For the last few years, I've taken my own holiday budgeting advice to extremes. I haven't even sent holiday cards.
Not all of my efforts were driven by frugality. I had come to dread the material spiral I'd get sucked into with every other crazed American, it seemed.
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So imagine my surprise when the holiday spirit returned, full force, as I was sitting on the floor of a cooperative run by artists in my area, while my son played with a small wooden train set.
Around me were handmade pillows, jewelry, sweaters, paperweights... Many of them under $20, some under $10.
A surge of affection washed away the holiday pressure. I wanted to give the people I loved a treat to celebrate the end of a hard and wonderful year together. It didn't have to cost a mint.
I borrowed a pen and a piece of paper. I made a new, longer list. I tried to squeeze my shopping list into the $167 in my gifts account. I failed.
"Use your credit card," my inner spender whispered. "We'll pay it back in January, I swear!"
I gave her a dope slap: CASH ONLY! I growled. And went home to log onto ING. Voila! I was able to skim a little from "House improvements" and a little from "Vacation."
Then I had an idea. I put my expanded list into a folder and labeled it Christmas Spending. I'll stash receipts as I go—and seed a more realistic holiday budget for next year.
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