“I’m On A Budget!” (Or: How To Survive The Holiday Season)

By Anne T. Donahue

Here’s the thing: if you’re swimming in dollars, know that I respect your journey but most importantly, this isn’t for you. (But feel free to buy me a gift.)

For many of us, money is tight. And while the holidays can be a source of joy, they can also be inherently stressful when it comes to spending. But not this year; no, this holiday season I have sworn to myself and to all concerned parties that I will make it through Christmas and be able to pay my bills. So from me to you, here’s a spend-friendly guide.

Or, ways to survive the holidays when apples cost more than a small home.

Gift-free friend-mas

In my late teens and twenties, my friends and I spent upwards of $50 per person which is horrifying and egregious because we should have saved that money for gas and groceries in our thirties. Do you know which friends you should really buy for? I don’t know, because since the late 2010s my friends and I have a hard and fast rule that gifts are not needed, not expected, and certainly not a reality. Over the years my friends have accepted the truth about me: I am terrible at buying presents, and I will probably not buy anybody a present, but we can go for dinner instead, or they can just come over and be force-fed chips.

The thing is, your pals are your pals and you should never feel indebted to each other. That’s not the way friendship works! Friends you can’t say, “I’m on a budget this year, I’m sorry!” to are not people you want sticking around anyway, and every time I’ve told somebody I’m not doing presents, I’ve never been met with anything but “Oh thank God.” This is real life! No relationships should hinge on whether or not you’re getting someone a gift card.

Second-hand tray-sures

But maybe gift-giving is your love language. That is absolutely the case for one of my best friends, who gives the greatest gifts because she’s a treasure hunter and picks up things over the course of the year like a freak. (I love her.) Enter: thrift stores, charity shops, estate sales, and the fast-track to personal and affordable presents.

I love a care package. And more than box full of brand new things bought from a regular store, I love a care package brimming with little personal items that scream “These made me think of you!” Stickers! An old postcard! A CD or cassette! A pin! Socks! (Those maybe buy new.) Nothing in the world means more than the feeling that somebody really knows you. And usually, that feeling costs barely anything, and lasts way longer than a bougie 48-hour candle.

Plus, you’ll be able to shop without feeling bad about it, you’re welcome.

Time over money, baby

I know that December is magical, but one of the biggest holiday letdowns is that it’s all over by January and then we begin our long, harrowing descent into SAD.

So how about this: instead of cramming the hangs, dinners, and various traditions into a month renowned for inciting meltdowns, reschedule the holidays and move them to January. To February. To March! What is time? It’s not real! It’s possible to celebrate the glory of Christmas at some point in the next few months by doing a walk-and-talk or “come over and let’s watch old episodes of The Hills and make fun of their clothes” instead of giving into the pressure of “IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!”

It’s the holidays when I say (and/or when you decide). And lounging on the couch on some random Tuesday evening in January is not only better than most Christmas parties, it’s also free.

$10 DIY buffet

Or maybe you’re really married to the idea of Christmas-at-Christmas, surrounded by the people you love. Good for you! (That sounded condescending, but it isn’t.) That’s when the old-fashioned potluck comes in, but with one important caveat: every dish needs to clock in at less than $10.

“But Anne! You’ve gone mad!” Oh, absolutely. But considering a small pack of scallops is no less than $18 (which, like, pardon?), asking anybody to bring anything is a big request. So keep it cheap, simple, and gloriously wonderful: everybody brings a snack, the snack must cost less than $10 (ingredients for homemade snacks included), and you all eat your weight in carbs and sweets, laughing over sparkling water (me) and $9 wine (you), content that you will not have to forego vegetables over the winter to offset the costs of Christmas.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, top story, topstory

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