How to Buy Great Christmas Presents Without Overspending
Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy, but the sad thing is that many people don't feel that way about it. The season is surrounded by expectation. Lawyers know that the months after Christmas are the post popular time of year to file for divorce. Families break up, people suffer from depression, sometimes because they have no family to share it with, sometimes because they do.
It always seems that in the months up to Christmas, consumerism is on the rampage. We buy presents because it's expected, and we often spend a lot more than we can really afford. I know that in the past Ive often felt really depressed during the run up to Christmas for one, simple and very silly reason; I couldn't afford to buy presents. I wanted to give, but my expectations were too high, and I did some stupid things as a result. It was learning experience. Christmas, as every knows is not about presents at all, but they are expected, so when you have a very low budget, what can you do to make it stretch?
Set a Budget
Budgeting sounds boring, but I have found it key to preserving my financial sanity. Do I deviate from it? Yes, from time to time, but only with good reason. The idea is simple. Work out what you can actually afford and stick to that. Work it out well before you go near shops. The application of some thought is more valuable than bargain hunting.
How much do you have available to spend, how many people do you want to buy presents for. If you are expected to feed a large gathering over Christmas, don't forget to factor that in. Food isn't free. If possible ask your guests to bring something, you don't have to say it's because you have a tight budget , just say you want to spread the workload. It's the sensible thing to do. If you're visiting someone for your Christmas dinner, offer to bring something. It doesn't have to be expensive.
Inexpensive Christmas Dinner
The first Christmas I was married, my sister-in-law told me that she'd save us the cost of going to them for Christmas (we couldn't afford it) and they would come to us. My husband was a student and I was looking for a job, we could barely afford the rent on our flat. I had to come up with something cheap, but my pride said I wanted it to look really good. The answer was simple.
Tinned soup for starters. I added some mustard, and garnished with cream and some sprinkled dired herbs. Noone knew I hadn;t been slaving at the stove.
Boned Chicken with sausage meat stuffing. This was simply the largest chicken I could find. Chicken is always good value and doesn't take too long to cook. I boned it and filled the cavity with sausage meat, flavoured with herbs and an egg. The result tasted great and looked expensive. It was served with new potatoes, carrots cooked in orange juice and brussel sprouts, cooked in boiling water, then tossed in a frying pan with lemon juice and butter.
Dessert was a challenge. I was out of budget, so I decided on caramelized oranges. I bought a bet of oranges, the skins had discolored so I got them cheap. I peeled them, sliced the oranges and prepared a sauce from water and sugar, Then left the oranges to chill in the sauce. The result was not only cheap and delicious, the tart flavor was ideal after the rich stuffing.
The meal took a little time to prepare, but it cost very little and there was easily enough for six of us. It tasted good and looked good and my brother-in-law was happy to bring the wine since we were providing the food.
Home Made Gifts
Never feel ashamed to give home made gifts. You are giving your time, which is usually the most valuable thing you have. My favorite is to give home made chocolates, but you might prefer to give jam, or cookies. You can make the gift look more exciting by adding a wrapping. For chocolates I usually go to thrift shops to pick up pretty saucers or dishes, then pack the chocolates in them, cover with cling film or cellophane, and, if the budget stretches, a bow. You can usually find some low cost ribbon at a dollar store. The difference between home made and hand made is just the way you think about it.
Shop in Sales
Around Thanksgiving there are usually a great many sales. Buying at this time of year can save a lot, you can also save by joining mailing lists so you recieve coupons from the stores you want to shop at. You may also find that by buying one thing during Thanksgiving week, you get a coupon to use against later purchases, but check how long this is valid for.
Never buy something because it is on sale if it isn't something you planned to buy. I use my amazon wish list for this. If it isn't on my wish list, then I don't buy it.
Some stores have their main sale immediately after Christmas. It can be a great time to pick up gifts for the following year, but most people just aren't that organised! Keep a small fund for Christmas gifts throughout the year so you can pick up the ideal thing when you do find it marked down in a sale.
Stick to Tradition
There are many ideas about the origin of giving gifts at Christmas, but the main one says that it is done in memory of the gifts brought by three wise men who followed a star to find the Inn where Jesus was born. This is the feast of the Epiphany, usually celebrated on January 6th.
Why not enjoy Christmas as normal, but without presents, then spend what you have in the January sales following Christmas, have a Twelfth Night celebration and give your gifts then.
Wrapping can be reused, but if that's not possible, you can create wrapping paper from plain brown paper and an inexpensive rubber stamp. Buy it one year and you'll have it for ever.
Ironing newspaper can stop the print from coming off, you can then use it as a wrapper. Making home made cards and wrapping paper can be a lot of fun as well as saving you money. Shop in craft stores before the Christmas season and buy from their bargain bins to get affordable craft materials.
Glorious scents. Give this as a gift or divide into two or four and give each one separately.
Gifts That Won't Break the Bank
There are lost of gifts which don't cost vast amounts if you don;t want to go the 'home made' route.
Books. Show that you understand their interests by buying a book. If you choose one that has been published recently you won't have to worry that it's a book they've already got.
Christmas Ornaments make excellent gifts for couples when you visit over Christmas, and you can make these yourself.
Framed pictures. You might have a picture of a family occasion. If so, put it in a frame, or have it made into a poster. if you have lots of pictures, build an album, a scrapbook, or a video on CD.
Divide sets. Buy some sort of bargain basket in a sale, take it to pieces and wrap each item separately.
Baskets are useful in all sorts of situations and you can fill these with cookies, or home made pickles or jam.
Scented soaps or candles are also lovely presents and available at many different price levels.
Christmas has come to mean food and presents, but it doesn't have to be that way, and there is certainly no reason to feel bad if you can't afford to buy every child in your family the latest ipod. Stick to your budget. If anyone complains remember what a wise man once said: People who matter, don't mind. And those who mind, don't matter.
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