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Friday, December 21, 2012

Frugal Challenge - Cash Only Christmas

For the second year in a row, I spent only cash for all of my Christmas shopping, yet somehow this year I had a harder time covering it all and I even cut back on how much I spent. It seemed as if other things in life really hit us harder this year including all the everyday expenses plus large raises in college tuition for our second daughter. So then came Christmas, and though I am just about done, I am heading out today, early, for the last few items for stockings and some gift cards. I needed to wait until payday like I am sure so many others have.

When I was younger I would just charge everything I didn't have cash for and then cry when the bills piled in. I would over spend and buy way too much for the kids. These past years we have changed our thinking and spend much more carefully. Even though it is hard to always stretch the cash, it is so good to know I will wake up on Dec. 26th knowing I will not have Christmas to still pay for in the New Year. We have cut who we exchange with each year but the list is cut as far as I WANT to go. I still love to give gifts and if we can afford it, then I like to do it.

The kids gifts are mostly practical. No Ipads or anything fancy, Mostly new coats and clothes and of course some toys for Q. If our girls want something like a computer or expensive electronic they have to save for it. We can give them the amount of cash we would spend normally and they can add other gift money or savings to buy it themselves. This is nothing new for us but just what we have always done as we have four kids and never budgeted that much for a single gift. I think this has worked well as the kids have all of their original game boys and ipods that they have bought mostly themselves. You know the old adage, you will take better care of what you spend your own money on. Now don't get me wrong. If I could, I would love to give them these types of gifts, but like I said our budget never allowed for it so this is what we have come up with for our house.

Here is what I did that worked to help pay cash for Christmas but also improvements I need to make:
1) I bought gift cards I knew I would need throughout the year.
2) I have a gift savings account but clearly I need to budget more into it each month.
3) Purchase more gifts earlier in the year.
4) Budget more for those end of year expenses that always hit and I act like I am surprised. You know how    that goes right?

My husband and I have committed that after the holidays we are going to develop a new written budget. Together at the table hammering it out. We have some specific goals we want to meet and I don't have much faith that the gov't is going to solve our fiscal problems. I see higher taxes in our future. We want to be prepared for this as best we can. Our expenses are not going down but up, as incomes stay stagnant. Some things are changing for us, and college expenses are rising but we need to prepare for the coming changes the government is going to hand us all next year.
You can find my posts on the Thrifty Living Series here.


Ann@A Sentimental Life said...

Cash here too. Not as many presents that is for sure. But it does make you realize that your lucky to be healthy and together. So I spent a little more on our Christmas dinner meet this year.
I buy all year anymore if i see a bargain I think someone would like.
I bet we all have a good Christmas.

Cindy said...

Good for you, if we all spent only cash then at least our personal finances would be in order and we would not be singing the blues in the new year. The government may never balance the budget, but we can sleep better at night if we balance our own personal budgets.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.
Love and hugs, Cindy

Ricki Treleaven said...

We only pay cash, too. I've found that the Columbus Day and Veterans Day sales are the best, and I try to complete all Christmas shopping by those dates. This year I was unable to do so because of my MIL, but it really helps to make purchases during those sales.

What has killed our budget this year is the increase in gas and grocery prices.

I was bad the other day at Pier 1....really bad. I bought junk, but I used giftcards that were about to expire. But we really need some cheering up around here, so I hope it was worth it.

Tracy said...

Yep, we did cash only this year as well. And like you, I need to start buying gifts earlier, preferably throughout the year.

Cindy said...

This is my first year for cash only and it feels great! Why didn't I do this before. I don't spend as much per boy because those boys have grown up and now have wives, (one a girlfriend) and now a grandson.
Luckily I know they are happy just getting together for the holidays and having a good time, so all is good!

Prims and Annies said...

well said especially kids gifts..I do not want to sound harsh..but there are a lot of kids which I call.. being raised with a sense of entitlement. I raised my kids like you do..I taught them how to work for what they wanted.
Great Post!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Ms. Redo said...

We don't buy a lot either, but this year I did charge things, and I'm not happy about that. I was just thinking the last few days how I'd like to start saving a bit each month specifically marked for Christmas. A budget is a great idea, somehow I do not seem to be able to stick to it, I lack that discipline. Maybe I'll try again this year, have you read all about the Dave Ramsey plan, the envelope system? My husband's cousin paid down loads of debt very quickly using Ramsey's plan. Mary

Precious said...

