First Person: What I Spent on Christmas This Year

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I had a spending pattern around the holidays. In early November I start talking about how I'm going to downsize this Christmas. I won't spend too much on holiday parties, I'm going to buy fewer gifts, and I'm going to give more away in donations. By Thanksgiving I've already started shopping, too tempted by all the sales. Toward the last week of December I've completely blown my budget. Then in the last few days I've gone way over what I planned to spend - but not this year. This holiday season I kept things under control. This is what I learned about holiday shopping and spending.

Parties Don't Have to Be Lavish

I like the idea of throwing a large holiday party for all of my family and friends. In past years I absolutely convinced myself that this meant I had to make a huge holiday meal and decorate every room from top to bottom. Last year I spent over $100 on food and another $75 on decorations that I would not have bought if I wasn't having an over-the-top party. This year I did things different. We had a potluck and my dish only cost $20 (an $80 savings,) and I had the kids in our group make the decorations for $30 (another $45 savings.) On my party alone, I saved $125.

Gifts Are Better Homemade

I always spend more than I should on Christmas gifts. Either I'm lured in by a commercial for something I think a friend would love, or I buy more than one gift for each person. This year I committed to making most of my gifts by hand and saved a ton. For example, last year I bought my father a nice scarf for $40 at a department store. This year I knitted a scarf and hat myself and the yarn only cost $8.50. I saved $31.50 on one gift alone.

There Is a Way to Re-Gift

I've always been against re-gifting. I think you should buy gifts from the heart, not just pick up whatever is around, but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for reusing an unused gift in this world. This year, I stumbled across a few gifts I had received last year and never used. Rather than let them collect dust, I wrapped them in and dropped them off in donation bins. Instead of buying new gifts for donating (I usually spend about $100,) I gave some great stuff to charity and it didn't cost me a penny.

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