One of my favorite things about the impending holidays is the time that my family and I get to spend with each other. We are all so busy with our crazy lives, that we don’t see each other as much as we’d like to. The holidays change that, as we know that we will be able to get together at least 2 times within a month span, which is a record!
However, this used to be something that I almost dreaded simply due to the sheer cost of it. A few years ago, my family and I had a serious talk about how much the holidays were costing us annually and the fact that quite a few of us just weren’t in a position to incur those types of costs. We came up with an action plan to try and have been doing it ever since because it works so well for us.
One of the biggest ongoing issues was the cost of food, especially for our parents. They had been hosting both Thanksgiving and Christmas at their house for years. As the hosts, they had also been providing all of the food. Now, there are 3 of us children and our associated spouses plus our children. Therefore, you can see how costly this can end up getting with a family size ranging from 9 to the current headcount of 18!
As we talked about it in more depth, the realization regarding the sheer costs of the food came out and how much stress it was causing my parents. So a plan formed to make it easier while making it more interactive for everybody involved. We decided to implement a potluck style feast instead of making my parents the sole responsible party.
Now each year, I send out a list of who brought what from last year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas. This list is a jumping off point for an email discussion as to whether we would like to change the menu around, because we don’t necessarily want it to be the exact same every year, and who would like to bring what.
The list gets sent out and then each family puts their names next to what they would like to bring and/or adds items that aren’t on the list that they want to share this year. We have the list together well enough before each holiday so that everybody knows what they’re bringing. This way it’s not a last minute surprise of rushing to the store and spending more money on food than we would have if we had the proper time to plan.
This potluck idea has made the holidays so much easier for my parents and it has made it more fun for the rest of us. Because we are all contributing something that we find important to us and our immediate families it makes the holidays more special. This is more of a family event as opposed to a solo act, which is what it was before, and that defeats the whole message of the holidays in my book.
The other aspect of our new holiday tradition is to draw names. What I mean by this is that every year at our Thanksgiving celebration one of us puts all of the kids names into a hat and another person puts all of the adult names into a separate hat. We go around and have each child draw a child name from the hat and adults grab an adult name from the other hat.
The deal is that the children can’t draw their own name (for obvious reasons) or the name of any of their siblings. The adults can’t draw their own name or that of their spouse. This makes it more fun for us because nobody knows who has who and it’s SO much cheaper.
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The rule is that the gifts are around $20. Of course, they can end up being a hair over or under, but that is the standard allotment. This way we know what to budget for our family holiday for gifts ahead of time and it doesn’t come as a surprise or kill our entire holiday budget. I do gather a list of gift ideas that each person wants (preferably at least 3 choices) and send that spreadsheet out. I like to get the ideas before Thanksgiving because I hate to be stuck trying to find gifts after Thanksgiving since the prices jump so much. Sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
Overall, this is how we end up saving hundreds of dollars a year. We brought the holidays back to being about family and not about who got what for who or who spent the most on who. By doing this, we have made it a much less stressful part of the year and can really fully enjoy it now.
What are some ways that you have made the holidays merrier on your family’s wallet?
I’ve Been Cable Free for 5 Years and Still Watch TV
While in debt, I cut cable and haven’t looked back. It’s easier than you think especially with new services out on the market. One of my favorites is Sling TV, which allows you to watch live TV on the internet. It’s awesome. Check out my Sling TV review.