A Low Cost Year

I decided a few weeks ago, that my family spends too much money. Partly because things cost too much and partly because we've been buying too many things. It seems that holidays (like anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, Easter, etc) have become less about the celebration of the holiday and more about the presents you buy for the holiday. When did birthdays cost hundreds of dollars a piece? First you have to rent the bouncy house ($150- $350), then buy the party games ($50+), then the party favor bags ($50+), and themed paper goods ($75+), and then on top of all that, you have to buy the new expensive toy that is out ($100+). Who can afford that? But, my kids go to parties like this ALL THE TIME! This year I told them that they could either have a pricey party/cheap gift or a pricey gift/cheap party, but since their birthdays are a month apart, it still cost like $450! OUCH! And pretty soon, Rascal will realize his party was a $10 cake and a $15 gift and he'll protest the unfairness! With so many of us, it seems there is one holiday after another. Somehow, we (and I mean my family along with society) have moved from the celebration of the event to this high cost extravagant life. So, after receiving a couple of credit card bills, I put the kibosh on our family's spending. I decided to try an experiment. For the rest of this year, we are having a low cost year. That means, that birthdays can not cost more than $20 (luckily for the boys- they've already had their parties- but even if they hadn't- I would have figured out how to make a creative, awesome, low cost party!) Anything over, MUST come out of the monthly budget! Our anniversary in Aug- $20 per person for gifts. We may head out of town for a night, in that event, we'll swap a night of babysitting and pay for the hotel out of the monthly budget (which means saving up and going without some leisurely luxuries.) Christmas has a $20 per person budget and everything must have a hand made part. (Santa will still come. He's separate) But, hopefully, this will help us get back to the family togetherness part of the holiday and focus more on the creative giving instead of the receiving part of the holidays. It will take a little more thinking, a little more creativity and and lot less money. But, I hope it will be lots of fun as we work together to find the perfect gifts. It will take a lot more time, to think, to plan, to work, but that's why I'm starting NOW!

I realized the other day as I was making my mental list of all the things we "need" (new desktop computer, movie making computer software, new camping gear) that life would be utterly boring and sad if we could just go immediately buy everything we "needed". There would be no saving, no sacrifice and ultimately no joy in the new item if everytime we wanted something, we ran out and just bought it. I hope I never have that much money.

This anniversary, will be remembered, because we sacrificed to make it happen. This Christmas, will be remembered because it wasn't about what we received but rather what we shared (without being tainted by financial stress).

I challenge you to join us. In this time of economic uncertainty and stress, what will you do to bring the joy back to your holidays? How will you bring the focus back to the art of giving instead of the oogle eyes of receiving? What will you do make the holidays less about money and more about family togetherness? I'd love to hear your ideas as well. Here are some sites for homemade gifts:

Not Made of Money

Family Crafts

Easy Homemade Crafts

Whaddya think?


  1. I love this idea...one thing Ryan and I do for anniversaries is that you can only spend as much as the amount of years married (ie: we are coming up on our 11th anniversary so we each get 11 dollars to spend)...we started this on our 6th anniversary and it's been fun and challenging to find creative gifts (although I admit we splurged on our 10th anniversary).

  2. Sadly this isn't new to me because it seems Josh and I have always struggled in the financial area of our marriage. Going to school and then moving to a very exspensive place, srimping and saving for everything we have is a sad talent we both have attained over the last five years. However you are correct though that it does make everything worth that much more to you! I'm always so proud and excited when we finally can afford that one item we've waited a year (or sometimes longer) for! :) I look forward to hearing about some of your ideas because I'm getting a little bored with mine! HAHA! I love Charlene's anniversary idea as well! Good luck! :)

  3. I've never been a fan of expensive b-day parties because it takes the focus from the person and puts it on the "stuff." I grew up with very little money and lots of siblings...8 to be exact. My parents had a bright red plate that said, "You are special today!" We all knew that on our birthday we would get to request our favorite meal and enjoy it on that special red plate. That was how my parents recognized us on our b-day. No big expensive party with lots of friends. I'll admit that as a kid I sometimes felt sad I didn't get a big party, but now that I'm older I totally understand. It was only when I compared myself to others that the ugly feelings of jealousy emerged. For now, my husband and I have decided to let our kids have a "friend" party every other year, and have a "family" party on the off year. It seems to be working out pretty good.

  4. "I hope I never have that much money." Ha! If only we could just buy what we want/need when we wanted it. I think you can be wealthy and still wise and frugal. If I had all the money in the world, life would be a lot different, but I'd still be driving my minivan and my kids would not have electronics in their room (something Megan complained to me recently after visiting a friend with a flat screen and Wii in her bedroom). But to be able to buy my year supply of food and a boob job and swim team for Megan ($500) and a babysitter and a weekly maid without having to save until I eventually decide I don't need it? Sign me up.