Have Yourself a Budget-Friendly Christmas
What's the first clue the holiday season is upon us? It's not the music that seems to start earlier each year, or the bell-swinging Salvation Army Santa who never seems to remember that you gave on the way in. No, the first sign of the holidays is the whooshing sound of your hard earned cash flying out of your pocket at light speed.
Every year, countless Americans vow they won't overdo it like they did the year before. And maybe they won't go quiiiiite that far. But most will still deplete their savings, incur credit card debt -- or both -- spending upwards of $1000 dollars on gifts, decorations, parties, and whatever else the holiday season requires.
This year, the best defense again going broke is a good offense. That's why we've created these easy strategies to help save you money, time, and energy.
The Greatest Gift
Gift giving can easily get out of hand. Between family, friends, teachers, neighbors, Girl Scout leaders and the guy who changes your oil, gift giving can quickly suck the life out of the holidays. Here's how to get back to buying basics, while still being a great gift giver.
1. Bulk Up -- No, we're not suggesting you eat every fruit cake that comes your way, we're talking about buying in bulk. Just walk through your favorite discount warehouse and you can find lots of opportunities to save. Plus, checking three gifts off your list at once saves time and effort! Here are some ideas for great bulk buying:
- Three-packs of Barbie dolls, a supersize superhero collection, or even little girl accessory kits can be split and wrapped separately. For a few bucks more, you can toss in a similarly-themed book for a gift that'll make kids and moms happy!
- It's almost impossible to get through those oversized boxes of markers or crayons without them drying up or breaking into pieces. Buy a few inexpensive pencil boxes and you can easily stretch those art supplies out to create gifts for multiple kids.
- You're sure to need just a little something for your neighbor, co-worker or hostess. Boxes of cocoa, coffee, nuts, or cookies can be split into decorative baskets from your local craft store and wrapped in cellophane. Easy breezy!
2. Create Friendly Competition -- Challenge each member of the family to come up with the most awesome gift under 10 bucks. Not only does it save money, it also forces you to think personally and be creative. You can even mix it up by creating a theme like nature gifts or favorite TV or movie characters.
3. Get Crafty -- Take a cue from those local boutiques and craft fairs and get crafting! Head to your local dollar store, and enlist your kids in the effort. You may even ask them make a few decorations for the house while they're at it. Kid-made gifts are unique, and when they do the work, you have time to do something for yourself... like the laundry or dishes. Isn't that jolly?
Even the smallest holiday parties can end up costing a fortune. Between food, drinks and decorations, it's easy to go overboard. But you don't have to!
1. Potluck -- There's no shame is sharing the work. Guests are usually happy to pitch in and share their favorite holiday recipe. Take responsibility for preparing the main meal and let your guests fill in the gaps with appetizers, side dishes and dessert.
2. Come on Get "Appy" -- Who wants to be left with pounds of leftovers? Go small! Appetizers are perfect for any party. Bite-sized portions make it easier to socialize, no utensils required means less money spent, and delicious appetizer options are easily found in the freezer section at your favorite warehouse store. That's a win/win/win!
3. One Drink Wonder -- Soda, water, beer, wine... it can add up quickly. Try serving a signature drink, think cider, holiday punch, or some other festive refreshment that can be served to holiday revelers young and old. A signature drink adds a personal touch to any event, cuts down on time spent shopping, and doesn't take up much refrigerator space!
Deck the Walls
No holiday is complete without festive trimmings. But decorating your home can sometimes cost more than the house payment itself!
1. Steal, Beg or Borrow -- Remember that ceramic Christmas tree you made when you were nine? Ask your mother if instead of sitting in a corner, you could bring it home to your house. Chances are, she only puts it out to make you happy. It could be the perfect companion piece to your daughter's wreath of handprints.
2. Oh Christmas Tree -- Our little pine friends can get pretty pricey year after year. Shop around for a life-like artificial version. You'll not only save cash on the annual purchase, you'll also save yourself from fretting about the risk of those pine branches catching fire.
3. Enlist Help -- Having a party or family gathering? Request that each person bring an ornament or holiday-themed decoration. For an even more personal touch, ask them to go handmade.
The holidays are a time to reflect on our abundance of life's blessings, not deplete our energy, spirits and bank accounts. Creating memories with those we love is not only the secret to a special holiday season, it's free and the gift lasts a lifetime. And that is priceless.
Jackie Morgan MacDougall is a TV-executive turned parenting blogger who lives a crazy life with her husband and three small kids. Her dreams of climbing the corporate ladder have been replaced by the dream of one day having a nap. You can find more of her musings at The Silver Whining.