With the holidays coming up soon, many people may be thinking about how the family’s finances can stretch the cover the extra needs that the holidays demand. The best strategy for budgeting for the holidays is to start in January! But many people don’t think of that or are not able to do it. If you are just starting to think about the holiday season, use these tips to help make your money go a little further.
1) Attend free or inexpensive holiday events hosted in your community. Some suggestions are school band or vocal concerts, holiday plays, church events, community meals, Christmas caroling, volunteering, and holiday light displays. These are great free ways to make holiday memories for your family.
2) Buy practical gifts and don’t splurge on little things. Give the recipient a gift he or she really needs. It will be more appreciated than something trendy. Also, let the kids decorate plain paper to use for wrapping paper, and make your own gift tags from last year’s Christmas cards or card stock. Or re-use gift bags from last year.
3) Spend time with those you love. Have a family game night, or a movie night at home. Make memories with your family. That is what they will remember, not the gifts.
4) Draw names for a family gift exchange. In large families, it may be difficult for everyone to buy a gift for all family members, so a gift exchange can be a fun way to save money. To save even more, put a dollar limit on the gift.
5) Borrow. If you need an outfit for a special event, see if a friend or relative has a dress, shoes or jewelry you can borrow. If not, at least try to buy only one item to go with what you already have.
6) Simplify meal plans. Host a potluck at your home instead of meals out. Ask guests to bring the side dishes and desserts. It will be a fun tradition to start that will be looked forward to all year.
7) Shop Smart. Take time to look for deals. If you purchase online, look for free shipping and free returns. Check out several sites to compare prices. Also, consider giving homemade gifts. Food gifts are always appreciated. It could be a gift of your help, such as coupons for babysitting or mowing the lawn.
Remember…Everyday help can be found in your community. There are food banks that give help to families in need and are especially aware that there is a greater need in and around holiday season. Second hand stores can be a great place to get sturdy and only slightly-worn clothing for children and adults. If you are having trouble with your utilities, you can get subsidies from the LIHEAP program and some utilities have assistance programs for certain low-income groups. Check with your utility company.
Most communities have an “Angel Tree” or similar program. Check your local churches, Salvation Army, Lion’s Club, and other organizations to see if they have a program that can help out. Some local businesses support needy families with toy drives, food baskets and other programs such as a turkey giveaway. If you are in financial need, contact as many of these resources as you can to get help. With some planning and some help, you family can have a wonderful holiday season.