I am still in a little disbelief that I pulled it off, but here we are. For the first time since my son was a preschooler (he is in college now), our little family has a debt-free, cash-only Christmas. I baked over 30 dozen cookies and gave lots away to extended family and friends, and sold the extras at a flea market (they sold out in an hour and a half). All the ingredients were bought on sale at grocery stores starting Thanksgiving week, with coupons, at a savings of a minimum of 50 percent off, in some cases free with sale and coupon. Then I watched every sale, bonus, giveaway and email offer from stores I knew my husband and son liked and got the presents I knew they could use at heavy discounts, paid for with cash I had from selling our unwanted possessions at the flea market. All the gifts were wrapped in repurposed boxes that I save throughout the year, and wrapping paper that I had bought at 90 percent off the day after Christmas last year. The tree this year is a real tree, it was a display one that was the last of its size at a lot near me, so I got it fairly cheaply with cash from the flea market sales.
It was a lot of work to get to this point, but it paid off. I cleaned out the playroom, our closets, our garage, and made some tough decisions, but in the end we were able to let go of a lot of things and sell them to others who were ready to appreciate them more. The hours spent getting to this point was about the same as a full time job. It took about ten hours to prepare for the first load to go to the flea market the first time, then six hours to actually do it, then getting home and unpacking and re-evaluating my supply and restocking for the next trip was another four hours. Repeat the process of doing a flea market, unpacking and re-evaluating and restocking, four days a week. That was 50 hours the first week, 40 hours each week after that, every week since Thanksgiving.
Next, doing the actual food shopping was split over 4 different shopping trips to an average of 3 stores per trip, one each week, to get the ingredients for a big cookie cooking day. Each shopping trip was 3 to 4 hours. Cookie cooking day was 12 hours.
Present researching and getting sales, coupons and discounts took about 10 to 12 hours, split over several days. Buying presents took six hours, split over 2 days and visiting four stores.
If you are keeping track, that’s 170 hours of work to get the money, 25 hours to research the best way to spend the money, 18 hours buying presnts and making cookies. 213 hours in one month to accomplish this. Its not easy, but it can be done.
I won’t pretend that living well on a frugal lifestyle is the easy way. It isn’t at all. But if you want way more for your money than you ever thought possible, you should be willing to put in the time to do it. If you are willing, the rewards are worth it. I can’t tell you how free I feel in so many ways. I’m free of all that stuff and clutter I wasn’t using anyway, I have provided useful and enjoyable items for my friends and family, and there are no looming credit card bills to pay. In previous years, my strategies varied, but it never was this efficient. This was essentially a trade – stuff I don’t want for stuff I do want, with a lot of legwork to make it happen.
In the comments, feel free to leave your ideas for saving money at Christmas if you wish to share with everyone! If you have any questions or want to talk about any of this in detail, please feel free to email me directly. I don’t have the right words to express how good this feels, and I would be happy to help anyone else who wanted to try.
Merry Christmas everyone!