How Americans Are Cutting Back This Holiday Season
Playing St. Nick? You may have to lose some weight
It’s no surprise that money is tight and nowhere does it seem tighter than when we slide into the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas trifecta that gives us little room to breathe. A recent Gallup poll projects that Americans plan to spend an average of $764 on Christmas gifts. But people from all walks of life (married couples, single women, etc.) are looking to celebrate more than just what’s under the tree.
Ayanna & Damion (Married couple with triplets)
Three years ago, Chicago resident Ayanna Fisher-Black went in for a routine ultrasound and got news that would change her life: three heartbeats. Ayanna and her husband Damion knew there would have to be some cutbacks. Ayanna quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom and they pinched their pennies to be able to provide for their little ones.
“It’s extremely strenuous raising triplets, both financially and emotionally,” Ayanna said. “There are more things to purchase and incorporate into our tight budget so we spend realistically knowing that we have to buy three of everything so literally every penny counts.”
In 2010, they had a “decent” Christmas. “We did not exchange lots of gifts because finances were tighter than prior years and we had to live after the holiday,” Ayanna said. “Our children were pretty young and weren't into the, ‘I want this, I want that’ stage yet so we were safe that Christmas.”
For this Christmas, Ayanna and her husband plan to get each kid at least one thing so that they still get to feel like an individual and the rest will be shared gifts. “My husband I probably won’t exchange gifts this year. But we are both comfortable in knowing the triplets will be gifted so that's a gift to us.”
But the material aspect of the season doesn’t mean much to Ayanna and her family. “The real meaning of the season is love,” she said. “It's always nice to see a box under the tree with your name on it, but I never focus on that, rather the gift of my family and loved ones.”
They’re taking it one step further and taking their children to a nursing home to visit a member of their church who is bed-ridden. “We feel even now at 3, they can begin to appreciate things that some may take for granted,” she said. “We want them to see that everyone doesn't wake up with the activity of all their limbs and that alone is something to be grateful for.”
Briana & Terrence (Married couple – no kids)
Christmas 2010 was a great one for Briana Myricks and her fiancé Terrence. They decided to chip in and buy a joint gift that they both were eyeing—a brand new iPad. Then they each bought gifts for their parents, siblings and cousins and enjoyed the rest of the holiday season. “I wasn't as concerned about what I was spending because I was employed full time and had the money,” she said.
Then in January, Briana was let go from her social media coordinator position. “I thought about the spending I did just a few weeks before—it was completely unnecessary!" She was in the midst of paying some major car repair bills and was planning the wedding of her dreams. They decided to scrap plans for the major wedding and instead just elope at the courthouse. They saved time and money, and even though money was still tight, Terrence still had his job.
Until he didn’t. Her husband got laid off from his position as a general laborer in September, leaving them with no steady income.
“This Christmas will definitely be different,” Briana said.
Instead of spending lots of money on gifts, they’re going to go a different route: homemade.
“We're probably going to opt for soup or maybe some cookies and a card,” she said.
In addition to the cutbacks, they’ve decided to be thankful for what they do have and they’re planning give back to struggling families.
“We plan on donating to a cause called LoveDrop,” she said. “I've always wanted to adopt a family, but this year we don't have the means to do so. With LoveDrop, I can donate $20 and feel as if I'm making a difference.”
Kellea (Single woman - no kids)
As an associate director in the alumni department of a mid-size university, Kellea Tibbs has a comfortable salary but is never above cutting a few corners to ensure her bank account stays stable until the holidays are over. She’s been cutting back over the years and has it down to a science.
“This year I have decided to only mail cards to immediate relatives,” she said. “Friends and any other people who end up sending me cards will get a New Year's greeting card. I took a couple of cardmaking classes, so I make my own.”
For her nieces she expresses no shame in her reliance on the $1 section at Target, for cute, kid-friendly items. She also gives magazine subscriptions to her teenage goddaughters for under $15 each. “Magazines provide the perfect gift for three reasons: It gets them reading, it keeps giving year round, and they are very economical!”
For her plans to give back, she’s recently signed up for automatic monthly donations to a few charities through her employer. “That way you don't see it and you don't miss it,” she said. “I plan to do more of that after the holidays so I know I'm giving year-round but I'm not going broke in the process.”
How You Can Save This Holiday Season:
- If you’re out and about and need to know whether you’re getting the best deal on your purchase, check out one of these comparison shopper apps.
- Looking for one-of-a-kind affordable gifts? All of these are under $20.
- Think outside the big box stores for a cartload of savings.
- Is your spouse serving in the armed forces? This organization will give you free holiday portraits.
- Food gifts (such as a cookie-in-a-jar) can be economical and whipped up in minutes. Here’s a tutorial to show you how.
- Instead of buying rolls and rolls of wrapping paper, take a cue from the big jolly man himself and buy a red velvet Santa sack. At less than $10 a pop, it’s more economical and can be used for many Christmases in a row.
- Rather than trying to give everyone a shiny new iPod for Christmas, why not buy a much more affordable jump drive (you can find them on sale for under $10) and preload it with music? They can play it on whatever device they happen to be hogging at the time.
- Last-minute online shopping can be costly with the added shipping costs to make sure it’s delivered in time. Visit sites like CouponCabin or RetailMeNot for coupon codes to bring down the cost.
- To keep the fun going all year long, consider making coupon books for the kids, with can’t-wait-cash-them-in items like “Invite 5 friends over for a pizza party sleepover” or “No chores for a week!” Saves you money and gives them something to look forward to.