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Life Hack: 3 tips for an affordable Christmas

November 2, 2016 Karianne 5 min read No Comments

Can you believe it?! IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS! I’ve already turned all of my radios to the local Christmas music station. hehe.

There’s something about classic Christmas songs playing in the background, strings of lights glowing in the snow, the scent of hot cocoa as the cup warms the palms of my hands, while cuddling with (furry) loved ones on a chilly evening…Life just feels like it’s going right.

Just imagining it fills me with “tidings of great joy.”

But sometimes, my Christmas season is filled with loneliness and dread. Specifically, dread for spending hours running to various stores or researching the best online purchases to fulfill the annual Christmas tax (presents). Times like this I tend to think of the holiday with less joy and more oy.

OY! I haven’t bought a single Christmas present!

Oy! I can’t even afford to!

However, last year, just before I turned grinchy-green, I tried three things to attempt to revive the Christmas spirit.

1. Purchase for few, but send cards to many.

There are so many people I care about, so even spending just 20 dollars on each person would make the total cost around $1,500 dollars. YIKES! Can I get a Christmas loan? But, instead of purchasing a gift for everyone, I decided to make a list of people who actually appreciate or need something. And, it took a lot of self-discipline and internal arguments, but those were the only people I bought/made an item for.

What about the other people I care about?

Do you remember the good old days when you got a Christmas card from a long lost friend?

Yeah, me neither.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t revive the tradition of mailed letters (while also helping the post office and our wallets). It might be difficult for some to accept that there’s not a $50 present coming in the mail, but if they don’t like your card (who doesn’t like a card from minted?!), maybe you shouldn’t be getting presents for them either…just sayin’.

By following this tip, I was able to use some of the money I saved to buy a few more-expensive gifts.

2. Change your birthday.

I’m not saying it’s legally possible, or even a good idea, to literally change your birth date. However, a lot of online retailers let you create a free “VIP membership.” And, they’ll give you a free gift or coupon for your birthday. I rarely need the free gift that comes when it’s my actual birth month, and the coupons usually expire in 30 days. But I have about 12 people I buy for at Christmas time, and being able to use the free gift/coupon for gifts that I was going to buy anyway could save me 20-50% per purchase at those online stores.

*To easily remember the date, change only the month and leave the day and year as it is.

3. Start a new tradition

Ask around and find out how your family feels about having a secret santa this year. Or playing dirty santa (one person opens a gift, and another person can steal it or open another wrapped present). Or some other gift-giving game where each person only has to buy one gift. It could be fun to play a present scavenger-hunt, or create your own game. Do you know of another gift-giving game? Tell me about it so I can play too!

For families with kids, I urge you on behalf of everything that’s good in this world, don’t bury them under a mound of presents every year. (We don’t want them turning into Dudley.)

My goal when I have kids is to stick to the 4 present rule I learned from Pinterest:

1. something to wear (socks)
2. something to read (comic book)
3. something they want (new xbox game)
4. something they need (toothbrush)

Okay, my suggestions probably aren’t the greatest. (Sorry future kids!) But you get the idea.

Bonus tip 4. Shop the deals

Even though I love walking downtown, visiting stores in person, and running a personal “inventory check” on the boutiques and artist CO-OPs, sometimes I just really need to purchase online. I’m not a professional online shopper by any means, but over the years I’ve developed a strange yet efficient online shopping routine that I’d love to share with you.

My favorite sites are:

  • – This is the perfect site for browsing for that special someone when I have no idea what to get them. I can sort by age, gender, interest, and special events. (Their My Little Pony collection is a personal favorite.) You do have to create an account to access the site, and they don’t accept any returns, but I’ve found the quality and prices to be unbeatable. And, for that pair of shoes I ordered that tried to squeeze off my pinky toe, ebay and poshmark fill in where zulily left off.
  • Hot Topic – specifically their clearance section. I love the variety of items they have. For a fangirl like me, this is the perfect site to browse in support of my fandoms. (Their Disney collection is great, but they need more Sword Art Online stuff!)
  • Etsy – when I have an idea, but no time or skill to make it come to life, I turn to the wonderful creators on Etsy. The variety of handmade goodies is amazing, and if I find something similar but not quite perfect, a quick message to the store owner usually turns into an original item even better than I imagined.
  • Amazon Smile – of course you know about amazon, but did you know that this year, your purchases could have twice the impact if you use It has all the same products you’ll find on amazon, but a portion of your purchase is donated to charity. Which means every purchase can make twice as many people smile. =)
  • I also subscribe to mailing lists for sites that I might return to when buying something for myself. Or, if my friend is a huge fan of them, I’ll subscribe and keep my eyes open for an amazing deal throughout the year.
  • BUT before making a purchase on any site anywhere, I always do a quick google search for coupons. Retail Me Not is one of the best. Their coupons are rated by other users and checked for whether they work or not.

All shopping aside, Christmas a time to show how much I care about the people who are there for me the other 11 months of the year, send a thoughtful letter to friends from years ago. It’s a time to be kinder to strangers, and join with Christians across the country as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday together.

Looking for some fun activities? Join me in this Christmas Activity to-do list, that I’ll be completing between classes this winter. My favorite is driving around to see all the Christmas lights. People are so creative!

Click to download the high quality PDF.

Meet the author
Founder - Art Director - Animator | Website

Book progressBucket list

Karianne is the founder of Windmill Ways. She plays the cello professionally and currently works as an Art Director for a charity. Because she loves animated shows and movies, she studies 3D animation and graduated with a BFA with the unfortunate class of 2020. Her dream vacation would be just staying home, but "home" being a glamorous cabin somewhere in the mountains surrounded by forest.

Favorite band: Lord Huron
Favorite book: This Present Darkness
Favorite quote: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)

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