When you understand that Jesus is the main reason we celebrate Christmas, those time-honored traditions don't seem as important.
Christmas is most often spent with family. This may require some families to travel for the holidays. With skyrocketing gas prices and food costs, this may pose a difficult task for struggling families looking to make ends meet. As we have learned after surviving a global pandemic, it is more important now than ever to spend time with those you love. We may not always have our loved ones around us, so we must make the most of the time we have with them. However, with these rising costs, it may be tempting for families to stay home rather than travel.
But there's hope. Although our budgets may be tighter, it is not impossible for us to see our loved ones for Christmas. By following the steps below, it might allow you to loosen your belt a little bit so you can enjoy the season with a little more money in your wallet and a little more love in your heart.
Here are five ways to travel on a budget this Christmas:
1. Budget Early
Although buying Christmas presents for those you love may be a strain on your wallet, there are still a few weeks left before December 25th. If your budget allows, put aside a little bit out of each paycheck to cover travel costs. $25 to $30 a week can mean a tank of gas for a struggling family. By doing this for the next four weeks, you may have enough to cover your costs. For those who need to fly, airlines sometimes run special deals on plane tickets. Take advantage of those deals when you can. To cut additional costs, consider taking only necessary or immediate family members when you travel. Although it is nice to have everyone altogether, a beloved guest who is not a part of the immediate family may want to consider traveling alone to cut down on costs.
2. Skimp on Gifts
Although you may want to give people on your Christmas list the perfect gift you've always wanted, take a moment to consider the real reason for this season. Does your budget have to be stretched that much to get them a great gift? Are there other ways to still give a good gift and cut your Christmas budget to make room for travel costs? Although you may want to get the perfect gift for your children or grandchildren, ask the adults involved if you can skip giving them a gift this year. Christmas is more special for the kids than the adults. By investing a bit more money into a great gift for children or grandchildren, you can use the money you would have spent buying for adults to cover your travel costs. The worst New Year's goal you can make is to start off the new year by having to pay off travel debt from the previous year. By becoming a bit more creative with your gift-giving or limiting the number of people you give gifts to, you may have enough savings left over to travel and spend a great holiday with loved ones for little or no cost, and being thrifty is a gift that keeps on giving.
3. Opt for Plastic
Instead of getting a brand-new real tree that will only die in a month, can you opt for a plastic tree and artificial tree instead or skip the tree altogether? There are wonderful tabletop trees that are smaller in size but still will commemorate the holiday season. They have enough branches to adorn your treasured ornaments but are much less hassle to purchase, set up, and decorate, not to mention the maintenance of cleaning needles, watering them, and then disposing of them in the new year. An artificial tree may not feel like you're celebrating the holiday as you would if you have a real tree (if you're used to having real trees) by having something you can use year-round, you can save the extra $100 to $200 and use it toward spending it with loved ones instead.
4. Clean Out Your Freezer
It will be a stretch but consider skimping on groceries until December 25th. Take a sheet of paper and write down everything you currently have in your freezer. Make a meal plan out of your already existing groceries. Do what you can to use up what you have, and make a goal to empty your freezer by the week of Christmas. If you're traveling for a long period of time, you won't be using a ton of food anyway. Use that money for your flight or gas costs and use up your existing food before it perishes. You will not only be doing the environment a favor by not wasting food, but you will easily find grocery shopping doesn't have to be a priority each week. By buying only what you need, you may find your grocery costs cut down considerably.
5. Buy Inexpensive Christmas Cards
One of many people's cherished traditions is to send Christmas cards to friends and family. It demonstrates your appreciation of your family and also can highlight what has been going on with your family for the past year. Although having a customized Christmas card made with your family's photo is nice to send to your loved ones, it can be quite costly. Consider buying Christmas cards in bulk for a much cheaper price. You can still send an attached note, either handwritten or typed, highlighting the year's events. Or you can simply write a Christmas letter, type it up, and put it in envelopes. Although stamps and shipping are pricey, having a customized photo made by Photoshop can place undue and unnecessary costs on your budget. You may be able to save $50 to $100 this way.
Additionally, go through your Christmas list. Make a note of how many people returned the favor by sending you a Christmas card. Is there a way you can cut down on your Christmas card-sending list? Although the point is not to send one to get one, it is a good way to cut costs when you only give to those who give one back to you. Take the money you saved on Christmas cards and put it towards your travel costs. This will pay off dividends to you as you will be able to spend time with those who you are closest to but still participate in the honored tradition of sending Christmas cards to those to whom you receive a response.
Although Christmas can be expensive, there are ways to limit your budget, even if it feels impossible. By taking a hard look at what you need to spend versus what you're used to spending, you may find you can trim your budget by forgoing some of the more expensive traditions. When you understand that Jesus is the main reason we celebrate Christmas, those time-honored traditions don't seem as important. Participating in only those areas where you can express your love and appreciation for those closest to you, and by forgoing friends and family whom you were once close to but now seem a bit more distant, it will help give you a surplus at the end of the year. It may also give you a peaceful heart as you cut down on the stress associated with the season and can focus your energy on those efforts that yield you the connection and intimacy you desire from the relationships in your life.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.