We have always used cash for gifts. In my humble opinion, if I have to charge gifts, then I can't afford them and shouldn't be giving them.

We also cut back this year but still spent too much. Next year I plan on paying for Christmas with free money: surveys, rebates, XX. off XXX. deals, free giftcards, etc. I already have over $50. saved from those things in my gift envelope.

Food and gasoline,taxes,healthcare costs and just about everything else has taken a large chunk this year out of our budget. We are retired and on a fixed income. There are no raises to fall back on. This is why I am going to again do the Money Saving Challenge on my blog this year. It keeps me accountable and we all share what we are doing to cut back. But this year will be even more drastic.

Diana Schmied said...

We are in the same boat here -- rising expenses (gas, food, college, a house built in the 70's that needs repairs and maintenance!) and stagnant income. It's the college costs that's the real killer. We only do cash Christmas (and cash everything) also. With #3 daughter in college this year and the way expenses are I'm not seeing any way we can afford to go to the beach this year for vacation. Of course, I know that is nothing compared to many folks I know our age (mid 50's) who have lost everything -- house, pensions, everything they worked for -- over the past 4 years.

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Good for you, we are all cash too since we are retired and dipping into savings or our retirement fund is not for Christmas. You will have a much happier Christmas if you aren't stressed over the money. God Bless and I hope you do have a very Merry Christmas. Hugs, Marty

Amy Jo said...

We have been cash only for Christmas for about 10 years... and it is the best feeling. Owing on things you can't even remember really stinks. We have scaled back our Christmases though and we still enjoy them so much...

Amy Jo

Kris said...

Excellent post my friend! Like you, we have done our Christmas spending only cash. Most of which was earned by my hand mades business. We set a budget, and stick to it.
And it feels goooood!!!
Merry Christmas Elaine. I hope to see you soon.

Farm Road Ramblings said...

Well said Elaine. : )

martinealison said...

J'ai eu également 4 enfants et j'ai toujours jongler raisonnablement afin qu'ils aient un noël... peut-être pas similaire à certains de leurs camarades, mais un petit présent à la hauteur de mon budget. Je ne pense pas qu'ils ont eu à en souffrir... L'essentiel était que nous soyons réunis et que nous puissions passer de bons moments ensemble autour de la table...

Je vous souhaite d'excellentes fêtes. Gros bisous.

Robyn said...

I can so relate to you about everything going up and income staying stagnant, My husband and I have no children so we don't have any to buy for but when I was growing up I was raised as you are raising your children. If you want something you have to save for it and when you got older you had to work for it.
My income is limited and fixed an like you, with gas an groceries going up as they have my husband and i are not exchanging gifts this year..Congratulations on an all cash Christmas! not an easy task but you did it! :)
Merry Christmas!

nancy said...

I have really gotten burned out on the commercialism of christmas. I used to work retail and I know what an illusion "sales" really are. I told all our adult girls that they would get home-made gifts and stocking stuffers this year, and that was it. They were fine with it. They are having their own tough times paying their student loans and being under-employed. My husband's family always did a gft exchange after the kids were 18, that way no one had to buy gifts for everyone, just one. Made sense to me! We're also trying to take the emphasis off gift giving and more spending time together. And it's cash only.
Happy Solstice!

Tammy ~ Country Girl at Home ~ said...

Amen, Elaine. Same here for us. We are cash only and we feel the same about the kids buying their own things. Our budget keeps getting slimmer and slimmer. We have to constantly sit down and hammer it out to "stay on the same page".

Excellent post and advice!

Merry Christmas!

20 North Ora said...

Elaine - Good post. I do Christmas gift buying in the summer. Strange, I know! But, I find that if I do that I don't have all of the hassle of buying and stressing out over the holidays. Also, I enjoy getting out in the crowds without the pressure of having to look for something.

I do pick up some things at the last minute but generally, everything is done by Sept 1.
And I really am not an organized person, ask Brenda. ha

Merry Christmas to you and yours.


GardenofDaisies said...

We never charge anything. Haven't for a long long time. I am very afraid of what the government may be handing to us next year.

Debra said...

I just read on a news site not too long ago that the Cliff is just part ot it...there's a Farm Bill that is hanging and milk prices could double if things are not solved soon.

You are a wise mom....children that get too much too fast all at once do not appreciate it

My sister and I cut out exchanging years ago...we just focus on the kids and our expenses are more geared around the Christmas dinner food ( after our children's gifts of course )

Debra said...

