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You Asked: How Can I Afford Christmas This Year?

Dear Sugar,

I'm the oldest of four children and am currently living at home with my parents to save money, get out of debt and get back on my feet. I'm on a budget and suggested a spending limit on sibling gifts this year. It's not that I'm trying to be a Scrooge, but there is only so much I can realistically spend on each person on my list without going into more debt. I suggested a limit of $20 to $30 and was shot down by all my siblings. I would be happy to receive a new sweater or a gift card somewhere, nothing extravagant, but my siblings seem to think otherwise. One sister even went as far to say that she "wasn't flying home to get a $20 Christmas gift" (she is currently making nearly double my salary). Aside from now wanting to give her $40 worth of coal for Christmas, I don't know what to do.

While I don't want to look like the cheap one at Christmas, I don't want to put myself in an uncomfortable financial situation either. Do you have any suggestions? I want to get something nice for my family without getting dirty looks under the Christmas tree. — The Responsible One Olivia

To see DearSugar's answer

Dear The Responsible One Olivia,

I commend you for being realistic about your holiday gifts, and rest assured Olivia, you're not the only one having to cut back this year. With that said, it sounds like your sisters just don't understand the predicament you're in. I highly advise you not to give into their pressure; stick to your budget regardless of the looks you might get on Christmas day.

There are many ways you can do nice things for your family on the cheap. Write them a heartfelt card, give them something of yours that they've always wanted, or make some edible gifts!

Sure, it's fun to open presents on Christmas, but this holiday is really about being with your loved ones. Though it might make for a new kind of celebration, your sisters are just going to have to roll with the punches — they might be disappointed, but going into debt over their lack of understanding just isn't worth it.


