My own family composes of first-generation immigrants. The only thing I remember celebrating as a child was Chinese New Year’s. By celebrate, I meant we lit incense and watched Chinese New Year TV specials for hours; we didn’t do anything besides that but symbolically it was important. We didn’t do birthdays or anniversaries either.
Holidays are not made for the working poor. I remember my parents hoping for extra shifts during the holidays because it meant having a little more money.
My husband’s family was more of your run of the mill average American. They had a budget first and foremost – but they also noted how important a good Christmas holiday would be to a kid’s childhood. They found real and authentic ways to prepare for a perfect holiday with 4 kids to gift for.
⭐ Relevant Reads:
- What Is The Real Cost of Raising a Child (Done Frugally and On The Cheap)
- 11 Punchable Financial Crimes According to Me
- When Having Too Much Money is Bad (The Cons of Being Rich)
The Wrong Way To Celebrate Christmas
I don’t tell people what’s the wrong way of celebrating a holy, family-oriented holiday, but I will be honest with you, I think this is wrong the wrong way to spend Christmas:
A friend of ours lamented once about how her family always goes all out for Christmas. They are extremely generous with gifts. It sounds like a great thing but naturally, they also expect great gifts in return.
By “great” I mean nothing under $200 per person at Nordstrom (with at least 3-6 people expecting extravagant gifts). She’s annoyed about it but her anti-gift murmurs have gone on deaf ears. Her mother has a spending problem and her sisters enjoy being on the receiving end of their mother’s spending problem. Hmmm.
The highlight is there’s a sure-fire chance that she will get a new iPhone and the latest Coach bag. Except…she doesn’t necessarily need any of those as a debt carrying graduate student on a fixed income. She needs RENT and FOOD and cash, cash, cash for those student loans.
Plus, she can’t exactly afford to gift the same kind of extravagance of Coach and iphones. But she has no other choice (and no, she’s not sure how her sisters are ponying the cash for gifts either).
Isn’t that terrible?
So Christmas for her looks like a big fat bill instead of a joyous occasion for family and her family doesn’t take things seriously because they like their tradition of a flashy Christmas.
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- 51 Healthy Frugal Dinner Recipes You Can Make for Under $2
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8 Ways to Give Nice Christmas Gifts (Even When You’re Broke)
1. White Elephant/Mystery Santa Gift Exchange
White Elephant and Mystery Santa gifts have been around for decades and it’s easy to see why. In addition to the obvious joy these gifting games bring, they can also be highly cost-effective. With everyone taking turns and swapping gifts there’s no telling what you’ll end up with. Either way, this method is definitely one fun way to enjoy Christmas gift-giving without breaking the bank!
Each person/couple brings one gift and takes one gift. I’m loving the restraints because frugality is my favorite shopping game of ALL TIME. The gifts are piled under the Christmas tree and everyone who bought a gift has to grab another person’s gift. Then when everyone is done opening, you can choose to steal another person’s gift or keep the one you unwrapped.
With the remainder of the wrapping paper, we all humanly launch paper balls, like ammo, at each other in a festive holiday war.
2. Setting A Price Limit
Whether it’s for your significant other, children, or co-worker, setting a price limit is never a bad idea before exchanging gifts for the holiday season. What’s more embarrassing? Buying a gift that’s too expensive, or one that’s too cheap? By setting a price limit on gifts, you’re essentially eliminating any embarrassment or anxiety that might come when purchasing gifts for others! Not only this, but setting a price limit also ensures that you’ll be purchasing a gift that is within your budget! Our families agreed upon gifting budget is $25 (or less) per person. There are a lot of practical gifts that fetch for under $25.
3. Prepare Early & Find Pre-Sales
What is the single busiest day of the year for retail workers throughout the US? You guessed it! Black Friday! The day after Thanksgiving is a time for rest and rejuvenation after eating your way through the turkey Olympics. However, for those brave enough to hop off the couch and make their way to participating stores, they could most definitely reap the rewards when it comes to cheap Christmas gifts! However, according to the US Census Bureau, you may want to double-check the fine print before planning to do all of your Christmas shopping on Black Friday alone.
You can also take advantage of Cyber Monday if you’re lazy like I am by combing Slickdeals (app + website) for the best deals approved by fellow Internet cheap stakes like me.
