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Ways to Save this Holiday Season

The holidays are that wonderful time of year filled with friends, family and food. But most could do without the financial toll. Here are some ways to save this holiday season.

Do It Yourself

It may seem easy to say “Oh I’ll just skip decorations this year, I’m the only one that really sees them,” but just because you’re trying to save money doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the season. For holiday decorations, plan art projects and crafts, they’re great for get-togethers with friends, or afternoon projects with the kids. Gift making can also be an exciting way to save money. Consider more personal gifts: photographs, things you made yourself, things of sentimental value. Here are a few ideas:

  • Bake cookies – real homemade cookies, not from a roll or a box – you can make a variety and create fun assortments.
  • Have a green thumb? Jellies, pickles, and other canned or jarred goods look great in a gift basket.
  • Give an experience, like a summer vacation on the lake, weekend at the beach, or an off season cruise; these can be real bargains if you shop early. Years from now everyone will have forgotten the present, but they will remember the vacation
  • Give a shopping trip for after the holidays; instead of gift certificates give your kids an allowance and take them shopping during after season sales.
  • Start a family cookbook. Give 2-3 recipes each year and say where they came from – Aunt Suzie, Uncle Joe, etc – to create a sense of history and sharing.
  • Give your adult kids a tools and tip book filled with all the helpful hints you wish you had paid attention to and didn’t – like how often to change the oil on the car or the filter of the furnace.
  • The gift of time: get together with the people you love. Or consider gift certificates for your future time or services, like time for helping do chores, babysit, foot rubs, back rubs, etc. You can make an entire coupon book of things they like, or maybe a yearlong book with one coupon per month; a foot massage in January, their favorite cake in February, a fishing trip in March, etc.

The Family Gift Frenzy

Gifts are often the biggest expense when it comes to the holidays. Everyone wants to walk into their relative’s house with a sleigh full of presents in tow. But when it comes to gifts, rather than have everyone buy gifts for every child, pick names to limit the number of gifts. You may also consider asking relatives to contribute to a joint gift, or a college fund instead of excess toys that will end up in the basement or storage room in a few months. And don’t feel obligated to exchange gifts with adults. Adults can understand financial limitations more readily, and chances are they’re feeling the financial strain too.

Friends and Finances

When money is tight, for you or your loved ones, make sure you discuss the holidays you’re your family and friends. If you know of people who have lost their jobs or a having financial difficulties, talk about other types of giving. Maybe you and they can make something for each other in instead of purchasing gifts. Or if you must exchange gifts discuss a dollar limit that each of you will spend. If you know someone is out of work, having a discussion upfront with them will eliminate any unnecessary or additional pressures on them (or guilt) to buy/exchange gifts when they don't have the money.

Consider talking with friends and families about not spending money on cards. They are expensive and after reading them they usually get thrown away. It's a money-saving thought as well as doing something good for the environment. Or maybe agree on e-cards, which are free.

Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Season

Remember, watching your spending is supposed to be a way to avoid stress, not create it. It’s important to keep yourself in check, but don’t forget to treat yourself a little too. One great, inexpensive way to celebrate: food! You’re going to eat anyway, so make your special, once a year, holiday treats. Or take a break from everything and spend time volunteering at a soup kitchen, hospital, or nursing home. Take time for you, whatever your stress reliever may be.