Join The Conversation
frieddumpling frieddumpling 8 years
Go to a good brand name store and buy the on sale/clearance items (ex. spending $20 but getting something that is worth $50 or even $100! --> might not be 100% what your sister wants, but she seems like a materialistic person who doesn't appreciate the true meanings of the holidays so no harm in that) There are tons of sales this time of year so I think you'll definitely be able to find a great deal that doesn't make you look cheap! It just requires a bit of time and effort. Sample sales are also good as well since prices are often marked down very very below normal retail prices! :) I find that abercrombie & fitch online has some really really great sales!
geebers geebers 8 years
Everyone had good advice. I have to say though- no matter what you get your sister- she seems to be the type to not appreciate anything that is not expensive. Sorry.
Liss1 Liss1 8 years
Wow your sister's a b*tch! Don't spend any more than you feel you can afford. Christmas is supposed to be about spending time with family not how much you spend on a gift.
MandeeLei MandeeLei 8 years
Wow you'd think of all the people that should be compassionate and understanding about this it would be your family. And that comment about not flying home for a $20 gift? She should be flying home to spend time with her family, not for a gift of any price. I know plenty of people that would come home and be happy to be with their family whether or not there is even a single gift involved. You've gotten plenty of good ideas on here but I don't know if I'd be able to resist giving a little coal to that grumpy sister.
NadiaPotter NadiaPotter 8 years
mmm sounds interesting to have a Christmas at your house This year I also put a budget, a very low one, because family members are coming to my house these year, and all the other years it was in my house only mom, dad and brothers... now I'm counting aunts, uncles, cousins.. I put a 15 dlls per person budget, low, but I am putting so much energy in spending it in something they will really really like/use. and to the family friend, I bought some pretty nice glasses and I am putting chocolates on them, and graping them in cellophane and a big ribbon. I am doing some cards to put on them. My mom like the idea because "they can use the glass after it".
jessie jessie 8 years
everyone has GREAT ideas!!! :D stick to your guns oliva and don't back down......there are plenty of things that can be done on a budget!
starangel82 starangel82 8 years
I say stick to your budget. Look through the sale flyers, watch internet sales, do some hunting. I bet you'll be able to pick up some great stuff at some bargin prices. As for your family, they'll deal. Sounds like they need to learn what Christmas is all about. I don't make that much after paying for my college loans... my sister is in grad school. My parents completely understand we are not able to buy them extravagant things. They just love the fact that we come home for Christmas... even if it's with a $30 budget per person. :) But don't go over budget... you'll kick yourself for it later.
WeTheLiving WeTheLiving 8 years
There are tons of cool gifts you can give on your budget. Just try to be creative and get them something that really matches their likes and interests or something sentimental. Like sugar said, edible gifts are a great idea. If you have any favorite cookie recipes from when you were kids, make a bunch of those to take back home with them after christmas. Or find some old family pictures of you and your siblings and have prints made. Then get a colored matte frame from a craft store and a paint pen and write a quote about siblings on the frame. My roomie & I did that for our friends in college and they loved it. You might even be able to get a nice frame and have it engraved with a quote for a decent price at Things Remembered or a similar store (if you think they'd scoff at the matte frame). Have you looked at the Gift Guides in the Holiday sugar section? There are lots of great ideas and even if you don't find something, you might be led to a website with something perfect (search for the same things on Amazon for free shipping over $25). And if I were you, I'd tell my sis to stop being so materialistic! Jeez, gifts are nice, but it's about being with family, not getting expensive stuff. I love giving gifts, but my sisters would understand if I needed to set a budget, just like I understand they do. Let's be honest, most people don't really need more junk anyway.
laura_j laura_j 8 years
Awesome ideas. Im going to hit up TJ Maxx or Marshalls this week to see what kind of name brand goodies I can find my grandma... she would love it, and probably think I spent a bundle.. lol
Janine22 Janine22 8 years
I am a student, so I know how you feel! I know it is too late this year, but you could do this for next year if you are strapped: make red or white wine at a make your own wine place. You need to do it like 6 weeks in advance, but I did this last year and then bought some cute bags from the dollar store to put them in. Everyone seemed to love it! It's a little bit personal, but also something everyone likes. It cost me about 120 bucks with tax (not including the cost of bottles, because I saved them up) and you get at least 30 bottles of wine out of that. Enough to give to all of your friends and family and to save some for yourself. You can also make cool dessert wines like white chocolate wine at brew places. I also made cute gingerbread men and Christmas tree cookies and decorated them specially for everyone in the family. I also made homemade CD mixes of music that I knew specific people would like. Then I might buy one small thing to add to it. Everyone seemed to love my gifts because they were more personalized and took some thought. Good luck and don't rack up your debt just because your sister is materialistic!
Shadowdamage Shadowdamage 8 years
Hehe, GreenGrass, I was born in the South, land of "interestin'" prom dresses and "Sugar, you gonna wear that" veiled advice. So over that. If I had a sister and she acted that way, I can PROMISE you I would mail her that book on manners...for her own good, of course, her own good! (cough) There's so many good ideas on here but I hope the OP comes back to tell us how it all goes after Christmas! I'm dying to know!
looseseal looseseal 8 years
Don't do the stuff that are a labor of love (like things you have to spend a lot of time and effort to make) or skimp out on necessities for yourself to get a slightly more pricey gift. People who are that materialistic and unappreciative are likely to scoff at handmade things and things that you have to scrape to get but are not $$$ enough in their eyes. Why make yourself suffer for that? Just give the money you would otherwise spend on her gift to an animal shelter or something. Someplace that will actually appreciate it. And then give her the receipt. She won't like it, but at least the money went to do some good instead of being spent on unnecessary crap for a spoiled little princess. And don't waste your breath trying to teach them the meaning of Christmas. That's not worth the effort either. Man, she can afford a plane ticket to see her family for Christmas in a time when some people are scraping by just to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, she should be counting her blessings. Jeebus.
candace87 candace87 8 years
The things I would like to say about your sisters selfish, awful comment would get me kicked off this site:). If she's only flying home for gifts then what kind of person is she, really? I wouldn't get her anything. You're in debt. Think about yourself first for now.
