7 Ways to enjoy a frugal Christmas: How to be merry without overspending

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“Pasko nanaman!  O, kay tulin ng araw!” —The kids in your neighborhood will be singing to this tune soon.  Are you ready to spend the holidays without breaking the bank?

Filipinos have a long tradition of extravagant Christmas and New Year celebrations.  If there was any way you could survive the festivities without going over budget, it’ll have to mean breaking free from this tradition, like it or not.

How to celebrate the holidays on a budget

Filipino Christmas traditions keep the spirit of the festive season alive and echoing to this day, from September and well into January of the following year.  However, for more practical reasons, it may be good to tame your appetite for expensive merrymaking activities that have become synonymous, almost a requirement, during this season.

These 7 tips will help your break free from overspending (yet again) this season:

Tip No. 1: Do your holiday shopping when everybody else is doing something else.  It’s so easy to get into the holiday rush when you see other people carrying around huge paper bags with gift tags on them.  Moreover, the disappointing service and long lines can easily drive you to buy stuff mindlessly just to get your shopping errands over and done with (“Para matapos na” or “Bahala na si Batman” mentality).

Decide to do your holiday shopping on a weekday when most other people are at work.  The sales people will be more relaxed and you will have more patience ticking off items on your shopping list without having to settle for something too expensive or of low quality.

Tip No. 2: Start giving less to people who have more, and more to those who have less.  Admit it.  You’ve probably been gift wrapping the most expensive items for your boss in the past 10 years or so.  I know you must do because I used to.  Eventually, I realized that I was doing it all wrong.  Your boss has enough money in his pocket to buy himself whatever it is you can afford to wrap therefore, a token should be fine.  I got my expat boss a bag tag once and he was very appreciative because the one he had on his luggage was broken — don’t these tags always get broken in the airport anyway?  There was nothing flashy I could have given him that he didn’t already own.

Tip No. 3: Sometimes the best gifts are the ones made by your own hands.  People will love to receive something they won’t be able to buy anywhere or something that was made specially for them.  If you have the talent for drawing or crafting or any skill you can use to create then, good for you.  But, if not, you may want to consider asking an artist to make you a customized gift for a loved one.  In most cases, the budget is practically zero!

Tip No. 4: Decorate all over.  Spread holiday cheer in your home by creating a holiday ambiance.  Pull out old boxes bearing old Christmas decors.  Wash, wipe and clean and they should be good as new. You only got one goal when decorating for the holidays: make your surroundings feel festive and that, in no way, requires it to be expensive.

Tip No. 5:  Be selective when shopping.  Most Filipinos, from the middle class and up at least, have been brought up in an impractical practice of celebrating Christmas eve and New Year’s eve with two sets of different outfits.  While you may have the extra cash to spend (thanks to the 13th month statutory pay), you may want to rethink where you’d rather allocate that unusual, irregular source of income.

Before going on a shopping spree, go through your and your family members’ stuff first.  You may find old pieces that you can either embellish or repair to update the look.  You may also want to rethink your clothing ensemble.  Who knows? All you probably need is a new combination put together from your old outfits and everything should look as if you’ve never worn those clothes before.

Tip No. 6:  Save before you spend.  Saving only what’s left after you’ve shopped is not the best way to put money in the bank.  This financial philosophy holds true even in months when your bank account is not unusually bloated by bonuses.  Saving first forces you to work on a budget that you’ve set aside, and if you convert your account to passbook only, it shouldn’t be too easy for you to withdraw additional money from the bank just to buy a designer handbag.  Of course, you can splurge but only when you don’t have better use for the extra cash.

Tip No. 7: Remind yourself of the deeper meaning of Christmas.  Gather around your family and friends.  Celebrate Noche Buena and Media Noche — this year, try to celebrate with just the right amount of food on the table to feed your family with no to very little leftover.  Gifts are almost expected by children in the family. Feel free to wrap them simple gifts you know they will love to have but, more importantly, don’t forget to tell them about the story of the first Christmas.

Surround yourself with good people this season.  Spread these 7 tips to your loved ones too so that they can also cut their ties with the commercialization of Christmas and New Year.  Breakout and you should find and feel the true meaning of the holidays this year.

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