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How I Save Money on Gifts During the Holidays

When I was in my early 20’s Christmas was so stressful. Figuring out how to pick out and afford buying presents for everyone in my family felt overwhelming and frustrating. I only had six family members at the time to buy presents for (our family has grown since) but the cost really added up, especially for someone who was not making very much money.

Having to buy for so many people meant that most of us couldn’t afford to spend more than $10-20 on each gift. This also meant that I got a lot of cheap gifts that I didn’t want or use. Lots of socks and PJ’s and random things that I didn’t particularly feel excited to receive.

The things I really wanted were too unaffordable for one person to buy when they still had to shop for everyone else.

I decided one year that I wanted to propose a change to the system, but like everything in life, if I didn’t propose it in a way that showed everyone how this could benefit them, then my idea would be shot down.

Luckily, it turned out I wasn’t the only one dissatisfied with the gifts they were getting and stressed out by the total price tag.

I suggested we do a gift exchange so everyone got one slightly more expensive gift.

Everyone was on board and  we settled on the amount of $50.

Every Thanksgiving we pick names from a hat to figure out who is gifting to whom. It isn’t a secret, in fact, to ensure that everyone gets something they want they send a list of things they are interested in to the person who picks their name.

Our system has developed to the point that if someone wants something specific that costs more than $50 they just pay them the difference to get that more expensive item.

For example, if I want something that costs $80 I will tell the person what I want and give them $30 and then I get what I want for Christmas.

For some this may sound awful because there is no element of surprise in the gift giving process but we don’t care. I would rather receive something that I really want and will use than be surprised.

Plus, for us the fun is not as much about the gifts as it is about spending the time with each other, sharing stories, playing games and just enjoying each other’s company.

Last year we even went wild and increased the amount to $60 (or was it $55) to spend on each other. It was very controversial and required a bit of discussion. Honestly that discussion was part of the fun of enjoying the holidays with my family. I enjoyed the debates (I was in favor of increasing it a lot more but the men in my family were more opposed so we compromised with a smaller increase).

Who knows maybe this year we will even increase the total to $65 or $70. As you can tell we are big spenders over here. 

Every year I only buy this one gift, plus a gift for my partner Brandon. Besides that I gift baked goods (will be sharing my favorite recipes later this week) and try to be intentional in spending a lot of time with friends together by having shared meals and activities as a way to enjoy the holidays together. All of this keeps my holidays super affordable, stress free and fun. 

(Oh, I almost forgot, I also now put money into the 529 college accounts for my niece and nephew every year). 

What do you do to keep your holidays from breaking the bank?

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