pixelhaze pixelhaze 8 years
I like GreenGrass's idea, get her an etiquette book! and maybe stick a bookmark in the ::ahem:: pertinent section. I recently signed up for a number of mailing lists from some of my favorite shops and was surprised that they are sending emails constantly - sometimes three times a day! Turns out they are always having discounts, offering free shipping, 2 for 1 deals, etc. You could create a special e-mail address for this if you're afraid you'll get spam and check it daily to see what good deals come up.
Phunkometry Phunkometry 8 years
Oh my gosh this is why my Christmas idol has become Charlie Brown... "Tens and twenties?! Ohh, even my baby sister!" I suggest you visit YumSugar's 12 Days of Edible Gifts or whatsitcalled (Dear linked to it in her response). I am on the low end of things financially as well, so I am going to go with the homemade hot chocolate mix for my pals. (Luckily, I'm an only child, so no greedy siblings to worry about.) As cliche as it sounds, it really is the thought that counts. Your sister should be more understanding, and I don't think you should give in to her like that, even by going to TJMaxx or Marshalls or outlets, because that's pretty much saying that she's right and you're wrong and you feel guilty. Just attach a note to her gift that says something like, "I hope to be able to shower you with lavish things soon, but this Christmas, I hope you enjoy this small token of my affection (or whatever sounds more sisterly... I haven't had any practice in that dep't). You're my sister and I love you and I hope you understand my situation. After all, Christmas is about being surrounded by the ones you love, not the gifts they give you, isn't it?"
queenlizzie queenlizzie 8 years
It's probably a good thing you said something. Now they can't bitch about getting cheap gifts--you gave them a heads-up, they didn't want to play ball. Oh well, that's what you get for being selfish! "I'm not flying home for a $20 gift." Seriously, how rude.
nicole815 nicole815 8 years
For the first time in a LONG time I needed to totally cut my budget. I got kinda creative but I think everyone will still like their gifts. I went to an antique shop and bought my mother a beautiful lamp. It was a bit tarnished so I took it apart, washed the glass and cleaned the metal with Brasso. Now it's absolutely amazing. That was only $35 bucks! I'm also printing out a few of my wedding pictures and framing them in Target frames. I went outlet shopping for my father and step father and got some classic Ralph Lauren button downs at a great discount. I have 2 younger sisters. For one I bought the Mary-Kate and Ashley coffee table book (which I was surprisingly impressed with!)called Influence. I went totally over budget for my other little sister (Sephora scent sampler, pashmina, Stila lip gloss gift set. Over budget with my husband army watch original and swiss army knife.
kia kia 8 years
Wow, if your siblings have completely materialistic standards for the season of giving then you better be able to craft or bake something outstanding or find one hell of a consignment shop to find something nice at an affordable price. I love thrift stores and consignment shops, but I shop there year round. I have been able to get my friend a kate spade purse for $8 and a kate spade diaper bag for $28. good luck with pleasing them while sticking true to your goals right now.
le-romantique le-romantique 8 years
Your sister is a bitch. Don't get her anything! That will teach her... Either way, they should understand that just because they are the rare FEW in this country that ACTUALLY HAVE A DECENT AMOUNT OF MONEY- doesn't mean that they can still be spoiled with a bunch of presents. They have money, tell them to eff off and get their own stuff. Sorry, this really upset me, how horrible of a sister you have! Put soap in her mouth.
sundaygreen sundaygreen 8 years
I think it's a terrible thing to say you won't come home for Christmas for anything less than the plane ticket you paid for, that's just bratty and childish. I would HAPPILY have a Christmas without presents, as long as my family could be together. You can still give great gifts without spending too much cash, and if your sister or any of your other siblings can't appreciate that, then maybe they should learn some life lessons and be less materialistic. Anyway, it just sounds petty and ridiculous to me. Get them something personal that you can afford, and don't even think about going over budget because your precious little sister doesn't get her quota of gifts. Once again, how fucking pathetic!
CYL CYL 8 years
You should remind your materialistic sister that Christmas is about family coming together and celebrating...not pricey gifts. If she doesn't want to see her family for the sake of seeing family she can stay home and spend her money on herself. But for your other sibilings, if you already have supplies knitting a scraf or hat is always cheap. So is baking (as other have sad). I have also taken to bargin hunting and outlet shopping, its amazing what you'll find with a little luck and patience. Good luck!
Natty Natty 8 years
Gift giving is about the thought, not the gift. Make it personal. Here's what I'm doing: I found a bunch of pictures from our childhood of a special memories, (like a vacation), and am framing them. You can find frames pretty cheap at a drug store, or discount store. Plus, it's a meaningful gift, that will most likely get some use. I hate wasting money on impersonal gifts that no one will ever use, just do they have a present to open. I am also baking cookies for every one so they have a little treat. Last year, I made cookies as a "filler gift" for those who I did not spend that much money on. My sister was bummed that she didn't get any, (because she got a nicer gift). This year, she asked just for cookies. She keeps reminding me that she wants cookies. She'll call, and tell me about cookies she saw, she even picked out a cute tin that she wants me to give her the cookies in! She's so funny! In college, I made everyone mixed CD's. It was pretty inexpensive. Board games are also a fun idea. You can find them pretty cheap on Plus, it will be a nice way to spend your Christmas morning. Good luck!
MissJules5x MissJules5x 8 years
i disagree with someone saying that you should just save up and buy her something nice because she won't appreciate a $25 dollar gift. buy her something small that you can afford to get her. (just because its inexpensive doesnt mean it isnt nice) and make something. you make a few of the same thing and give it to everyone to make up for the fact that you couldnt afford something big but you still made an effort. if she gives you attitude about it then clearly shes immature and just ignore her and i'm sure that everyone else will see how she is acting as well. i wouldnt save up and potentially skimp out on someone elses present that actually deserves it just to make her happy.
GreenGrass GreenGrass 8 years
LOL...Mail an etiquette book... Shadowdamage I like the way you think.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
I put a $30 limit on my Xmas presents for my family this year. My sister complained, which I thought was very rude. When did this holiday become JUST about the gifts? I can't afford to blow $100/each on gifts this year. Truthfully, I'd rather the money go to St. Jude's or a local children's hospital. Sigh...
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