Given that Shane was off work 3 weeks with Audrey's birth and the complications that followed (most of this was paid leave, but his security work is contract labor, so there is no sick/vacation time), we needed to tighten our thrift store belts this year. Here's how we did it:
I wasn't the hostess with the mostest at our two little Christmas parties we held in our home. I held back on making extra dishes and playing games that required prizes.
We were upfront about our need to trim the list down. We went straight up and straight down the family tree as far as gift giving was concerned. That means we skipped a lot of our siblings, cousins and aunts/uncles. In early December I talked to my brothers and we all agreed, with much relief, not to buy for each other. We only bought for a small handful of friends and except for a batch of Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve for the jailers, we skipped the coworker gifts for Shane.
We skipped a lot of treats for the house. We didn't buy new lights (although I did buy $5 worth of poinsettias that I promptly froze to death-they live on the North Pole in Frosty, why not in a Texas cold snap?). We kept our edible treats simple-hot chocolate, homemade sugar cookies, homemade cheese ball, and one try at a family recipe for date loaf.
We downsized our Christmas card list. Few locals got the 8 cent picture card. We did a letter here on the blog.
I bought ONE roll of gift wrap. I used it on all our gifts, which looked nice under the tree. Since I used most of it, I'll use a different roll next year (already bought on clearance). I think I like this better than keeping several rolls around for years (they never go away and I get so sick of the same smiling Santa with a soft drink).
As always, we kept our gifts simple and buy on sale as often as we can. I shop online anyway, but I think this saves money since I'm not using gas to drive out of town, not eating out, and not running into much else I just have to have.
I am starting this year (as I always plan to, but always fail to) to plan out gifts for next year. I bought a few things heavily discounted for gift giving during the year or Christmas. If I buy just one thing a month, I'll have accomplished much by next Christmas. (Just a note: I've realized that buying odds & ends without a person in mind as a recipient almost always backfires. For now on, if I can't know who I'll give it to, I'm not buying it, even if it's 75% off. Otherwise, it just sits in my gift drawer.)
I know we aren't the only ones feeling the crunch, so how did you keep those December costs down? If you didn't have this issue, let me just give you my address so you can mail me a benevolent check :)