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Monday, November 16, 2009

Frugal Festivities: How We're Celebrating on a Dime

Since my husband and I moved here in July and didn't have a steady, full-time job paycheck until four weeks ago, Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities are going to be difficult.  We both love to spend time with family and friends and shower them with gifts, but this year the showing (and even the visiting!) isn't in the cards.  I know that there are people out there in the same predicament, so I thought I'd write about some of the things we've done to cut the costs of our holidays down a bit.

1. We Planned EARLY.  I had a "Christmas Gifts 2009" Google docs spreadsheet up and running around September, in which I have listed our recipients, gift ideas, and costs.  Creating the list early not only gives us enough time to make sure that we've included everyone we'd like to, but also helps us keep track of costs and stay within our budget.  Another spreadsheet we created back in August was our Christmas card list.  All we did was import names and addresses from our wedding invitation list (heehee--we cheated!), and created a "Completed" column next to each name.  Finally, we looked for flights out to Massachusetts (where my family lives) in late September and early October.  Unfortunately, due to the airlines' new policy of charging a "holiday fee" for travel between Thanksgiving and New Years, plus the ridiculous price of airline tickets during this time anyway, we can't fly out to visit my family for Thanksgiving as we had planned.  Sometimes even planning early doesn't help!

2.  We Set a Budget.  This was extremely important to us this year given the recession and our recent job situation.  We came up with a large number, then split it equally between our gift recipients.  We decided we could devote as much money to Christmas as we could to a monthly car payment.  Budgeting not only set a reasonable limit that won't send us into debt, it also gave our gift shopping a clearer focus.  A new iPod or couture sweater is out this year.  We also will create gifts for some of our recipients, which will help us not get carried away on gift spending, too.

3. We Didn't Go Crazy with Gifts for Each Other.  We got married, went to a friend's wedding two weeks later, and moved across country a week after that, all this past summer.  We've spent a lot of money on ourselves this year (with good reason--our cake was spectacular!), and decided it was silly to go overboard with Christmas gifts for each other this year.  Instead, we're exchanging small gifts and saving the money we would have spent to pay for our wedding album, which we still haven't ordered.  Plus, neither of us could think of anything we needed, and we definitely don't need to add to the clutter we already have.  We've decided to go with thoughtfulness over volume.

4.  We Passed on a Christmas Tree.  Horror of horrors!  I thought I'd NEVER forgo the traditional evergreen, even if it was bought at Target.  We donated our little 4 footer before we moved this July, and wanted to get a nice, prelit, average-sized tree, but it's not in the cards this year, and frankly, we don't have a place to put it.  Plus, we won't even be in town to enjoy it on Christmas Day.  A nice sway on top of the TV hutch should suffice.  Plus, the kitties can't get up there to knock it over!

5.  We Shopped Early.  We're almost finished with our Christmas shopping.  Our goal is to wrap it up by the end of the week.  Planning early helped facilitate this, since we could shop with a list and didn't need to wait to be inspired by the endless Christmas carols and bell-ringing Santas at the mall.  In fact, only one of our presents is coming from a mall.  All others are free-standing stores or were bought online (where you can usually find the same holiday deals, often with free shipping!).  There's nothing my husband and I hate worse than crowds at the mall, not to mention HOLIDAY crowds.  We'll be enjoying some mulled cider at home with the kitties on Black Friday.

6.  We Forgot the Kitties.  Another thing I never thought we'd do.  Those who know the kitties know how darn adorable and irresistible they are, and can understand how intense our need is to shower them with kitty gifts.  Green fluffy mice, glitter and tinsel-covered fishing poles, and reindeer-shaped fishy treats all come to mind--a type of holiday cat nirvana.  The fact is, they don't use ANY of it.  The festive mice have permanent residence in the kitty tree, and the most-loved toy in our home is the oldest fishing pole, stripped of its catch, with only the string remaining.  Quigley, our male cat, is getting hefty, so the fishy treats would be off the table anyway.  We provide them with a loving, safe home, entertainment, great food, and constant affection.  For kitties, it couldn't get much better than that.

7.  We Planned Quality Time.  We're arriving in Lincoln, where we'll spend time with my husband's family, a day early so we can have a quiet first Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together.  This will probably be the best gift of all.  Christmas has always been an important time for me--full of family, food, and fun.  Now that my family has grown, this time has become even more important.  And who better to spend it with than my new husband. :)

Well, this post got pretty long, so I'll wrap up here quickly (no pun intended...haha!).  Hope this helped some of you that are cringing at the thought of holiday shopping and spending.  And no, fellow shorebirds, I'm not going to reveal what you're getting for Christmas.  It's already planned; you'll just have to wait and see.

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