Jiggle bells or juggle bills: Which will you be doing this holiday season? There’s only about one week of shopping days left until Christmas so many people are really beginning to stress. And when this happens, budgets sometimes take second place to buying gifts.
To keep the rest of your holiday spending in line, determine how much money you have to spend for gifts, food and decorations. Set aside extra money for those unplanned gifts or emergencies. Make your holiday spending list and place dollar amounts next to each item. When you shop, leave your credit cards at home and take your list with you. Don’t spend more than what you have already budgeted, no matter how “perfect” the gift may seem. By doing this, you may be able to avoid overspending as well as credit card debt. No one enjoys paying for Christmas months afterwards — it takes all the fun out of the holiday.
Be creative when it comes to gift giving. If your family traditionally gives gifts to everyone, suggest drawing names this year or only giving to the children. Not only will you save money but think of all the time you will save not shopping and wrapping. Although this may be an awkward conversation to have, most family members will appreciate someone initiating this discussion. If you didn’t have this conversation this year, try discussing it at your family gathering this year so everyone can plan for next year.
If you decide on a gift exchange for adults, consider something different from the usual exchange. A white elephant exchange is where you give away something that you currently own that is useful and in prime condition but just doesn’t fit your style. How about a gag gift exchange? Be sure to set a limit on spending, which will not only help save money but encourages creativity. A make-your-own-gift exchange could also include gift certificates for your time such as repairing, cooking, car washes, cleaning, etc. Any of these can be a lot of fun and, with the right group of people, will have you rolling in laughter. What better way to celebrate this time of year!
Cynthia Ewer, editor of Organized Christmas, suggests that putting “celebration” at the center of the season – and taking the focus off gifts and giving – can be the key to happy holidays that don’t break the bank. To make the season special for your family, plan some new ways to celebrate the season. Here are few suggestions:
*Roll out sleeping bags and hold a family camp-out underneath the Christmas tree. Don’t forget the hot chocolate and carols around the fireplace. When our children were smaller, our family would always have an indoor picnic in front of the tree after we decorated it. It’s harder to get everyone together now to decorate the tree, but when we do, we still have an indoor picnic.
*Visit a local animal shelter and volunteer to walk homeless pets during – and hopefully after – the season. Fresh air and family time are a bonus. Or find some other place that needs volunteers. Not only is volunteering very satisfying but it also helps remind us what this time of year is all about – the spirit of giving, not the spirit of buying. In keeping with the spirit of giving, continue to volunteer on a regular basis in the New Year.
*Make an everyday dinner special by dining by candlelight. Share stories around the table as you enjoy the glow. After dinner, turn on the lights, pull out family photo albums and enjoy the memories.
*Visit your local library and check out books about the holidays. Explore holiday traditions in other countries. Read one book each night in December as a special holiday countdown.
Enjoy your family during this special time of year. It’s a time of love, joy and giving. Remember, it’s not about what you buy, it’s about what you do. Give people the kind of gifts that really matter: love and kindness. That’s what will be remembered for years to come. And who knows? This just may be your best Christmas ever.
Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-424-1460, Ext. 4233.