Oh how I enjoy giving gifts at Christmas. I revel in seeing the surprise and delight on the faces of each recipient especially if the gift is needed and unexpected. I find it thrilling! But, with that said, I can get carried away and cross my budget boundaries throwing the rest of my year into a tail-spin of bill paying. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s best to use self control and wisdom when purchasing gifts during the Christmas holiday. Once I have gifts chosen for my spouse and kids, I head off into that gray area of extended family, friends, and co-workers and then there are the teachers and volunteers at church … well, I think you get the picture.
While perusing the Dave Ramsey website, which focuses on money management, I was impressed by the suggested considerations to keep in mind for the gray areas. To help you maneuver through the gift buying pitfalls of Christmas, I have summed up the significant points Dave presented. See where you are the most challenged and take the necessary steps to spend within your budget boundaries. (Philippians 4:5)
Casual Friends: “Talk to your family about limiting individual gifts … “
Families grow. It is no secret that boyfriends and girlfriends start accompanying your nieces and nephews. New babies bring delight to the gatherings and inviting the isolated neighbor is simply the right thing to do. What do you do about all those additional gifts? An easy solution, arranged well ahead of the season, is to limit buying gifts to a designated age group. In our family we draw names and that works really well–especially if you make sure to rotate the names so Tina doesn’t get Uncle Steve’s name three years in a row.
Casual Friends: ” … just include them in your general Christmas card list … “
It just seems right to gift the generous neighbor and the ladies in your Sunday school class who give you their kids’ hand-me-downs. Right? Oh, then there is the kids’ teachers at school, at church and the babysitter. Yes, they are all deserving, but your budget is nearing the red zone! Bless them with a card and the time and effort of hand-writing a thank you for the ways they have been a blessing to you during the year. Handwritten notes are a rarity these days and a blessing to those who hardly ever get “anything good” in their mailbox.
Kids’ Friends: ” … remember that one family’s splurge may be another family’s stocking stuffer … “
No one wants to be the one left out, but there are 30 kids in little Johnny’s class and just as many in Susie’s. That scenario can often have the same effect on a typical budget as dynamite in a boat–even if you’ve saved each month. Dave recommends having the child make a handmade card with a candy cane taped to it. I know a mom who one year brought cookies with each child’s name on it and her son passed them to each classmate. Simple, but meaningful. If older kids are exchanging gifts with only select friends, the gift exchange should be done somewhere other than at school. Set the spending limit ahead of time and make it realistic for that age.
At the Office: Dave offers the following advice:
“It’s the age-old question: If a co-worker brings you a gift, do you have to reciprocate? The answer is no. Work is one place where your professional relationship allows for some gift-giving distance. You’re under no obligations here.”
But what about Debra who brings in cookies and Dan who drops off a thoughtful “little something” once in a while? Most times, if their motive is sincere, these givers are more than happy to receive an acknowledgement of their thoughtfulness in a simple thank you note.
When you begin to feel pressured to produce in kind thereby destroying your budget, stop and evaluate who is pouring on the pressure. Most times we pressure ourselves by trying to look good. Many times this wrecks your budget boundaries. Simply showing thankfulness while staying within your budge will give you a greater appreciation for the reason behind the season–love, generosity, and thankfulness for God’s best gift–Jesus. (Isaiah 9:6)
Do you set a Christmas budget? Where do you struggle to stay within your budget? What can you do even now to resolve your biggest problem area?