Ever thought about how much you spend on holiday gifts each year? The real question is: How much could you be saving around this time of year by avoiding a few holiday gift exchanges? The holiday season is one of the most expensive times of the year. But this time, my husband and I are going to change that.
We plan on buying our first home next year, which is naturally a costly process, and time is of the essence. Instead of making November, December, and January our most expensive months, we’re focusing on saving and increasing our down-payment fund.
We won’t be exchanging gifts with relatives or friends or neighbors. We’re just getting a few things for each other and our son — that’s it. It will probably be our smallest Christmas yet, and I’m pretty excited.
Of course, saving for future goals around Christmas doesn’t sound too promising. It may even lead to extreme FOMO (fear of missing out). So here’s what we plan to do to spread holiday cheer, even though we plan to celebrate Christmas without gifts.
1. Giving Our Time and Talents
We will skip buying meaningless and costly Christmas gifts for everyone. We’re going to focus on giving our time and talents instead.
I want to spend more time with family around the holidays instead of wasting time standing in line at the mall and hunting down deals.
I haven’t been able to visit some family members in a long time, and would much rather drop by their homes and help around the house or do a favor for someone. Small favors can mean the world to someone who needs the help.
For example, my friend’s daughter has a birthday around Christmas, and I volunteered to prepare a dish for the party because I enjoy cooking and know how stressful it can be to plan a child’s birthday party.
2. Family Charity Gift
We’re also looking forward to doing some volunteer work, either for a local organization or for an international one like Feed My Starving Children.
The World Vision Gift Catalog is a great way to get your children involved in caring for others and giving back during the holiday season. Also, helping deliver toys to less fortunate families in your neighborhood will drive those ideals home.
And if you want to give to charity without giving up on gifts, you might want to check out Greater Good. It has online gift shops that put their proceeds toward causes like ending hunger and rescuing animals.
Below is a list of other ways you can give your time and energy to helping others.
If you’re tired of the pull of capitalism on us all at this time of year, take some time out to give back to the community. Note: A lot of places will expect you to have volunteered throughout the year or in the months leading up to the holiday season, so if it’s something you’re into, get down early.
- Create the Good has a search bar that allows you to find volunteering options near you.
- Call your local United Way and ask for a list of homeless shelters or soup kitchens that you could help out.
- Contact the Salvation Army for opportunities near you, too.
- Volunteer Match will help you find an organization that perfectly matches your interests and passions.
- Ask your local hospital if it’s suitable to make some get-well cards for patients spending the holidays there.
- Ask your local prison the same thing. Everyone needs a bit of holiday cheer from time to time.
- Senior homes, too!
- Have a book drive for your local library (but make sure the library accepts public book donations first!).
- Donate blood at your local Red Cross.
3. Holiday Parties and Quality Time
We still plan to attend holiday parties and enjoy the company of family and friends — just without exchanging gifts. I don’t want to miss out on watching movies, playing games, and enjoying good conversation and food with my family during the holidays.
I will set expectations ahead of time by being honest with everyone about our goal to save more money and focus on the often overlooked aspects of Christmas like being thankful for loved ones.
Looking for other ways to save money this holiday season? We’ve got the lowdown on the best apps to help you do it without even realizing.
- Acorns: These guys don’t just save your spare change; they invest it into the stock market for you. You’ll be rich before you know it.
- Stash Invest: Stash saves your money, invests it, and teaches you what the devil is going on with it. What a rush!
- Albert: This app analyzes your spending and income and takes amounts from your account to save in ways you will hardly notice. CentSai recommends it.
- Qapital: This one is fun, since it’s rules-based. Punish-slash-reward yourself if you order takeout too many times, or if your favorite team wins a match, by telling Qapital to take a certain amount out of your account if it happens.
- Digit: Similar to Albert, Digit uses algorithms to decide what it can take from your account based on your spending habits.
4. Embracing Frugal Traditions
My family and I have a lot of frugal holiday traditions, and we don’t plan to pass up on any of them this year. For example, we like to set up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and watch movies.
We also like to build a gingerbread house, check out the free Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Chicago, drive around to look at Christmas lights, and go sledding and ice skating.
This is definitely the best way to celebrate the holiday season.
Your loved ones already know that you love them, and they love you, so gifts aren't necessary to show it. Remember that the season is about spending time together — not money — no matter what the big corporations would have you believe.
Our Savings Projections
All in all, we’re planning to stash away an extra $3,000 by the end of the year. This doesn’t mean that we were going to spend $3,000 just on Christmas.
We usually end up spending around $1,000 on Christmas each year (give or take), but we figured out that we could set aside $1,500 in November and December through a combination of not buying gifts, being frugal, and earning extra money.
Without having to run out every weekend and shop for gifts that our friends and family might or might not like (and probably won’t even remember in a year or two), we can focus our time and energy on earning extra money and being more present with loved ones.