Losing your job or receiving a big medical bill can throw a monkey wrench into your Christmas plans. Even during a financial crisis, most people associate the holiday season with material abundance. Children won't cease their demands on your time, money or energy just because you're experiencing financial difficulty. During times like these, worries about money can rob you of your peace of mind. If you're in over your head, it's time to reassess your priorities.
Sit down with your family to have a discussion about what's really feasible this Christmas. Explain to the kids that you won't be able to fulfill their every desires this holiday season. They will have to put off requests for expensive luxury gifts until a time when the family budget is balanced.
Get your finances in order as much as you can before planning Christmas activities. Establish a small budget that you can afford for gifts and supplies. Don't exceed it for any reason.
Make meaningful gifts for your friends and family rather than buying them. Make Christmas cards by hand with the kids. Enclose snapshots of your family with the card. Paint or draw a colorful picture and frame it yourself. Bake up batches of cookies and homemade bread and wrap them in colorful cellophane tied with a ribbon. Look for things you already have on hand before buying new materials.
Offer to do a service for friends and loved ones in lieu of a gift. Offer to watch your brother's kids, mow your dad's lawn or help your grandmother balance her checkbook. Consider making a coupon book full of free services your recipient can redeem later.
Browse food gifts for your immediate family. Get a cheap woven basket at the dollar store and fill it with apples, oranges, pears and nuts in the shell. Watch your local grocery store for bargains on produce before you buy. Favor items that are both inexpensive and in season.
Think about purchasing necessary items rather than luxuries for Christmas. If your spouse needs a clock radio, get one that's both cheap and reliable. If your kids' school clothes are threadbare, buy a few inexpensive replacements. Look around the house for other broken and worn out items that can be replaced without breaking the bank.
Buy token toys for younger children at the dollar store. Only buy enough so that they have something amusing to open on Christmas morning. For the best savings, wrap the toys in last year's leftover wrapping paper or cloth.