person giving a gift box
Christian Living, Intentional, Money

3 ways to rein in that Christmas budget

Americans spend approximately $1,000 on Christmas each year.
 
41% of Americans are willing to take on debt due to gift shopping.
 
In 2019, 56.3% of Americans set a Christmas budget, yet only 64% actually stuck to it.
 
$15.2 billion is the estimated total of unwanted presents.

A number of years ago, as a family, we took a closer look at how we were spending our money. More specifically, we reigned in the spending and looked at ways that we could be more intentional with where our money went. We held firm to the belief that the money we had was on loan from God and we were called to be good stewards with what He has entrusted to us.
 
The process was not flawless and even today I can’t admit to being 100% intentional with my spending all the time. 
 
But, one area that we made an intentional focus with, and have stuck with it, was our Christmas spending budget. It can be so easy to overspend for the holidays. There always seems to be one more gift to purchase. Inevitably we end up buying gifts that we are unsure about simply because we feel like we need to. What results is frivolous over spending.
 
With Christmas just around the corner, (and some already starting their shopping for it!), the following are 3 ways that we can be intentional with our Christmas spending this year:

close up shot of two people holding a wrapped gift with a ribbon
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Create a budget. Be specific on who and how much. Then stick to it. I have created a simple excel budget sheet, available below, that will visually show you how much you have to spend and how much you have left – just plug in your numbers!
 
If it was good for the wise men… When it comes to purchasing gifts for your kids, stick to the number 3. Years ago we implemented: 1 need, 1 want, 1 book. It forces us to get creative but also gives a parameter to keep spending and consumerism in line.
 
Purchase gifts that give back. When you’re at a loss on what to spend, look for companies and items that do more with your purchases. Do they give a portion of each sale to mission work? Does your purchase support a small, local business? Often these gifts carry more meaning when the recipient knows the gift goes just beyond them.

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As we are entering the “season of giving,” let’s consider these words from “God and Money.” This book was paramount in our pursuit of spending less on ourselves so that we could give more to others.

 
“Intentional and regular practices of generosity have been associated with the release of a slew of good chemicals, including oxytocin, dopamine, and various endorphins. These chemicals are the same ones released after a hard workout or after a particularly pleasurable experience…. Giving, it turns out, lifts up the human health as much as aspirin protects the heart. Giving even activates the same portion of the brain that lights up when you get a raise. You may not be able to control when you get a raise, but you can feel just as good simply by engaging in regular, consistent generosity.

Gregory Baumer and John Cortines

photo of vegetable salad in bowls
Anxiety, Encouragement, Intentional, Money

Is it time to address that grocery budget?

A 2-step plan to tackle anxiety

A few years ago, ‘the grocery store,’ would not have been a place that I would have named as one that caused me anxiety.

At one point in time, in order to save-more-to-give-more, we kept ourselves at a weekly grocery budget of $50 – for a family of 5. We had to get pretty creative, but there was always enough food to eat. And trying to make it all work out was more of a fun game than stressful.

assorted vegetable lot
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But the conditions of the last few years has made that $50 goal a distant memory. For one, our 3 children are no longer elementary kids with sizable appetites, they are 3 teenagers with bottomless pits. And I don’t have to tell you about the rising food prices.

Lately, as I walk the aisles of the store, I can feel the anxiety creep in. Between an entire type of food no longer being available (yogurt?!) or some things causing twice as much as they used to (potatoes?!) I start to feel the cloud of doom and gloom and wonder how we’re going to make this all work.


One morning in the grocery store, as my panic started to rise, I stood still in the cereal aisle. My heart and mind needed a reboot. So, I stood there and prayed silently to God. Asking Him to calm my anxious heart and to also remind me that He is the provider of all things – back when we paid $50 and even now when we have to pick and choose what to get to make it all fit in the budget.

I have found, when it comes to anxiety, that being still and being active go hand in hand. First, we need to make ourselves ‘be still’ because it’s the exact opposite of what our body feels like it should do. But being still and remembering our God is in control is paramount. Once we have centered our mind on this thought, then we can move forward with the doing, the ‘being active.’

The same is the case when it comes to our money. Maybe you, too, feel the anxiety when it comes to your money and the food budget. When I feel the anxiety rising, I tackle it with the “be still and be active” approach.

fruits on glass top display counter
Photo by Carlo Martin Alcordo on Pexels.com

  1. Be still. Remind yourself that God is the provider. There is an old hymn we sing at church, some of the lines include, “This one thing assures us, whatever betide, the heart cheering promise, the Lord will provide.” Whether it’s scripture or song lyrics, have a line that you can repeat to yourself when you start to feel anxious about the grocery budget. Force yourself to be still, remember the promise that God will provide, and thank Him for the provision He has already provided.
  2. Be active. Make a menu. This one is actually hard for me. I would prefer to just cook off what I feel for that day. But, to really stick with a budget and not over-buy, creating a weekly dinner menu is crucial. Often I have themes for different days of the week to help me when I’m not feel creative (which is more often than not!) Meatless Monday, Sandwich Wednesday, and Noodle Thursday are just a few.
  3. Be active. Stick to the plan. No matter how great the deal is, if it’s not on your list, don’t get it. If you feel like you absolutely have to, then swap out for something else on the list.
  4. Be active. Go meatless. No, you don’t need to be a vegetarian! But, one night a week, cook with beans or some other protein instead. Just one night a week will help whittle the expenses down. When you do cook with meat, cut the amount in half. Throw half the sausage in your marinara and put the other half in the freezer for the next week. You’ll still get the flavor and help stretch the food further.
  5. Be still. Respond in gratitude. Once the groceries are loaded, before you even turn on your car, be still and thank God. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father (James 1:17), including the milk and eggs. Stop and respond in gratitude, acknowledging your Provider and rejoicing in His goodness.

Your turn! I’d love to hear your tricks and tips for helping your food costs go further. How do you handle the anxiety that comes with budgeting?