I just read on a news site not too long ago that the Cliff is just part ot it...there's a Farm Bill that is hanging and milk prices could double if things are not solved soon.

You are a wise mom....children that get too much too fast all at once do not appreciate it

My sister and I cut out exchanging years ago...we just focus on the kids and our expenses are more geared around the Christmas dinner food ( after our children's gifts of course )

Our Neck of the Woods said...

We don't have kids and don't get each other large gifts, so we can keep our Christmas spending to a minimum. We do a name exchange with our families then we all buy the kids a small gift so it is manageable.

I really like your approach to gift giving. I always feel bad for the people who put gifts on credit cards then have to pay them off all year long.

Best of luck with the budget! We need to revise ours for the coming year as well.

Our Neck of the Woods said...

PS - Almost forgot to say - I love the new header! :)

Lisa~A Cottage To Me said...

Our thinking this year has changed definitely for Christmas! We have very fortunate girls. This year they are getting what they "need" brakes on the car, cash so she can go to Florida with a friend. Those sorts of things! And just a few little things to actually open under the tree. With both Grandma's gone now, Christmas has taken on a new meaning. One of being Happy with spending time with the ones we love! Is there any better gift then that anyway?

Beth @ E. lizard Breath Speaks said...

love new blog look. great post. i really can not wait to see what the family plan is ... you have gotten me curious. ha. ha!! been baking all day. another day tomorrow. but i so love it. i enjoy cooking. big hugs. ( :

Urmelche said...

So many true statements were mentioned and such a great post. I do shop after and during the year, trying to find the best deal on the needed/wanted item and only ones that I know will be used. Everything going on, it's scary.
Thanks for sharing

Lottie said...

Elaine, this is a great post! We have always bought Christmas with cash, but we have always had to budget through the year to do that. Last year we had money left over after Christmas and we put that on a relative's medical bills. This year we are the ones with medical bills. Our grown sons asked that we cut out gift giving for next year. We agree and will just focus on time together.

Melanie said...

We pay cash for our Christmas gifts, too. Granted, we only have one "child" (college student) to buy for, and then I have two nieces and a few friends I buy for, but that's it. Oh - and hubby and I exchange a few gifts. Our extended family gave up on exchanging gifts a few years ago when Phil (my oldest son) passed away.

If you have any tips on how to save on college tuition, that would be greatly appreciated. My son is just now finishing up jr. college (which we were able to afford out-right), but he'll be transferring on to university in August and so far, we're looking at some pretty hefty loans.

Maureen Wyatt said...

Sticking to a cash only Christmas has been a challenge since I acquired 5 more grandkids 2 yrs. ago. But, the original 2 grands were very understanding about my cutting back and this year all the kids have asked for things I make. Good for you!

ImSoVintage said...

Good for you!!! I only do cash, too and I feel so much better for it. We have made Christmas giving simpler and we are all happier for it. Takes away the stress and allows us to just enjoy Christmas.


Linda said...

What practical steps do you take to help your children be thankful for what they do have? It's hard swimming up stream and one child in particular struggles with comparison and ingratitude. Thanks for your insights. I too look forward to hearing about your new budget plans.

Debbiedoo's said...

Smart cookie you are. We in fact do cash only as well. I have to because I have been saving every penny for our trip to Dublin coming up in the Spring. Not only was a cash it was a very light Christmas, which is great by my boys, they did not want for much. Merry Christmas to you and your family Elaine!

MandaBurms said...

Well done! We are budgeters here too and not into the commercialism of Christmas. I find it all a bit to vulgar. It is hard at times seeing what other kids get - but then I look at how real our kids understand money. We focus on making memories.
Have a lovely Christmas.
Love Leanne

Carol said...

We've used cash for years now -- it's the only way to go. We do not buy for our adult children any more, and we set a strict rule several years ago that they were not to buy presents for us -- Christmas, Mother's or Father's Day, etc. We buy for our six grandchildren. Once in awhile, we will splurge on something for our children's families. It just feels so much better at our Christmas Family Celebration to not have the room flooded with gifts. We enjoy each other's company, play games, share great food and just have fun together. It certainly doesn't have to be a drain on the wallet!

Ginger Zuck said...

I only do cash too. I don't have a lot to do so I spread it out starting in September for small gifts and ending with the cash gifts over the weeks up till Christmas. I also bake for a lot of my gifts. That's all they get, but they love it and look forward to it, so it works.