Holiday Gift Giving On A Tight Budget

by Guest Blogger on 2008-12-1611

How we’re approaching holiday gift giving this season as we keep to a tight budget.

A few weeks ago Black Friday kicked off the “official” start of the holiday shopping season. As the days tick by I have gotten requests from family asking for our wish list and best gift ideas for myself and my son. I have listened to friends share their shopping accomplishments and mark items off their list as they stock up for loved ones.

A part of me envies them the “joy” of preparing for the biggest gift giving season of the year. Another part is breathing a sigh of relief. A few months ago, I finally faced the fact that credit card debt was crippling our family and drastic measures where required to stop the damage. We are not a family that used credit to buy big screen TV’s or fancy clothes, but we slowly racked up debt by committing one of the most common mistakes that leads to financial ruin. We became accustomed to using credit as an extension of our income. I cannot blame the “the credit crunch” or the “recession of 2008” for my money woes, because this damage began long before talks of bailouts and bonuses.

Fortunately, instead of burying my head in the sand, I have confronted the issue and we are currently putting all available money toward reducing our debt and following debt elimination tips and debt reduction strategies. We’re sticking to our debt reduction plan and the month of December — with its spending temptations — is no different. Although there is little room for shopping for us this year, we are going to have a credit (and debt) free holiday, and this is how we are doing it…

family christmas
Photo by

Our Holiday Gift Giving Plan on a Tight Budget

  • Be realistic and discuss gift-giving expectations (or limitations) in advance.

    There is nothing I would like more than to give each of my loved ones fantastic gifts that light up their faces when they open them. I have wrestled with a lot of guilt and a tad bit of shame believing I was somehow ruining their holiday by not having the resources to buy them that special gift. If you have concerns about how you will finance your way through holiday office parties, family gatherings or other situations that generally involve gift exchange, be upfront with how much you are willing or able to spend in advance. You might just find out that other people are dealing with the same issues and are relieved to have options beyond buying gifts to celebrate the holidays.

  • Rediscover the true meaning of the holidays.

    I’ve learned an interesting lesson this holiday season. When you remove the “material” trappings of this time of year, you have more time and energy to focus on the true meaning of the holiday. Just the other day, I took my son to the library and we picked some Christmas videos to watch together. This weekend we will be picking out our tree and decorating. Religious beliefs, family holiday traditions and what makes the holiday special vary for each of us. You just might be surprised that when you really think about what makes this season important to you, it doesn’t really have anything to do with how much money you have.

  • Be thankful for your blessings.

    Before you beat yourself up over finances, take a quick look around and remember to be thankful for what you have. Sadly the world we live in offers an endless supply of reminders of how life could be worse. There are so many things that are more valuable than wealth or money. Hug your friends, kiss your children, remember those who are not here to celebrate with you and be thankful for the blessings you have.

If you are short on cash this holiday season, you have two options. You can feel sorry for yourself and allow those feelings to ruin this special time of year for both you and those around you OR you can make the most of what you have and focus on what really matters. Personally, I have found that this year is turning out to be more special without worrying about money or shopping for the perfect gift. I may have started a new tradition that will last beyond my current financial woes.


SVB: I’ve found myself caught in a maelstrom of activities, plus my behind-the-scenes theme tweaking is far from done. So for now, I’m relying on some trusty and wonderful guest posters to fill in. Thank you to Trisha Wagner for her guest post today! I wholeheartedly espouse the ideas and thoughts she’s just shared with us.

Trisha is a freelance writer for, a debt community featuring debt forums. She writes regularly on the topics of getting out of debt and personal finance.

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

David Palmer December 16, 2008 at 1:35 pm

This is a very timely message. Thanks for the reminders. My family is going through a similarly difficult time right now and we will be having a lean holiday season this year too. Getting debt free is a worthy cause and goal. Keep up the good work!

Amy Yee December 16, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Great reminder of time as being the best gift of all. I love the example of watching Christmas videos with your son. It’s good to get in the habit of avoiding credit cards. For people who are still looking to shop, the best deals and time savers are usually online these days and you can still take advantage of them without using credit cards if you use an alternative payment method like eBillme . Our option provides all the security and protection of a credit card, but lets you pay with online bill-pay. Shoppers are increasingly turning to options that let them be a part of the debt-free movement. Thanks for supporting them.

Mark December 16, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Good point. Be thankful for your blessings. Many families are going through difficult times this holiday season. Just because you have less money to buy gifts doesn’t make the spending time with families and friends any less rich.

Medical Monitoring USA December 17, 2008 at 1:46 pm

I grew up in a family of “no..we just cant afford it this year…” and I entered an ignorance of debt when I got into college. I had no concept of credit and barely had any idea how to budget my money. Over the years I’ve learned not only how to save, but to make money for myself. Its hard not to spend, and spend and overspend on your loved ones during the holiday season, especially with big family. I have 8 uncles and aunts, plus their husbands and wives, and children and grandparents, and friends…its a zoo. We started the tradition of the grab bag, where during Thanksgiving we draw names out of the hat and whoever we got, that was our person to buy a special gift for…instead of trying to get gifts for everyone. This way, every person got one really great gift– which was more than enough because the best part of Christmas is the holidays. One year my younger cousin who was 16 didnt have enough money to buy his mom a christmas present. I gave him many inexpensive gift ideas and things he could do for her— and he said to me “you know..I think she’d rather just have a hug and a kiss from me then any fancy gift…” He was definately right. Christmas brings out the best in people — oxox lots of love

TStrump December 17, 2008 at 4:35 pm

We’re not exchanging gifts this year. We’re all just going to get together for a nice dinner.
I’m just giving one gift to my brother – I am excusing a small loan I lent him a few months ago.
That’s it.

Pascale December 18, 2008 at 10:39 am

Great article! Well done!

Sefa February 16, 2009 at 2:43 am

According to a survey by Spending Pulse, Americans spent eight percent more during the 2007 holidays than the year before. Most of those purchases were made via the power of the plastic card. Visa USA has even announced that credit card holders were able to spend more than thirty billion up till the Christmas week.

Basil May 2, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Thanks for such an informative post!
As a person having to do with celebrations and family holidays on a professional basis, I can give your audience just one more helpful piece of advice: try being creative when considering what a gift you’re going to give this time! Use your skill, it’ll save the money for you!
For instance, if you’re really good at design, why don’t you make a funny collage out of your friend’s holiday photos? It’s gonna be just an excellent present!!!

Truth in Aging November 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm

We usually donate our Christmas money to families in need, for buying gifts. The economy is really bad this year.

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