How I Afford Holiday Gifts While Living on a Fixed Income

Budgeting and planning ahead are key for columnist Amy Gietzen

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by Amy Gietzen |

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It’s​ ​beginning​ ​to​ ​look​ ​an​ ​awful lot like the holidays!​ ​Everywhere​ ​I​ ​go​ ​I​ ​see ​festive decor and signs for holiday sales.​ ​I ​guess​ ​I​ ​shouldn’t​ ​be​ ​surprised​ ​to hear​ ​”Jingle​ ​Bells” ​and​ ​”White​ ​Christmas” ​on​ ​the​ ​radio​ ​in November.​

​The​ ​hustle​ ​and​ ​bustle​ ​of​ ​the season​​ ​often bring​s​ ​long​ ​lines,​ ​high-calorie​ ​meals, ​delicious desserts,​ ​and, most​ ​importantly,​​ ​the exchanging of gifts.​ ​​I​ ​love​ ​the​ ​tradition​ ​of​ ​gift-giving​ ​and​ ​the​ ​smiles​ ​it​ ​brings​ ​to​ ​the​ ​faces​ ​of​ my close friends and loved ones.​ ​Seeing the​ ​excitement​ ​that​ ​glows​ ​on​ ​my niece’s​ ​face​ ​as she​ ​tears​ ​through​​ sparkling ​​paper​ ​and​ ​ribbons​ ​​is​ ​priceless.​ ​

However, what​’s​ ​hard​ ​for​ ​me​​ ​is​ ​the​ ​cost​ ​of​ ​those​ ​lovely​ ​gifts. I always wonder how I will survive the holidays and afford presents on my income.

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Scleroderma Stole My Christmas To-do List, and I’m Thrilled

I​ ​have​ ​been​ ​on​ ​a​ ​fixed income​ ​since​ ​2005, when scleroderma progression made​ ​it​ ​too​ ​hard​ ​for​ ​me​ ​to​ ​continue working​ ​full time​. I had to quit​ ​my job and apply for​ ​Social​ ​Security​ ​Disability Insurance.

As​ ​you​ ​can​ ​probably imagine,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​extremely​ ​hard​ ​to budget​ ​for​ ​bills​ ​and​ ​other costs of daily​ ​living​​ ​with​ ​a​ ​limited​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​money.​ ​When I add in​ ​holidays, ​birthdays, weddings,​ ​baby​ ​showers,​ ​anniversaries, ​and​ ​all​ ​of​ ​those​ ​enjoyable​ ​but pricy​ ​celebrations, ​I​ ​often find​ ​myself​ ​scraping​ by, struggling to put fuel in my​ ​car​ ​and​ ​food​ ​in​ ​my​ ​fridge. As​ ​much​ ​as​ ​I ​love​ all​ ​the​ ​glitz​ ​and​ ​glam​ ​that​ ​comes​ with the holiday season, my​ ​pocketbook​ ​does​ ​not​ reciprocate those sentiments.

Living​ ​with​ ​scleroderma makes​ ​it very difficult to splurge.​ ​The​ ​cost​ ​of​ ​medications,​ ​tests,​ ​doctor​ ​appointments,​ ​and surgical procedures​ ​doesn’t​ ​leave​ ​me much​​ ​spending​ ​money. But ​not​ ​buying​ ​my​ ​loved ones​ ​gifts ​to​ ​open​ ​on​ ​Christmas last year left​ ​me​ ​feeling​ ​like​ ​Ebenezer​ ​Scrooge.​

What to do?

​I had​ ​to​ ​come​ ​up​ ​with​ ​a​ ​way​ ​to​ afford​ ​gifts​ ​for​ ​my​ ​loved​ ​ones without ​overdraft​ing ​my​ ​bank​ ​account​ ​in​ ​the​ ​process.​ ​It​ ​took​ ​me some time​ ​and​ ​about​ ​half​ ​a​ ​dozen​ ​ideas​ ​before​ ​I​ ​hit​ ​the​ ​jackpot​ ​earlier this year. I came​ ​up​ ​with​ ​my​ ​own​ ​personal​ ​plan​ ​to​ ​save​ ​Christmas!

First,​ ​I​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​create​ ​a​ ​budget​ ​to​ ​figure​ ​out​ ​how​ ​much​ ​money​ ​I have​ ​left over​ ​each​ ​month​ and how much I can​ ​afford to put​ ​aside​ ​for​ ​​gifts.​ ​Then​ ​I​ ​had to​ ​figure​ ​out​ ​how​ ​many​ ​people ​I​ ​have to​ ​buy​ ​for​ ​and​ ​how​ ​much​ ​I intend​ ​to​ ​spend​ ​on​ ​each​ ​person.​ ​With​ ​all​ ​that​ ​done,​ ​I​ ​figured out​ ​that​ ​I​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​start​ ​saving​ ​for​ ​Christmas​ ​in​ ​September.​ My​ ​plan was​ ​in​ ​place​.​ ​

Now,​ ​some​ ​of​ ​you​ ​might​ ​be thinking, “It’s​ ​not​ ​about​ ​the presents or how​ ​much​ ​you​ ​spend.”​ ​But​ ​it’s​ ​important​ ​to​ me to ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​my​ ​loved​ ​ones​ ​something​ ​to​ ​open​ ​on​ ​Christmas​ ​Day.​ ​It’s​ ​how I show​ ​my love​ ​and​ ​gratitude​ ​for​ ​all​ ​they​ ​do​ ​for​ ​me​ ​and​ for​ ​their​ ​constant​ ​support and​ ​love.​ ​That,​ ​to​ ​me,​ ​is​ ​priceless.​

The​ ​holiday​ ​season can be challenging, as there’s​ ​so​ ​much​ ​to​ ​do​​ ​and​ ​never enough time​ ​to​ ​get​ ​it​ ​all​ ​done. But​ ​if​ ​you​ ​take​ ​a​ ​minute​ ​to​ ​make​ ​a​ ​list​ ​and check​ ​it​ ​twice,​ ​you can develop and execute a​ ​plan​ ​of​ ​attack​.

Living​ ​with​ ​scleroderma ​comes​ ​with​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​baggage —​ ​some​ ​big​, some​ ​small.​ ​You​ ​just​ ​have​ ​to​ ​decide​ ​what’s most important​ ​to​ ​you​. I believe you can​ ​do​ ​anything​ ​you​ ​set​ ​your​ ​mind​ ​to!​

Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.


Cindi Brannum avatar

Cindi Brannum

Amy - I'm 65 now and a grandmother. Boy, have I had times of financial strain in the 45 years of being married with children as well as with the Ssc diagnosis 22 years ago! If you can find an old notebook of paper and have envelopes; can I tell you what a treasure of the written word a letter can be to someone you care about. If you see them, hand-delivered is wonderful. If not, I know stamps are pricey now and I will be happy to send you a book of stamps as my "secret santa" gift to you! Merry Christmas!
PS - some of my notes included a night of babysitting kids (to my girlfriends) or when they go to the doctor or beauty shop; home-cooked meal (I made a little extra); I bake banana bread all the time (black bananas, I cannot throw out); a drive for Starbucks or ice cream OR Sonic Happy Hour 2pm-4pm; I can go on the 'cheap' if I have to trust become very resourceful when low on cash, Amy! Be well.

Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Thank you so much for the tips! Great ideas


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