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This is Day 4 of the 30 Days to a Debt Free Christmas Challenge
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Today we tackle – How to Survive the Holidays without buying gifts.
The holidays are right around the corner and for months now smart advertisers have been pushing one thing: Buy! Buy! Buy!
As a busy mom, you may be wondering, “Where will I find the time to buy gifts for everyone?” More importantly, you may be wondering how gifts will fit into your already tight budget.
Luckily, there’s a solution, albeit a radical one: say no to buying gifts. While the holidays are an important time to spend with family, friends and loved ones and show your appreciation, it can be done without gifts and without getting into debt.
Let’s face it, the holidays have become a consumerist frenzy, with many people feeling obligated to buy the latest gadgets and gifts for everyone — families, friends, and coworkers. All of these expectations can lead us to spend more, potentially leading us to debt. But is spending money just to give gifts truly embracing the holiday spirit?
Think about this. Do you remember what Christmas gifts you received as a kid? I sure don’t. I remember spending time with my family, having a good meal, and watching movies. It’s possible to take back the holidays and embrace what they’re all about — without gifts. Here’s how you can survive the holidays without buying gifts.
Tell Your Friends and Family
This may be the hardest part, but to make the process easier, tell your friends and family that you are having a no-gift holiday season. If they ask why, tell them you want to get back to basics and focus on spending time with your family and not necessarily money. Let them know you want to spend time and get together, but you won’t be buying gifts this year.
If your kids are on the younger side, they probably won’t notice if you don’t buy gifts. If your kids are used to getting gifts during the holidays, let them know you’ll be doing something a bit different this year (which I’ll get to next!).
What to Do Instead of Buying Gifts
There are ways to give meaningfully to others without going out and buying anything extra. One of my favorite ways to give to others is by creating “coupons” for my friends and family.
For example, I might give a busy mom friend of mine a coupon for “one free night of babysitting.” Using the coupon method, you can give something meaningful to others. It’s also a fun way to get creative. You can make coupons for everyone. Your coupons can be useful, silly, or sexy. It’s up to you!
Recently, for my friend’s birthday I gave her a coupon for “girl’s night in.” I already had wine and face masks at my house, so she came over and we shared a bottle of wine, put on our masks, and had a blast chatting about life.
Those are just two ideas of what you can do, but here’s a short list of coupon possibilities for spouses, friends, families, and kids. Print your free Christmas coupon booklet here.
As you can see, you can get creative with the coupons. Think about what’s useful to your friends and family and create a little coupon. You don’t need anything fancy. I created mine with a piece of paper and a sharpie. If you have any artistic skill, feel free to do your magic, but the coupon itself doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s a gesture and a gift to others — to help them out or spend time together, and it doesn’t cost a thing.
The holidays can give you that warm and fuzzy, magical feeling. They can also make you feel bad — like you’ll never live up to anyone’s expectations, or be good enough, or that you can’t keep up with it all.
Instead of focusing on the things you may not have, the holidays are a great time to practice gratitude and give back to others. You can tell your children you won’t be buying any gifts this year, but you’ll be doing a family activity to help others.
During the holidays, as a family, you can go and give back to your local community. Consider volunteering at a homeless shelter or a children’s hospital.
Your kids may complain at first, but they’ll realize just how much they have — and learn about how to help others.
If you have a creative skill, consider making something for your family or friends. If you’re a writer, write a short story or poem. If you can sew, make a scarf. If you can bake, bake something.
During the holiday season you can use your imagination and creativity to give others something truly unique, without spending any more money. Simply use what you have. A handmade gift can be so much more meaningful than something you can buy at the store.
This is a favorite handmade gift of mine – How to give a Picture Perfect Recipe.
The holidays can be a stressful time, especially when it comes to your finances. But you don’t have to do what everyone else does. You can do the holidays on your own terms and give your heart and your time — not money.
Read more from Melanie Lockert at Dear Debt.
Melanie Lockert is a Portland-based personal finance writer and founder of the award-winning blog Dear Debt. Melanie has several years of experience writing in the personal finance space. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Student Loan Hero, Credit Karma, GoGirl Finance and more.