I also only recommend baking, cooking or making your gifts if you have a talent. Nobody want your crazy craft crap for gifts because that is worse than not actually getting a gift! Don't be Ralph's aunt and make a pink bunny suit for someone for Christmas unless it is homage to A Christmas Story. Also remember that Christmas is not Mother's Day! One's friends and Family love you but not enough to be excited about a macaroni necklace because not everyone is one's mom! Plus when one is over 22 you cannot get away with that boho charm!
Last year my in laws and we were not able to go all out for Xmas. I recommended that we do a Secret Santa with gift cards of $25 and that we just have a really good pot-luck Christmas Dinner. It was good because we did not have to stress ourselves out nor did we have to go over budget. We just spent $50.00 plus whatever the cost for my appetizers and cookies that I made. For my family because I did not want to stand in line for shipping items I use the same budget I spent on my in laws for my family. I sent early around my dad's birthday (December 15) cookies before the long lines started at the post office. I told them to freeze them for Xmas or to share them at my dad's birthday. For my brothers I sent them gift certificates in the budget range to Amazon.com directly to their emails. I did not pay for shipping and I gave it to them before Cyber Monday and Black Friday incase they wanted to pick up something.
This year for my dad's birthday and for my family for Christmas I am sending them Legal Seafoods online. My dad loves Legal Seafood. He goes crazy over Lobster Mac and Cheese, and he loves Clam Chowder. I got 5% back by going through ebates. I also saved 20% because I found a promo code on Retail me or Not when I searched the internet. So I spent a good deal of money for just my dad's birthday but it was not bad since it is also my family's Christmas gift. I have five other people in my family and technically since it is my dad's christmas/birthday gift I can divide the total by 6. My gift is a good one because it is chance before Christmas for my my family to get together enjoy food that they love and it is an experience. Since I cannot be there to make my appetizers and cookies it is a way to do something nice for them. I also got a lot for my money. I got 1 gallon of clam chowder, 1 lbs of cooked shrimp cocktail, 2 orders of lobster mac and cheese, Bacon wrapped scallops, and dinner rolls. All my family needs to do is to get some drinks and dessert to round out the meal. The most expensive part of the gift was the shipping of the items to my parent's house. After the rebate the cost is $24.81 per person including the shipping. I normally try to do $25 a person so this was a good choice!
For my in laws I am making a lot of desserts and appetizers. The total is probably going to be about the same I spend on my own family. I am going to make good food with good ingredients. They also benefit from me being closer and I do bake quite frequently for them. I do not really make inexpensive cookies because I always use high quality chocolate and I always double the amount of chocolate. Then at the end of the Christmas dinner I will divide what is left of the dessert and give it to all the families that come to the dinner. It will be less stressful for me and I can just enjoy the Christmas season. I could a couple days before make and freeze some cookies. That way on Christmas I just have to assemble the appetizers, I can wake up later and I could get in some exercise before the big feast!
I have a great married couple as friends that really do it right. They have a modest house in RI and the wife is able to stay at home with the kids. But they have a great garden, bee hive, and the wife makes Martha Stewart look like a chump.
This family tries to make holidays/events be about experiences not spending a ton of money. For a lot of people that would make them upset to hear that they were described this way but not my friends! So when my friend makes gifts it is not like an insult to get them because they are awesome! It is often BETTER than getting them in the store. She sends us cookies (amazing ones) and honey. She makes her kids clothing and blankets etc.
I am not sure how she does Christmas with the kids but she keeps their commercialism in check year round. Her kids are more realistic about Christmas than most kids, she limits how many toys she buys and also they play with toys that my friends saved from their childhood that are in good condition. She works hard to make her kids be grateful for what they have, be exposed to great food, she makes them wonderful creative things, the kids help create things and they try to have fun on the cheap. Her kids as a result have an amazing creative streak and are very imaginative! She does not tell them to be grateful for what they have but rather she just lets them have a great time with what they have. Totally fun version of "waste not want not!" It is not about how she got the expensive Princess party set nor is it about her spending hours making things like a sweat shop.
If one has kids that are three or under I don't recommend really getting much because they won't remember it. It is crazy what people give/get a one year old for their birthday! One could just wrap up a box, do a smash cake and they would be happy! The same thing applies for Christmas!
Giuliana Rancic from E! admitted on the air that she has 24 strollers the other day! People say oh that is crazy! Well it is! On the flip side I have been to one year old birthdays that were gifted so many things that the kid cannot wear fast enough to get use out of them. Also how many over sized stuffed animals does a kid need? A great gift would be a bond or a grocery store card so the parents can get formula/diapers and baby food. That is not glamorous I admit but if the kid won't remember how expensive your gift is and it is a waste. You should get something for the parent's. If one is close by and have experience with kids gift the parent's a night out with babysitting provided by oneself!
I do not really suggest saving by using Black Friday Sales because one has to wake up early and fight in crowded stores. If one is one of those people try to focus just on getting those must have items and not get distracted by other "crap you don't need but is a good sale." A safer bet is online Cyber Monday sales which one can do safely from home. One can save the desired items in a cart before the sales. Monday sign in and the must haves will be in one's shopping cart perhaps on sale. Then one will not be tempted to look elsewhere on the site and overspend. So just peek to see if the most have items are on sale then if they are purchase them.
If I do purchase items on Cyber Monday I make sure it is actually a good deal. I always try to go through Ebates first so that I can save a percentage on top of that. Also if do a web search for that website for promo codes which can help save you even more. I never purchase anything online without doing a quick web search for Promo codes. Plus don't shop online on Black Friday because most often the best sales online are actually on Monday for their Cyber Monday sales. I made that mistake a couple of times but I have learned my lesson!
So to summarize you should focus less on spending money and more on spending quality time with your friends and family during the Christmas Season. Take this need to budget and see how actually freeing it is because one no longer has to have Christmas arm race! One can instead let people fight over a slightly irregular Christmas toy or sweater while you sit by the fire with hot cocoa! Try to balance between the Radio City Christmas and Stark Christmas. Spend less time stressing about things that you hate doing and spend more time feeling relaxed but on budget! If you are caught off guard this year maybe start a Christmas fund for Christmas fun next year but don't focus on wants but rather higher quality needs!