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Ellie Kay is a best-selling author, a frequent media guest on Fox News, CNN, and CNBC and a commentator for “Money Matters” radio show. 
 
For her free newsletter and money savings links, go to www.elliekay.com   

 
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Christmas Shopping Tips

By Ellie Kay
Financial Columnist and Book Author

CBNMoney.comBefore I had children, I once watched a very indulged little four-year-old boy open so many Christmas presents that he finally declared, “I’m tired of this, I’m going to go outside and play.”  He still had about twenty packages to open!  I vowed that one day, when I had children of my own, we would stress the real meaning of the holiday and never let our kids think Christmas was all about them.  It’s been a challenge, but I think we’ve managed to keep that focus.

The average family will charge enough debt at Christmas, that it will take until the following May to pay off the bill.  There is a better, cheaper way for busy families to run through the holidays in a way that doesn't break their budget.  Here are a few practical tips that will help:
 
Pray – The holiday pace can be so frenetic that it’s rare to think about praying for God’s provision for holiday gifts.  But when we do, it’s amazing how God delights in providing just what we need when we need it.  For example, last year, the kids wanted a Playstationâ for Christmas, but we were determined that we wouldn’t go over budget with this additional gift, so we prayed for God to provide one.  Sure enough, the day after Thanksgiving, there was an earlybird sale and this name-brand game system was half-price!  Here are the three main benefits of prayer in regards to our gift-giving:

  • Our faith is increased as God answers specific prayer.
  • Our children watch and learn how to trust God’s provision.
  • We experience the financial freedom of staying on budget.

Three Gifts -  My hubby and I had five babies in the first seven years of marriage and moved eleven times in thirteen years.  We had a hard time in those early years and I cross-stitched a wall hanging that said:  “Blessed are the poor, for they be us.”

That’s when we came up with the “three gift rule.”  We decided to model our gift-giving after the three gifts brought to the Christ child.  We couldn’t afford the equivalent of gold, frankincense and myrrh but we could choose to limit our gifts to three simple, yet nice presents per child. 

Even though God has blessed us financially in recent years, we still hold to our Kay family tradition of the three gift rule.  Much to our surprise, we found these additional benefits from this gift-giving standard:

  • The children know what to expect and it keeps the focus on Christ.
  • It makes the children think about the gifts they really want, rather than listing everything they see from the latest commercial.
  • Our holiday gifts are paid for in December, rather than the following May.
  • It simplifies holiday stress.

Buy Early or Year Round –Here are some tips to keep in mind when you shop:

  • Specific - Set aside a specific “cash” budget--don’t use credit cards unless you know you can pay them at the month’s end.
  • Strategize –  Decide which gifts you’ll purchase and match them with sale ads.  Check off the items on your list and make note of any special limitations (i.e. ‘price only effective for three hours, limit two scooters per person, etc.).  Prioritize the stores you’ll shop according to limitations and values.
  • Split-it! – Follow the old “divide and conquer” rule when shopping by going with a friend or your spouse.  If there are multiple purchase discounts, you can split it and take advantage.  You might also have a “two for one” special and share the savings. 
  • Stick to Your Guns! – Be aware that you may be tempted to keep buying even when you’ve already conquered your list.  Marketers are good at placing irresistible bargains eye catching places.  Remember the main rule of the shopping season:  You can go broke saving money.  The sound of nostalgic Christmas carols playing in the store could put you in a catatonic purchasing trance.
  • Steal It! – Be sure to save some money in your budget for the after-Christmas sales.  You can oftentimes get non-perishable gifts for next year’s teacher and Sunday school list at anywhere from 50% to 75% off retail.  Four years ago, I bought Christmas gift bags at Hobby Lobby for 90% off!  I spent $20 and got 150 gift bags in assorted sizes—I’m still using them.  Now that’s a steal!

When your children are grown, they’ll likely forget the majority of holiday gifts they received this year. But they will always remember the traditions of Christmas and the emphasis in your home during the season.  Since financial stressors at the number one source of arguments in most homes, getting on a holiday budget makes sense.  It’s also a practical way to keep the focus on the gift God gave because of His great love for us.


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