Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: A Newlywed Christmas

Christmas has a new twist if you are a newlywed.  It generally is anything but "I'll be home for Christmas."  During your single days, it might have been easy to visit with your family throughout the season, but now you will have to fit in two families and their traditions.  Furthermore, this might be your first Christmas where you feel inclined to decorate- to make your living space (apartment, house, or otherwise) have that warm Christmas homey feeling.  Finally, throughout all of this change, you might be trying to stick to a budget.  How can newlyweds sort through the clutter of the holidays, and still come out with Christmas cheer?

First, talk to your spouse about his/her family traditions and family get togethers.  Get out a calendar and start to plan which days you will visit each family.  This can be a difficult discussion if both families are close and spend much of the holiday together.  Depending on your situation, it might mean visiting one family in the morning and one in the evening, or visiting only one family each year.  I can not say this enough, be willing to compromise.  Remember that your spouse is now number one, and the rest of your family is number two.

Discuss the costs of these visits.  They, like everything else, need to be planned and budgeted for.  Does your husband's family give gifts to everyone, have a gift exchange, or something else?  These are important things to consider.  If the amount of gifts needed will cause a financial burden discuss this with your spouse.  There are many frugal gift ideas on the internet.  If you are close with the family, you might even discuss the situation with them.  Some families have actually started no-gift Christmases, so that they can focus on their time together and give everyone the gift of no-stress holidays.  Other families have done a charity exchange, where each person writes on a paper the name of a charity and then draws a paper to see where they will donate money.  Other newlyweds who don't have much family, have "adopted" a family through the Salvation Army and other organizations to buy Christmas gifts for.

Second, this may be the first Christmas where you feel inclined to decorate.  Be careful how much money you spend.  It might be worth it to have very very few decorations your first year, so that you can wait for the after Christmas sales to buy the decorations to use next year.  We have found that we enjoy our $2 garage sale Christmas tree as much as any expensive real tree for now.  It fits our newlywed lifestyle (ie., lots of traveling to visit everyone and no time to water it).  Also, remember that all of the decorations will need to be stored.  Most newlyweds have little storage space, so it is expensive space-wise to decorate like Martha Stewart. 

Third, discuss with your spouse about gifts you are giving each other.  It is really important to set a spending limit the first year when couples tend to feel the expense of their gift shows the richness of their love.  As the years go by, couples realize that the cost of the gift matters little compared to the spirit in which it is given.  Many women would much rather be given a "Dinner of the Month Club" where the husband agrees to make a nice dinner once a month, than any diamond earrings.  Think about frugal thoughtful gifts you could give or would like to receive, and then talk about your ideas with your spouse.  You may find that all you need at Christmas is each other (at a total cost of: free!).

In conclusion, think ahead and talk with your spouse.  This is an amazing time, and different than any other time in your life.  Make sure to enjoy the season of Christmas, by avoiding equating love to gifts to avoid  causing months of payments and overflowing closets after it is all over.

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