Everyone’s had that New Year’s hangover – I’m not just talking too much food and drinks, but too much holiday spending as well. You get caught up in the spirit of the holidays, end up buying waaaaay more than you intended, and come January’s credit card bill, your bank account is officially “hungover”.
Then the buyer’s remorse and belt tightening settle in, making for a painful start to the new year.
If you’re not convinced yet, here’s some gut-wrenching statistics out there on holiday spending:
- 56% of Americans will take on new debt to pay for holiday gifts1
- 16% will take longer than 6 months to pay it off1
- 34% of parents will spend an average of $500 per child!1
The worst statistic I’ve read? 25% of parents are taking extreme measures such as withdrawing from 401ks, using emergency funds, or using payday loans to buy holiday gifts1.
When did it get like this? And how do we stop it? Why not choose to start January off with financial peace rather than regret, worry and a HUGE credit card statement?
Spoiler Alert! Anyone and everyone would rather spend time with you and your loved ones than to get yet another trinket. The gift of time is so much more precious than we realize. However, that being said, here are some other cheap holiday gift ideas to consider as well if you still insist on giving something:
Give the gift of a homemade meal.
I know, food sounds too easy, but bear with me. The average American is so incredibly busy balancing work, kids and home duties that we all struggle to get a meal on the table. Especially a warm, yummy homemade one on a cold winter night, right?
Give the gift of a family dinner. Prepare their favorite meal in a freezer safe dish with instructions on how to heat it, and add bread and a dessert to make it a meal. While you’re at it, double the recipe and throw one in the freezer for your family as well. It’s a total win-win for those crazy busy holiday nights when you don’t want to cook, right?
Give the gift of free fun.
Invite your neighbors or friends with kids to meet up at the best sledding hill in the city. Host a cookie exchange, or better yet, use your kitchen as cookie baking central and let all your friends’ kids work on frosting skills.
My absolute favorite free holiday activity? Having a sleepover under the Christmas tree with my kids. While none of us get much sleep, it feels very magical to be surrounded by all the beautiful lights and the excitement of the tree. Every year, my daughter tells me it’s her favorite and asks if we can do it again!
Give the gift of memories.
One of my favorite money saving ideas for the holidays is to give experiences. Think back to when you were a kid during the holidays. What sticks out to you the most? Was it stuff? Or was it specific memories of times you spend with grandparents, parents, siblings and extended family? While I can remember some of our gifts, I mostly remember very specific outings with family members. Now that some of those family members are gone, those times are truly golden.
This year, we’re treating my in-laws to a train ride instead of giving gifts. My father-in-law is a huge train buff, so I know they’ll love it. There’s an awesome Chinese lantern festival here in Columbus that we’re taking my parents to. We’ll also be able to take them to see the holiday lights at the zoo for free with our zoo pass. It’s a win-win because we’re able to give these experiences as their gifts, and they’re also getting time with their grandkids.
Give them the gift of time.
We can all use a helping hand, but some of us are better at asking than others. Think about what your loved ones need most and make them an offer they cannot refuse!
Offer to do something they hate, so you can free up their time. Clean their gutters, help them with opening the pool next summer, or even babysit for free for date night. Trust me, they’ll love you for it! Heck, even go so far as to make those funny coupons that they can cash in to make it official.
Give the gift of creativity and fun.
For all you DIY junkies who are itching to make something, scented bath salts, lotions and bath bombs are amazingly easy to make. Whip up a big batch and hand them out everyone on your list. Finding something that you can buy and produce in bulk can help save money as well as time.
Use your artistic talents (or whatever talents you may have) to make something you enjoy creating and they enjoy receiving. You can even get your kids in on the action by having them help create keepsake gifts such as ornaments. There are a ton of cute and creative ideas out on Pinterest using kid’s handprints.
Maybe you’re not that creative? Etsy has some creative and fun thank you printables for teachers, coaches, babysitters, and anyone else you can think of! They have cute little sayings that match up with a gift, like lip balm or a Hershey’s bar. Once you make the purchase on Etsy, you’ll receive a PDF to download. Just add some nice stock paper to the printer, print it, cut it out, and attach to the gift. Easy, beautiful, and creative!
Give the gift of a night with friends.
Host a holiday potluck and movie night with everyone in their best ugly Christmas sweaters. Make it BYOB and play your favorite fun Christmas movies. A great party for friends or family doesn’t have to be expensive and everyone can contribute.
Give the gift of cash (kind of!).
If you must give gift cards, go to Raise.com to purchase discounted gift cards for up to 20% off! They’re 100% guaranteed for a year with purchase protection and refunds, so you don’t have to worry about anything weird with the cards after purchase. Buy these discounted cards for stores you know you’ll shop at for the holidays to save money as well!
Give the gift of charity.
While this isn’t necessarily a gift to family or friends, we often find that the holidays are a great reminder to give to those who are less fortunate. However, sometimes we find ourselves struggling to donate the money we’d like to.
There are several ways you can still give without breaking the bank. It’s a perfect time of year to go through your clothes, toys and other household items to see what can be donated to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Winter items that kids have out grown but are still of good use would make a kid in need so happy, not to mention gently used toys as well.
Charities need people to physically help as well. Sign up to ring a bell in front of a store or serve up hot meals to the homeless. A coworker of mine would take his kids every Thanksgiving to work at a soup kitchen. I was awed at not only his devotion to helping others, but his ability to teach his kids what’s truly important during the holidays.
Use these unique and cheap holiday gift ideas to make your holidays better this year. You don’t have to be a painful financial statistic or go overboard in gift giving to show you care. Truly, what anyone really wants is time with you and your family. And maybe a pony. But we’ll settle for time together instead. 😉
Have other unique and cheap holiday gifts ideas? Share them below, I’d love to hear them!
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