Let’s start with a recipe. This has been my formula for holiday shopping. Start with an ultra-organized brain, mix in a high level of money awareness (aka: fear of debt), then add a dash of lack-of-love for shopping. Shake vigorously and serve.

The name of this recipe? Half a Humbug. Or maybe, the Mint-Colored Grinch. I like the holidays as much as the next person. It’s the focus on commercialism and obligatory gift giving that I struggle with.

One of the ways I keep my Half a Humbug at bay is to shop for gifts year-round. This accomplishes two things. First, it takes the pressure and stress off of the month of December. It helps my Christmas spirit to avoid the holiday rat race that grows worse the closer we get to the 25th. Parking is difficult, lines are long, tempers are short and good cheer stayed home. I want no part of it. One rule I have long-tried to live by is that Christmas shopping has to be done by Thanksgiving.

The second advantage to this method is the ability to make the most of year-round sales. This makes my always-save-money, never-pay-full-price self quite happy. One July a large department store went out of business. I went on one of the last days where items were 75% off the already half-price items, or something crazy like that. I bought a big gift basket of bath goodies. Yes, the decorative cellophane was ripped half off and the basket was a bit crushed. But I loved getting a deal.

At Christmas, I took the items from the gift basket and divided them up among the women I was gifting, added chocolates and other good things. I bought baskets and more cellophane, on sale and with additional coupon savings from Michael’s. And I created new festive, pretty gift baskets. As a result I made four or five holiday gift baskets for the price a single one was selling for in December.  I even kept a few bath soaps for myself.

Now that’s my kind of Christmas gift giving. You’d probably be surprised at how little my holiday and birthday budget really is.

Christmas quilted wall hanging my grandmother made me. The matching tree skirt was re-gifted.

Even so, I decided this year it would be even slimmer. A few months back, I purchased medium-size, stacking storage bins. I assigned each bin a particular theme and am allowing myself to take only what will fit in that bin when I hit the road. There is an exercise bin, a craft and hobbies bin, a bin for the pets (excluding food). You get the idea. And, one bin is for holiday items. All holidays.

I started with eight big red and green storage bins of Christmas stuff. The challenge, obviously, is downsizing to a single bin half the size of one. In other words, downsize 94% of my holiday decorations. And this downsizing didn’t even include the Christmas wrapping, bows, tags, etc. which I downsized 100% after I got this year’s gifts wrapped. It wasn’t easy. In fact, the lid still won’t close so I have a few more hard choices remaining.

As I sorted through the eight bins, I came to a beautiful quilted tree skirt and matching wall hanging. My grandmother, who passed away a year ago, made them. I love them. But I had to ask myself whether it was worth it to use more than half of the allotted bin for a tree skirt I knew I probably not use again.

The tag sewn on the back of the wall hanging.

The answer was really hard and really easy. Yes. And no. It was easy because the answer was no it wasn’t worth it and hard because of the emotions tied to the tree skirt.

Over several weeks, I waffled back and forth on the decision. I would come to the bins, looks over the items, walk away without a solution. Briefly, I considered two bins for holiday items but concluded two bins for essentially items I’ll use two or three weeks every year is a pretty poor use of limited space. Finally, I came to a conclusion. A compromise of sorts.

This year’s gift giving plan.

The plan balanced my need for minimalism and my desire not to feel bad. The plan? Give close-to-my-heart possessions to friends and families. After my Financial Setback, it was particularly great because the funds budgeted for gifts could be moved into the dream pot. Win. Win.

It’s re-gifting with heart.

This holiday season, friends and family are getting books, jewelry, holiday decorations, never-used-kitchen gadgets, silk scarves, wall art and, yes, one person is getting a made-with-Grama-love beautiful quilted Christmas tree skirt.