We spent $104.17 on Christmas this year. Yes indeed, yet again we’ve managed to frugalize what is possibly the most consumeristic holiday of the entire year. Mr. Frugalwoods and I routinely disappoint retailers and let down the economy, but it’s particularly egregious during this season of revelry. Basically, we’re a menace.
But, despite this meagre amount, we’re not skimping on the mistletoe or giving used dental floss as gifts. Nope and nope. We’re having a lovely Christmas while still meeting our 65%-85% savings rate.
I don’t share this to brag. I share this because many people don’t even consider it possible to have a happy, thrifty holiday without maxing out budgets and stress levels. With the spending hangovers and debt that people wake up to in January reaching record levels, I just want to share that there’s another way. It is possible to enjoy life the frugal way.
Here’s How We Celebrate A Merry Thrifty Christmas:
1) With Every Christmas Card I Write: $62.17
I’ll start with the one thing we actually did spend legit money on other than food: our Christmas postcards! I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that we love taking photos and sending out photo cards every year (yes we are those tacky people whose faces show up in your mailbox). Despite our ultra frugal, hipster tendencies we’ve always enjoyed sending out cards–I never said we fit into a stereotype, folks.
The cheapest way to send anything through US mail? Via postcard. The stamps are a mere $0.34 each (vs. $0.49 for regular stamps). Plus, postcards are smaller so they’re less expensive than regular cards and don’t require envelopes–yet another money saver. I always use Vistaprint to design our cards and, here’s my trick: I select a business postcard template and simply delete all of the “business-related” text like “on sale now!” (though that actually might be appropriate for us…).
For some reason, the business postcards are a fraction of the price of regular old “holiday” cards. No one will be able to tell (except for everyone who just read this). I uploaded our smiling faces to Vistaprint and popped ’em into the spot on the card where you were supposed to list your business info (see our actual card, with a few Frugalwoods modifications, above).
The cards cost a cool $18.18 for 100 and the shipping was another $9.99 (dang shipping!). 100 postcard stamps rang up at $34 for a grande totale of $62.17. Not too shabby for full-color front and back photo cards!
2) Meeting Smile After Smile: $0
We like to have a Christmas photo taken every year, but we’ve certainly never paid anyone to snap it for us. Our trusty trash tripod works like a charm. Mr. FW sets it up in front of the Christmas tree and programs our camera to take 5 photos in a row. Our strategy is to repeat that process until we have a few decent shots. I then edit the photos in iPhoto and voila: A Very Frugalwoods Christmas. Self-photography for the win.
3) Here Comes Santa Claus: $0
No need to pay for a visit to Santa! We have our own Santa Paws ready and willing to let you sit on her lap and tell her your Christmas wishes:
4) I’ll Be Home For Christmas: $0
As I shared in my first Woot & Grumble of the month, we don’t travel for the actual Christmas week. Instead, we save major bank by flying during the cheapest travel month of the year: our buddy January. Mr. FW and I’ll be flying from Boston to San Diego for a sweet $216/person round-trip as opposed to the exorbitant prices advertised for Christmastime. So we’ll have a cozy husband, wife, and hound holiday here at Frugalwoods HQ.
5) Oh Christmas Tree: $0
Mr. Frugalwoods and I decked our frugal halls for free since we have artificial decor that we re-use every single year. The start-up cost for our festive tidings wasn’t free, but, we combined our purchases with hand-me-downs from family for an overall reasonable price. We’re on our sixth year with our decor and hopefully we’ll be using it for many years to come!
6) Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: $0
Didn’t have to hire a reindeer re-enactor here. Frugal Hound suffices with her antler headband (bonus is that she seriously looks like a deer):
7) Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding: $40
There are no store-bought cookies or cakes in this house. Since we’re not hosting anyone for Christmas, our grocery costs are nearly on par with our normal expenses. There are a few exceptions since we’re cooking several special Christmas dishes traditional to our families: shoo fly pie, breakfast casserole, and sugar cookies. We also procured a bit of chicken from Costco in order to make Chicken Spiedini–a recipe from one of my best friends. It has become something of our traditional Christmas meal and, as we rarely buy meat, that was definitely a higher expense on our bill for the month. I estimate we spent $40 above our normal frugal grocery expenses.
8) We Are Santa’s Elves: $0
I really don’t have anything clever to say here, I just wanted an excuse to show you this amazing photo from last year’s Christmas card of Frugal Hound in her little elf hat. She looks mad because the elastic was a little tight on her big ol’ hound head (don’t worry, she was only wearing it for a minute):
9) On The First Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me: $0
Yep, you read that right. We spent $0 on gifts this year. And no we’re not Scrooge McFrugalwoods! We gave gifts to all of our family members–we just happened to buy them all through Amazon using our Amazon.com cash back rewards points. Our Amazon Visa card accrues points for free Amazon merchandise every time we use it. Since we concentrate most of our spending on this card (the only other credit card we have is the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest) we’re able to reap significant rewards. This is why I strongly advocate using credit cards IF you can spend judiciously and stay out of debt. We pay our balance off in full every single month and absolutely clean up with rewards points. Free Christmas gifts, people. Free.
P.S. Family, I know you’re probably reading this and I hope you are OK with your free gifts 🙂
10) Santa Paws IS Coming To Town: $2
Frugal Hound is on the “nice” list this year, per usual, and will receive a squeaky pterodactyl toy we bought for $2 at Ocean State Job Lot (a store even tackier than Wal-Mart in case you were wondering). We also have it on good authority that her paternal grandparents sent this gigantic stuffed toucan for her hound delight (affiliate link). She’ll also receive a few bits of chicken on Christmas… hound heaven.
11) Gosh Your Lips Look Delicious: $0
Mr. Frugalwoods and I aren’t exchanging any gifts this year, only love. Our preference is to save the money and put it towards a future weekend trip together–perhaps up to Vermont for more homestead hunting and hiking. I think skipping gifts is a wonderful route to take in a mature relationship. You know you love each other, you invest in your relationship on a regular basis, and trinkets are meaningless at this point.
We’ve exchanged gifts in the past, and we might again in the future, but this year with our homestead goal so close at hand, we just want to plow every extra dollar into savings. And we’re not the only frugal folks who adhere to this policy–John at Frugal Rules isn’t exchanging gifts with his wife either.
I encourage this approach with the caveat that it’s something both people need to agree on and feel good about. It should be a decision that’s thoroughly discussed and made mutually. And, if you do agree on no gifts with your honey, don’t be a jerk and give them a gift anyway. They’ll feel like reindeer poop since they adhered to the agreement and you’ll feel awkward for breaking their trust.
Mr. FW and I are staunch believers in the concept that everything in life can be done frugally. There are prevailing cultural beliefs that you have to spend a lot in order to celebrate a lot, and I don’t buy that. It’s just not true. I hope you have a wonderfully festive, frugal, and loving holiday season with your family!