In case you couldn’t tell by the bell-ringing Santas, the lights up in your neighborhood, the colder-than-comfortable air temperatures, and more traffic in the retail areas, it’s the holiday season. Since Brent and I hosted our very first holiday as a married couple on Thanksgiving, we’re traveling for Christmas, so we’re doing a lighter decking of our halls than usual.
I got permission from my sister to skip a tree this year, and hopefully we’ll have a tree in the new house (wherever that ends up being) next Christmas.
I’m getting swept up in the season. I love Christmas. It seems like people are a little nicer to each other this time of year.
Also, now that I’m married to a boy from the desert, Christmas means I get to have some unexpected fun in the sun to go along with my … figgy pudding? Yes, figgy pudding.
I got to thinking, though, about the one part of Christmas I don’t really like: forced gift giving. Now, I don’t work in an office, so I don’t think my coworkers expect any treats from me (but if you’re reading this, coworkers, send me your address!) but I’m in the minority.
Let’s set up some ground rules for the season, shall we?
Splendid! Below are 13 ways to save money this holiday season.
1. Nobody “Needs” a Gift From You
Do not stress! There is nobody out there who absolutely needs a gift from you. If you’re working on your goals, whatever they may be, understand that you do not need to shell out $15 x the number of people you know and love. Remember: it’s about being together (and wearing too much red) not about keeping score.
2. Go With Homemade Whenever Possible
This is the 8th season of Kathleen’s Homemade Christmas, and it’s a tradition I love (and I think the people on my list love it too). There are always caramels (although this year, sorry, friends, I out-carameled myself for the wedding, we’re doing caramel sauce this time around), and there are always other things. I choose a theme, and send gifts based on the theme. They haven’t gone out yet this year, so I can’t tell you what the theme is, but it’s good. Send me your address and $ for shipping and I’ll put you on the “nice” list.
3. If You Get an Unexpected Gift, Simply Show Gratitude
When you get a gift, the very worst response is, “but I don’t have anything for YOU!” so keep that thought in your head, and say thank you. Then make sure you have something homemade for them the next time you see them. It’s not keeping score. It’s about cheer, and love. No tit for tat, okay?
4. Tip Service Industry Workers a Little Extra
If you’re out celebrating, tip more than normal. In my house, that means I pull out the credit card linked to the account we share. Because I’m a better tipper than Brent. There, I said it. I’ve aired the dirty laundry. Service workers in Portland are paid better than most cities (which is Brent’s defense for giving a 15% tip), but still. Having to attend all these holiday parties and not get to partake? Sucks.
5. Be REALLY Nice to People at the Airport
Speaking of jobs that suck, airport workers see people at their absolute worst. Add flight delays around the holidays, and wow. Be nice to TSA, the coffee stand person, the person at the airport bookstore, everyone. Not just “not mean,” but nice. Extra nice. Tell them happy holidays.
6. No Gift is Worth Going Into Credit Card Debt
Listen up, buttercup. If you have credit card debt, now’s the year for writing everyone you know and love a letter indicating all the things you love about them. Take the one you love on a scavenger hunt around town. DO NOT INCREASE YOUR DEBT for this holiday. It’s not worth it. It’s not the same as eating a piece of cake after a year of dieting. Get out of debt. Thank your loved ones for their help on your journey out of credit card debt.
7. Give Time (It’s More Valuable Anyway)
Even if you’re not in credit card debt, you may have more time than money on your hands this season. If you’re anything like me, your friends have babies. Give them time! Watch their kids for them while they go Christmas shopping. Spend time at their house if their kids are too little to leave behind. Run errands for friends. They can’t go get groceries because of their newborn? Tell them to make you a list and buy what they need. Even if they pay you back (and they will), you’ve given them something they can’t buy — time.
8. Give to Those in Need
Your kid’s teacher doesn’t need something expensive. Wait, that’s not actually true where we live. Teachers are underpaid. Get them gift certificates to places they won’t visit on their own. But give to those who are standing outside in the freezing rain asking for change. There are excuses, “they’ll just use the money for alcohol,” but I’m not buying it. First, who says people in homes are more entitled to a beer than people who are homeless? Second, would you stand out in this weather? No? Consider that you have more options than the person you drive past. Put together gift bags. Buy an extra coffee (this is MUCH more charitable than the silly “pay it forward” Starbucks lines where people aren’t even getting out of their cars!) when you see someone outside. People in need are the modern-day Tiny Tims of this world, and even Scrooge (McDuck) could be generous to Tiny Tim.
9. Consider Alternative Gifts
Brent and I agreed this year to skip traditional gifts and instead spend one night in a fancy hotel during our stay in Arizona. Most of the time, we’ll be with his family (OUR family!) so one night, we’ll escape down the road to a fancy hotel where we will be by ourselves celebrating our luck to find each other. Cheesy, right? Tis the season.
10. Save Where You Can
It wouldn’t be a Kathleen post if I didn’t mention the value of Groupon at least once. Sorry not sorry, there are awesome deals every single day on gifts and experiences that you can share and save up to half at the same time. Check it early. Check it often.
11. Sometimes the Thought Isn’t What Counts
If the thought is, “why on earth did she spend this money on me?” then it’s not the thought that counts. Far from it. If you’re giving a thoughtful present, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Give carefully, and really think about the recipient. Is it something they want? OR was it on sale at Groupon and you couldn’t come up with anything better?
12. Consider Experience Gifts
Have you heard of Goldstar Events? They offer experiences for 50% off. Things like tickets to the Nutcracker, the Santaland Diaries, or anything else can be had at steep discounts.
13. Do Cheesy Holiday Things
There are SO MANY things to do this season — my sister and I love to see the fancy decorated Christmas trees at the Convention Center. It’s a bigger version of what we used to do every year in Olympia, and it makes us think of Mom.
Biggest Advice: Plan, then Let Go
Follow these rules, then let December happen. Remember to focus on family (not focus on the family, that’s a political website), friends, and loved ones you maybe haven’t met before. Be nice, don’t stress.
That’s a motto we can all adhere to, right?