3 Secrets to Having an Affordable Christmas and Spending Less on Gifts

If the thought of holiday spending keeps you pacing the floor, scale back with these ideas.

For the past few years, I've had a recurring nightmare. It's the day before Christmas and I haven't purchased anything for my family and friends. Since it's the 11th hour, I'm throwing caution to the wind, buying overpriced, impersonal gifts as my panic rises.

The moral of this dream is that gift-giving angst is not about generosity; it's about projecting an image. Because I've waited until the last minute (because I'm not in control of my money) my Christmas will put me in the poorhouse once again.

And as I'm wrapping those presents I won't even feel good about them. How could I, knowing what their consequences will be and how little real intimacy they reflect?

So what could be some alternatives to the great Christmas shopping binge?

Imagine that you will only spend what you have. No credit card purchases. And no putting yourself last, so that come January you have to forgo the root canal because your gift buying put you in hock. It may mean you can spend very little. Is this terrible? No. And by using these tips, you can make the holidays meaningful without breaking the bank.

Make it personal

Why not purchase something small but relevant for each person on your list, and write out a note by hand telling them how you feel about them. You can include in your note your new decision about Christmas, and what it means to you.

Agree on spending amounts as a family

Another possibility for avoiding self-destruction is ''The Limit'' (this is not the same as The Limited.) With The Limit, everyone agrees ahead of time not to spend more than such-and-such for each person's gift.

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