Sunday, November 18, 2007

Holiday spending--what's your budget?

So, the gift-giving season is looming and the credit card debt that can go with it. While some people plan what they will buy on Black Friday (the big shopping day after Thanksgiving), I intend on driving from my parent's home back to my own and avoiding the aggravation of getting up early and elbowing other people in line for a great deal. Most of my gift shopping is done and should end up costing me about $100. How am I doing this?

I have seven nieces and nephews (currently none on the way but that could change at any moment). That means seven gifts for children age 12 months to six years. I still have purchases made from last holiday season that I thought babies might like (a wooden puzzle and a cloth book) and two books purchased a couple years ago waiting for a child of the right age. In addition, a garage sale find, a winning eBay bid, a thift store book and a purchase from my first trip overseas will supplement my gifts so that I have spent $45 over two years for this Christmas's gifts.

The adults in our family exchange names with a $20 per gift limit. That reduces the number of gifts from nine to one. This saves both money and time figuring out what to get each person. Family purchase this year: $20 gift card. His one non-gift card request exceeded the monetary limit.

There are only a few friends for which I want to buy gifts. One woman I know is looking at her first home. So a mix of second hand items (a sheet that can used as a paint dropcloth and a six-outlet plugin--items I no longer need) and new (paint rollers, caulk with caulking gun and outlet/switch insulators) will be her gift, items I know I used in my house when I first moved in. Another I am looking to buy scrap sterling silver from eBay for her jewelry making. Another friend I have combination of used and new items from various locations. One friend is a real mind buster especially as I don't want to give clutter to people, which is making me reconsider at least one gift. These various endeavors have made me spend $15.25 so far with another $30 in my future.

There are a few other gifts I will give: homemade treats to the kind retiree neighbors and aloe plants to colleagues. Those have very little cost associated with them and have been accounted for with previous purchases or in the food budget.

Total holiday gift giving budget: $100.25

Much of this was spent prior to November, but I also have a monthly gift budget of $30 that has not been completely spent. That left me with nearly $80 going into November. The combination of secondhand items and keeping the children in mind as I visit garage sales has really helped me keep out of debt. I try to spend only $10 per child per gift-giving time (holiday and birthday) so sale items and lots of books end up in the nieces and nephews' hands.

My holiday is debt-free and stress-free because I either paid cash or the amount was budget for, and I am not running to a store with thousands of other people doing their holiday shopping.

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