Tricks for Xmas on a Budget

This is a guest post by the lovely Alicia Stoner of aliciastoner.com! She uses her business management degree to run a blog focused on helping YOU achieve success!

Introducing Alica..

Who are you?

My name is Alicia, I am originally from Madrid, Spain, but I have been living in the United States since
2014. I graduated from a great university in Spain in July 2014 with a Business Management degree.
Three months after my graduation, I decided to “temporarily” move to the US to learn English. Four
months after arriving, I met my husband, Ray, and eventually “temporarily” became permanently, ha-
ha. Right now we both are working in two different financial institutions. And we just bough our very
first house!

Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog in September 2018 as a hobby and as a way to connect with people with the same
interests. I love writing about topics such as ways to save money, retirement plans, life insurance
policies, and also about my personal whereabouts and lifestyle. I have had a lot of help from not only my
husband Ray, but also from friends, co-workers and other people that I have had the opportunity to
connect with in the United States.

You bought a house at 26, congratulations! What do you think was the biggest
challenge in getting on the property ladder?

Thank you!! I would have never thought I was going to be able to buy a house in a different country at a
young age. My husband is the best thing that has ever happened to me. We have been working so hard
to be able to buy a great house. The biggest challenge was to prove that we are economically stable
while only being at our current jobs for less than a year. We managed to pay our rent, truck, utilities,
credit cards, cell phones, cable, etc. always on time. And we built our credit score fairly fast by doing so!

You and your husband like to travel. Do you have any tips for how to see the
world on a budget?

This year we have been to quite a few places; we went to Spain in May to get married, then we went to
Cancun, Mexico for our honeymoon. But we mostly traveled within the United States.
I always plan my trips ahead of time (about 3 months), that way I can get great deals on plane tickets
and hotel stays. We only spent $1,800 total on plane tickets and hotel accommodations to go to Spain-
Mexico-USA, and that was for both of us!
Also, we save a lot of money by borrowing grandma’s RV when we go places within the US. Last
September we camped in Boone, Iowa for 2 weeks and we just paid a total of $150 for our camping spot
for 15 days.

 

TIPS for Christmas on a budget

Christmas is not about how much money you spend on each member of your family, it is about the
thought and love you put towards each and every member of your family. Every year we see hundreds
of thousands of commercials trying to sell you their merchandise, we see shops full of Christmas
decorations, and it gets you to buy things out of your budget or things that will be forgotten the day
after Christmas. So if you are thinking that you cannot afford Christmas, you are wrong! I see Christmas
as a way of showing my loved ones that I care or them, that I appreciate the family that I have and a way
to remember the old days.

Preparing for Christmas

Make a list:

write down the name of every person you want to buy presents for.

Think about a memory with each person:

what is something that person always talks about,
something he/she wishes to have, a place he/she wishes to go to, a hobby he/she wants to start,
something that he/she wants to buy but wouldn’t.

Examples: My husband always talks about getting a model car (it has to be a mustang) to put together
but he can’t ever find the time to look for one or he doesn’t want to spend the money in tools and paint.
That is something he always talks about when we go shopping, he wishes to have, it is a hobby of his,
and he wouldn’t buy but the fact that someone thought of it made it so special. And it is not all that
expensive for a Christmas present. You can find one for $20-30!

– Buy in advance:

if you buy all your presents the week before Christmas you are probably going
to feel overwhelmed. You are going to be thinking “I got to buy something, whatever that is
under X dollars or I will go broke” You are totally missing the spirit of Christmas by doing so.
Instead, you can plan ahead, look for sales and you will have time to compare in other stores.

– Best time to look for sales:

the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is a great opportunity to
get most of the gifts and still walk out saving cash. Or Cyber Monday, if you missed something in
the store or if you hate dealing with long lines you could buy online on this day for a much
cheaper price. Also, you can get ideas of what to buy during Thanksgiving dinner by observing
what everybody is up to.

– Decorating your home:

when it comes to decorating my house I always find great deals at the
Dollar Tree store. You can always make DIY ornaments for your Christmas tree, buy special spray
paint made for your widows, make snowflakes out of white paper, DIY a reef for your front door,
or make a gingerbread house which also creates some family fun. It is always so much fun when
you get creative and spend time with your kids along with making memories rather than getting
the fanciest Christmas tree and ornaments.

– Preparing Christmas menu:

I love getting creative in the kitchen. I am always looking on
Pinterest “Easy and fancy recipes” or searching other sites for great ideas. This is my last year’s
menu:

APPETIZERS
Pineapple salad (with using the actual pineapple as a bowl)

Shrimp cocktail
Avocado deviled eggs
ENTREE
Turkey stuffed and surrounded with veggies (green peppers, onions)
Mashed potatoes and gravy
DESSERTS
Fresh lemon mousse drink
Cakes, cookies and cupcakes

– Play Secret Santa with friends and family:

for all of you that don’t know what this is, Secret
Santa is a game I have been playing with friends and family my whole life. For me it is even more
fun than opening presents on Christmas day. I have played different versions of this game.

1) The way I play with my family. We write down the names of all the players on individual
pieces of paper, put it in a bag or hat, we shake it and then we each draw a name (hoping not to
draw your own name). That will be the person that you secretly have to buy a present for. We
usually set a maximum of $10 and you can either buy something funny or normal. We open the
presents on New Year’s Eve right before dinner without knowing who the present came from.
After we open all the presents it is time to investigate-interrogate-observe and guess who
bought which present. There have been years where my sister and I figured it out and years that
there was just no way to find out!

Over the years we have bought the craziest and funniest things, and I can’t help but laugh just
thinking about it. This is the gift voted the most favorite so far: long- black-curly-wig for
grandpa.

2) The way I play with some friends. Every Christmas my friends and I buy and wrap an
ornament for the Christmas tree. The day we meet, each person gets a number assigned to
them. The person with the number 1 gets to pick a present. The person with the number 2 can
either steal a present or pick a new one. At the end, the person with the number 1 can either
keep the present or steal one from the rest. (It might sound unfair for some players, but it is
really not. Because the person that gets the present stolen can choose between opening a new
one and stealing again!) So, basically you never know what you are going to end up with until
the end. I have seen the same present being stolen multiple times!! For this game we do not
spend more than $5.

Again, the important thing is to spend time with family and create memories for life. There are
other ways to make the holidays special on a budget, for instance: making cookies, going ice
skating, singing Christmas songs, going to church, building a nativity, donating toys for kids,
dressing up like Santa Clause, volunteering to wrap presents, etc.

Share your stories and ideas
in the comments!

 

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