1 sheet of margin strips
- 1 sheet of Bible Verse Cards
- Detailed Instructions about how to Get started Bible Journaling
Step 2. Do not wait until November to start shopping.
Yes yes Yes I know there are great deals Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I didn’t say do all your shopping before them. But don’t wait to start hopping.
Things go on sale all year long.
Most people have the same hobby or interest and those things go on sale with seasons (not usually in November either).
Kids don’t change that much. If you watch what your kids are into through the year you can catch appropriate gifts when they are changing out seasons at the store – or on Amazon Prime Day (which is usually a better deal than Black Friday nowadays.)
I regularly shop the end caps of Target every month to catch things as they go out of season. Most of the time I get them for 25% – 50% off their original price.
Now, will they restock those things for Black Friday? You bet.
Will they be 50% off? Maybe, maybe not.
Is it worth it to me to avoid the Black Friday madness to just buy it in February and tuck it back? Absolutely!
The pitfall of shopping so close to Christmas for Christmas
Another reason I shop all year is the Craze that comes so close to Christmasn. A Crazy Shoppers mentality kicks in when stores are crowded, lines are too long and people are irritable. You might get a deal on one thing, then overspend on the rest – just to get it all done and get home alive.
But, if you make a budget each month and shop each month – little by little you will have a stockpile set. Then on Black Friday / Cyber Monday when that big thing is on sale, you go in get it and come out – and don’t go broke or lose your religion over Christmas shopping.
Step 3. Gift cards are a fall back that cost you more
In the past, I was always unsure of what someone would like for Christmas. I would ask, but people rarely give you a straight answer (oh anything is nice dear thanks). Well, I don’t know where to shop for “Anything is Nice Dear” so I would get them a Gift Card, put it in a credit card and be done.
Gift Cards usually hit you at $25 – $50.
Most gifts (at least the frugal kind of gifts I shop for and will be sharing ideas with you about this year) are closer to $10-$20. One year we spent $500 in Gift cards alone. Ouch. Then we just couldn’t do it anymore – something had to change.
I started keeping a mental list of hobbies each close blood relative enjoyed. Then I had to write the list on my phone because I would forget #mombrain. As I was out shopping each month I noticed certain things go on sale at the same time every year! Hobby things, crafty things (certain foods – though that’s for another post). Same time every year – just after the main rush of the year on those things.
- Fishing things go on sale in the fall.
- Hunting things in the winter.
- Different crafts go on sale after each major holiday is done (to clear out their overstock).
To avoid gift cards (and avoid going broke) all I needed to do was shop intentionally for those people all year too.
Step 4. Store-bought gifts are not the only option
We had only ever given store-bought gifts for 2 reasons. – 1, I am not crafty and 2, I had no talent for making things.
Enter the birth and growth of our children. Children naturally love to give gifts to those they love. It is a beautiful piece of their innocence and overwhelming love for others. But I could not afford to let them buy gifts for all their friends and loved ones. So we began learning to make things – things kids can make and we found an amazing Christmas Tradition began.
Now as a family we love scouring Pinterest (BTW have you followed HopeJoyInChrist on Pinterest?) to find Easy Homemade Gift (I’ll share the ones we love this year in another post*). We save our ideas to a new board every year – here is this year’s board if you want to check it out. It is a way to spend time together, have good conversations and laugh and play. If you haven’t tried it I highly recommend it – even if the gifts are just for grandma and grandpa (who will love them!).
To Wrap up this How to Shop for Christmas All Year and Not Go Broke
Shopping for Christmas – or birthdays or anniversaries or anything really – does not mean you have to go broke. You just need a well thought out plan to enjoy all of those holidays and be a good steward of your finances.
- Step 1 – Budget for Christmas shopping every month.
- Sit down, figure out what you spend on Christmas in total, divide that by 12 and add that number to your monthly budget.
- Step 2. Do not wait until November to start shopping.
- Things go on sale all year long. Shop the bulk of items through the year and save Black Friday for the big items they will dramatically markdown.
- Step 3. Gift cards are a fall back that cost you more
- Spend time planning gifts for people that they will love and use – it is much more frugal than gift cards.
- Step 4. Store-bought gifts are not the only option
- Homemade gifts are easy to make, take a little time but are a great way for the whole family to bond. Plus they usually work out to about $1 per gift (great if you are trying to save money, get out of debt, plan a vacation, etc.). And your family will love them – and the kids will love getting to help make them!
Did I miss anything here? I’d love to know how you celebrate Christmas and keep it Christ-Centered? Drop me a comment so we can chat!