Going from spendthrift to being frugal is a lifestyle change that doesn't happen overnight. At least it didn't for me. I have been taking baby steps in the past few months in making the changes necessary to live on one income. One change was Christmas. We set a budget and didn't go over it. I started to purchase gifts in September when I would be at Wal-mart and noticed some great gifts going on sale. One such gift was a royal blue fleece blanket for $4.00. I bought it for my teenage son. I have the same blanket in red and he was always taking my red blanket and wrapping up in it on a cold night. Then I saw a dvd of my husband's favorite movie for $5.00. My Christmas stash had begun.
The Christmas lists that our children and daughter in law gave us included such items as dvd's, books, t-shirts and winter hats. There were two items on the list that were pricey. My DH is a runner and he has run 12 marathons. He ran the Boston Marathon twice. He wanted a GPS watch. After shopping around I was able to buy him one at a great discount. My DH didn't ask for anything for his birthday from me this year nor for Father's day. He couldn't think of anything and to buy something for the sake of giving him a gift didn't make sense to him. So I justified the GPS watch purchase and he was thrilled with it. He doesn't wear it just for running, but wears it as his everyday watch.
Our teenage son wanted an IPOD touch. I really had to think about this one. His birthday is January 4th and he will be 17. I decided to go ahead and get him the IPOD touch and then I cut back on my "Christmas list." As far as I was concerned for me my Christmas present was being able to be a SAHW/SAHM. I enjoyed this Christmas more than I had any Christmas in years. I love the weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas with the decorating, planning and baking. To me that is my gift, the time I was able to spend at home getting ready.
When making a big ticket item purchase I always think about how much that item will be used. The GPS watch is being worn by my husband everyday and used everyday. So in the end we will get our money's worth out of it. As for the IPOD touch, my DS will be using it a lot also and will take it to college. Actually the IPOD was the last gift that he opened and he was fine with everything he had received even without the IPOD. He told us that if he had not received the IPOD touch as a Christmas gift he was planning to save up his money to buy one. (He has a part time job after school.)
I don't want to be misleading in that for our family we did spend quite a bit of money on two gifts. The money was saved and nothing was put on credit to be paid on over the next year.
The rest of the gifts were small ticket items such as books and dvd's (some were purchased used). I watched daily for amazon's daily deals and most of the books and dvd's we bought we got great deals on or we bought used and like new. Some of the dvd's were t.v. seasons and were purchased at $15.00 per season on a daily deal vs. the normal price of $35.00. I love getting a good deal.
In the end we were able to buy gifts for family members and stayed within our budget. BUT --- I still felt a little guilty about the fact that we could have done better and spend less which leads me to this post.
To really cut back on next year's Christmas budget I must start today. I'm not necessarily talking about buying gifts now for next year or starting to make gifts to give away. Instead with each birthday and holiday we celebrate beginning in 2010 we need to start cutting back so that by the time Christmas 2010 rolls around we will already have been practiced in asking for less and giving less. Our expectations will have changed.
Unfortunately the first celebration in 2010 is our son's 17th birthday on January 4th. Sorry DS, no eating out. I have already put a budget for birthdays and we will be sticking to it. I have 9 times out of 10 baked the birthday cakes but this year I think I will try my hand at decorating these cakes instead of just frosting them and throwing on some sprinkles.
I cut back on all the dishes served at our Christmas meal and will continue to keep things simple at Easter. It really cut back on the stress and allowed me to enjoy the holiday. As for cards, I think we will start to make our own - something I did a long time ago but gave up for the sake of time. With the average store bought card at $3.00 each, I think I should be able to come up with a cheaper and just as funny alternative.
So a more frugal (and enjoyable) Christmas 2010 will begin with the changes I make in each birthday and holiday celebration that happens before Christmas. My goal for 2010 is to spend more time in planning special occasions and make them more the celebrations that they should be. I want to focus on what we are celebrating (for example a birthday) and not on the money being spent. I want the memories to last beyond any gift. I may even start a new tradition and take one silly Hallmark day a month (such as peanut day) and celebrate it, frugally of course.