'Tis the season for overspending. Excessive Christmas gifts and entertainment drain the checking account faster than you can say, "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The commercial aspect of the holiday encourages spending, but there are many ways to shave costs from the Christmas budget without earning the nickname Scrooge. Money-saving strategies help focus on friends, family and making memories without the need for a second mortgage to finance it all.
Budget for Gifts
You budget for the mortgage, car payments and groceries, so it's only natural to add in a gift budget. Write a Christmas gift list to figure out how many gifts you need. The list is key in keeping your Christmas budget low. Sure, your mail carrier is nice, you have friendly neighbors and the lady in accounting always pays you on time, but your Christmas gift list has to stop somewhere. Pare down your Christmas gift list to those closest to you to save money. Set a reasonable spending limit for each gift. Save that money all 12 months of the year so you'll end up with enough cash in December to buy the gifts outright rather than reaching for the plastic.
Host Frugal Celebrations
The point of Christmas get-togethers is spending time with family or friends. Those closest to you won't mind if you serve cocktail wienies instead of Cornish hens at your holiday party. A Christmas appetizer potluck gives all of the guests a chance to show off their favorite holiday dishes while saving on the food budget. A tree-trimming party, Christmas game night, Christmas movie marathon or cookie exchange are other party ideas. If you want to relive your childhood, plan a sledding party followed by hot cocoa and Christmas cookies. Your guests will probably enjoy themselves much more than they would at a formal dinner party.
Stock up Early
If you've ever been to the grocery store on December 23, you know there's a mad dash for all of the Christmas staples as everyone prepares to cook their holiday feasts. To avoid a scuffle over the last box of stuffing, set out to do your Christmas food shopping early. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, grab a few non-perishable items you'll need for Christmas dinner. This spreads the cost out over a few weeks instead of a large grocery bill right before Christmas. Plus you avoid shortages of your holiday favorites.
Give Time Instead of Gifts
The homemade coupons you made as a child might sound cheesy, but offering your time instead of a gift that will end up in the attic is more meaningful and less expensive. Consider the recipient and how your time could benefit her. For example, you might offer a night of babysitting for your friend who is a new mom or girl's night out with a friend you rarely see.
A similar option is to gather a group of friend or family members to help a charity at the holidays. Instead of exchanging gifts, donate time as a group for the selected charity. You might host a Christmas party at a children's hospital or put on a Christmas variety show at a nursing home. After the volunteer efforts, enjoy a meal together at a restaurant. You save money on gifts and spread holiday cheer with friends.
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.