Everyone is always looking to save money for Christmas. Not during Christmas, of course, when the Bailey's infused coffee and Kahlua drenched eggnog get to your head, and when the Black Friday/Boxing Day sales are pumping everyone's capitalistic heart to the max. Before Christmas, when the dawning realization of just how quickly it is coming and after Christmas, when the bank account balance is low, however, are the times when each of us just quickly thinks to ourselves, “I wish I had spent a little less money this Christmas”.
One of the best ways that you can force yourself (and your family and friends) to save money this year on Christmas is by declaring a theme for each year. Isn't Christmas already the theme, you might be asking? Well, yes, but by adding a theme to the festivities, and especially the presents, can force you to not only save money, but even more importantly, save time and energy shopping for presents. My wife can very easily get stressed about what gifts to give each year, but by having the framework of a theme in mind quickly relieves stress by reducing the the amount of options that one has to consider when shopping for a gift.
Here's how it works. First, determine who is going to be a part of the gift theme. While you might want to go with one theme for your family, for example, co-workers might need a different theme, or no theme at all. Contact each family/couple/individual and make sure that they are okay with the idea of sticking to a theme (and Christmas budget). Then, for each “set” of gifts that you're giving out (whole family, or mom's side of the family, or the husbands side of the family, etc), declare a theme. This can be as simple as a mass email to each relevant person/couple saying, “This year our Christmas gift theme will be _______”. Obviously this can be open to discussion and/or feedback. Once you have your theme set, it is as simple as finding the right aspect of that theme for the recipient. Because you are now shopping within a very select area of the market, you can maximize your dollar by doing bulk purchases, staying on top of coupons and/or sales, and you can especially save time as you may end up getting everything that you need in one place!

Theme Examples

Movie Night
In this theme, each couple/individual will receive one movie (DVD, Bluray, VHS, etc) and one form of drink (alcoholic or otherwise). For kids, this could be something like How to Train Your Dragon and a 2L of Coke. For adults, this might be the Bluray of Star Trek and a bottle of Scotch. Don't forget to buy (or make) microwaveable popcorn!
Date Night
The “date night” is easily customizable. It could be a gift certificate to McDonalds and the local movie theatre, or it could be tickets to the opera and a limousine rental.
Bed Time
Everyone gets pyjamas!

Games Galore

If you're a part of the circle that really appreciates a good board game, a games themed Christmas might be just the thing. Everyone gives someone else a different game, and then you can spend the rest of your holidays trying them all out! If you have video game obsessed children (or husbands) then I'm sure they will appreciate the newest Xbox 360 or PS3 game. If you're on a budget, don't forget that a deck of cards and a bag of Doritos can go a long way on games night! Don't forget that you could also go for a poker set or a soccer ball, as long as it is a game. You may also want to pick up some new lacrosse heads and throw a ball around.

Certificate City

Best for those occasions where you are not as sure what to purchase, a certificate themed party might be best for the office or church. Find a restaurant close to the office, or a pub close to the church, and get a gift certificate for twenty or so dollars. It might not be the most personal of gift exchanges, but it might be the most practical. You can likely save some money by using a site like Groupon to buy your gift certificate. Just make sure you don't get a vegetarian a certificate to the local steak house, they might not appreciate it.

Room by Room

Pick a room and focus on it. For the kitchen, get oft desired utensils or infused oils. For the bathroom, you can get bathrobes or soaps. For the living room you can focus on candles, small decorations, or movies and music.


While everyone might not normally appreciate a scale and a yoga mat, if you pick an exercise theme for your group you can pretty easily get away with it. Think exercise DVDs, a kitchen scale (for weighing food, not people), dumbbells, and stretchy pants.
Have you ever done a themed Christmas? What other themes could you explore?

This article is part of the Go Banking RatesHolidays and Money” writing project, an on-going project that encourages creative writing in the PF blog community, centralized around a single broad-reaching subject.

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About Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.