In addition to Black Friday, it’s important to remember that there are good deals to be found all year round. Cyber Monday is a great time to purchase those pending items in your Amazon carts. If you plan early enough, you can also find great deals on coats and other winter clothes during the summer months! Due to the obvious lack of need for a coat during the summer, retailers will drastically lower their prices so they can move the product quicker. Make sure to check out both online and in-person retailers to ensure you find the best deals/coupons when hunting for Christmas gifts!
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- 3 Signs When Being Frugal Doesn’t Work & What To Do About It
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5. Buying Second Hand
One thing I’ve learned (especially during my college years) is that there’s no shame in buying second hand! In fact, some of the coolest and most unique purchases are usually found in antique/second-hand shops! Whether it’s hometown local boutiques or prominent retailers such as Goodwill, you can’t go wrong with buying second hand. Make sure to check out each store’s schedule to see if they have any seasonal/weekly deals as well!
6. Credit Card Rewards
Credit Card points aren’t just for airlines anymore! In fact, many credit cards offer a percentage of cashback on either specific categories of purchases or even every purchase you make! Stock up your points throughout the year and you could potentially be on your way to getting those expensive gifts at a much easier to bear price!
Remember that um…unique sweater that your Aunt Sally gave you four Christmasses ago? Maybe it’s time to clean out your closet and part with some old gifts, while also crossing off some people from your own Christmas list! Just remember the rules of regifting etiquette and as long as everyone’s feelings are left intact, you can definitely regift that sweater and more this Christmas!
8. Handmade Gifts
You’re parents probably have those old Christmas ornaments that you made when you eight. Thus, proving the point that the tried and true method of handmade gifts is still a foolproof way to go during the holiday season. This is the age of the Internet and Pinterest! ( I mean have you seen some of the things people can do nowadays?) So, dig into your crafting box and open up your creativity this holiday season. Your wallet with definitely thanks you…and the people who receive the gifts will too!
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The Right Way To Celebrate Christmas
I finally understand why Christmas is the “most wonderful time” of the year after having the privilege of celebrating it with Husband’s family. Not everyone’s as lucky as I believe we are. All we have to do is take a train ride to the airport, float in the air for about two hours on a metal bird, and in exchange – we get free room and food for a week while we celebrate Christmas. Kick arse!
We fly in before Christmas. Every Christmas Eve, we go to Hubby’s aunts (mother’s side) house for a big holiday potluck. Usually, they have to put 2 long dining tables together to fit everything. We just walk into the dining room, get a plate, and load up on as much food from the buffet line up as we want.
There’s lots of family time and a lot of food too. After the finger food is cleared off, they put out another dining table size worth of just desserts and fizzy drinks. The whole night is just eating, chatting and being merry. No one involves presents because we’re just there to enjoy family time.
Around 10 PM, Hubby forcibly rolls me out of his aunt and uncle’s house, back into the car and we drive home with the rest of the family. Me with two chicken wings in hand and a smile on my fat face.
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Thank the blessed man who invented stretchy pants!
Less than 12 hours later, on Christmas Day, we wake up and eat again. This time is a layout brunch buffet at Hubby’s parent’s house (father side of the family). There’s holiday sausages, eggnog, homemade applesauce from the apple trees in the backyard etc.
We repeat the process of “comeeee and get it” with desserts for the last round while everybody catches up.
After all the guests leave, it’s just parents and Hubby’s siblings left. We eat some more, lounge around, clean up, nap. Somewhere during that time, my husband and I sneak into our room and wrap our Christmas gift.
This makes me so thankful I married into a frugal family. I could just hug them. There is a reason why I always say Hubby’s parents are ‘The Millionaires Next Door’ archetypes.
- Spend money conscientiously with forethought. Focus on having the 3 big “Fs” – family, faith and friends that’s worth splurging. Believe that holidays were worth not cutting corners when you can afford it.
- Spend on what meant a lot to them personally and much less on other things that didn’t matter to them. Put in a lot of thought before you decide with your wallet.
- Shifted their money habits with what was beneficial to their children by being considerate of their lifestyle. Is one child doing financially well but the other child is struggling to pay off student debt? Then consider the comfort of everyone by setting a gifting budget.
- Practicality before bling, get with the program you!
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