The holidays can be a stressful time of year. From buying gifts at crowded malls with angry parking lot drivers to visiting extended family / your significant other’s family. From sweating in the kitchen preparing your signature dessert to feeling the pressure to give good gifts because you have a well-paying full-time job.
Truth is I didn’t budget for the holidays because I had other priorities, which left me shifting these in order to pay for the holiday expenses last minute. No bueno. Of course, if you budget and plan for gifts and meals in advance, it doesn’t have to be.
Ari is Jewish so I join his families (his parents are divorced) for Chanukah dinner, and this year it came fast! Like first day of December fast. It didn’t help that I always get stuck finding a gift for his families, especially because Ari is like, “you don’t need to buy anything, your presence is present enough for my family.”
Yeah okay, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to show up empty-handed when I know I have every intention of eating all the latkes on the table. And bring home leftovers.
So what do you get a family who seemingly doesn’t need another tchotchke, or worse, a plant? — I made the mistake of gifting one to Ari’s mom in 2016. She’s not a plant person, therefore, a gift I believed was thoughtful as hell ended up being another job for her and Ari. Oops. — You get them edibles! Like the kind without marijuana.
Luckily, I know his families well enough to know they love dessert so I went to buy donuts at my favorite spot. Sadly, they had run out of the their sufganiyot donuts by the time I went so instead I ended up going to an Italian bakery.
On Monday, I had a variety of options because I was in the city. I really wanted the menorah donut from Doughnut Plant, but you had to preorder. Go figure. So I picked out 10 of the best looking donuts to bring to dinner. They were a hit.
Next year you can bet I’ll be calling the Doughnut Plant, or whoever has the prettiest Chanukah themed donut, ahead of time. – $76.98
Experiences over things …
That’s mine and Ari’s new gift rule. But, after his lavish birthday gift to me (the new MacBook Pro I’m using to type this) I felt compelled to spend as much as he did for his gift. Obviously, this was totally on me and Ari would never expect or demand that I give him something that doesn’t fit in my budget, but he’s the best and I wanted to spoil him too!
Thankfully I came to my senses and realized it wasn’t in our best interest for me to buy the $200 plus suitcase. Instead, I checked out CourseHorse, a website where you can find and enroll in local classes, for a class we could take together.
I thought it would be cute and funny to take an improv class with him. See, on the night of our first “date”, I had just finished my improv 101 show and till this day I’m upset he didn’t watch me perform. Granted it would’ve been creepy for a boy I met TWO DAYS before to come into the city for me uninvited. Plus, I needed to get him outside of his comfort zone before going to my holiday party. – $50 (for two and I had a coupon code)
Chanukah Total – $126.98
I’m a gift card person. Last year, everyone in my family was gifted Chipotle lunches or movie trips. But even with gift cards you can’t guarantee that someone will use it or enjoy it.
To make sure everyone received something they actually wanted while also lessening the financial burden, I suggested we do a Secret Santa. The spending limit was $40 and everyone participating needed to send their wishlist to the group chat. Each adult would get another adult, and along with their partners they were assigned a child.
So instead of buying eight different gifts, I only had to buy two. I brought a hair dyer, two gift cards (Dunkin Donuts/GameStop) and regifted an old Apple gift card I didn’t use — this is what I mean when I say gift cards aren’t always useful. I repurposed old newspaper and reused last years Christmas bags to wrap my gifts. – $76.99 (Ari paid me back for his half of the child’s gift by buying me dinner)
Like with Thanksgiving, I decided to make guava and cream cheese empanadas for the family. Guava and cream cheese empanadas are a tradition of my Abuelita, who now lives in Chicago and couldn’t spend the holiday with us, so I enjoyed treating my family to this dish. – $8.10 (my brother-in-law brought the empanada discs and isn’t letting me pay him back, plus I had a lot of leftover ingredients from Thanksgiving)
Finally, I decide to give special gifts to my parents and Abuelita. For my parents, I purchased a year of AAA. I can confidently say that our cars broke down or required towing assistance at least three times in the last 12 months. Luckily, Ari’s AAA saved us once, but given that my dad’s Jeep had been parked in a McDonald’s lot since before Christmas Eve, I knew it was time for my family to have this as a security blanket. – $124 (I found a coupon code online that saved me $14!)
For Abuelita I decided to send a card with a check. She works two part-time minimum wage retail jobs, and finally after months of searching for a place she found one within her budget. This will be the first time in about 10 years that she will have a place to herself! I’m happy for her and grateful that I have the means, even if only a little, to help her with this transition. – $100 (my boss had an extra card and my mom an extra stamp)
I’m a volunteer at an organization that provides mentorship to first-generation college students, and I have a mentee through the program! She’s super motivated and engaged in the program and we’ve gotten close so obviously wanted to give her a Christmas present.
I wasn’t completely sure what she would enjoy so I decide to create a small care package with essentials. I added everything from nail polish to gummy bears to a feminist read. Again, I reused material from other gifts and online orders to wrap it. – $46.73
Christmas Total – $355.82
For my Secret Santa wishlist I chose things that I had been meaning to buy myself and were tied to my values.
Bottle Brush – I’ve been skimping on appropriate reusable bottle cleaning supplies, only using a brush when I’m at Ari’s. No more of that for 2019.
Tongue Scraper – I’m pretty crazy about my dental hygiene so of course I wanted to add this to my routine. There’s nothing better than a clean mouth, now I just need to straighten them out.
Wooden Brush – I don’t own a hairbrush mainly because it’s easy to mooch off my little sister’s, but also because I’ve been meaning to buy a wooden brush, which is significantly better for the environment.
LUSH – I need a facial moisturizer and LUSH was the obvious choice. I love their commitment to recycling and while buying this isn’t plastic-free, I happy to put money towards companies that are striving to do good.
My Secret Santa gifted me the first three things on my list PLUS $40 in cash, which was super kind of them since they obviously went over the limit! Ari’s mom gifted me a ticket to go see the Broadway show, Network, and his grandma gave me $75. His family is incredibly generous and I always feel guilty about accepting gifts from them.
Total Holiday Expenses – $482.80
Now that I know exactly how much I spent for the holidays in 2018, I can better prepare myself for next year. I’m going to give myself a budget of $500 for 2019, which means making sure at least $40 per month is going into a holiday savings account. Next year, I’m also want to try some DIY gifts, like making everyone a batch of granola or Vegan coquito because I really really enjoyed seeing my family eat and love what I prepared.