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Make Your Holidays Affordable

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Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: Well, like it or not, it's time to start getting ready for the holidays. No matter what you celebrate, this can be a very expensive time of year.

woman shopping
First, you should determine with whom you are exchanging gifts. Make a list and then see if there are any people with whom you'd rather not exchange. If you feel awkward about cutting someone from your list, just approach them early and ask, "Are we exchanging gifts this year?" That puts the ball in their court, and in my experience, they usually feel the way you do. If you have a big group -- say, of your or your husband's siblings -- maybe everyone would be interested in drawing names. At one point, everyone in my husband's family agreed on a charity to support and sent them a check instead of purchasing presents for the adults. 

I feel like the best way to avoid big bills is to keep your eyes open throughout the year for gifts. Buy them, store them together in an out-of-the-way box or bin and put a Post-it on each one, noting the potential recipient. If you haven't been doing that, you may have some good gift possibilities just hanging around. I usually have certificates for massages or manicures around, and that's not something I use a lot. If something has your name on it, just go to the salon and have them reissue a blank certificate or one with a new name. I often purchase discount restaurant or movie certificates, and those make a great gift. In these weeks before the holidays, check Groupon, Living Social and similar websites for deals that would make good gifts. 

For little unexpected gifts, make homemade fudge, peanut brittle, granola or baklava, and put it in tins so it will be ready when you need it. Encourage your children to make something for their friends, or to write out a certificate inviting them on an outing or sleepover. 

Scale everything down. If each of your children is getting a larger item for the holidays, limit their other presents. The same goes for kids who get presents from relatives or friends. I generally get each child a new pair of PJs that we open and wear on Christmas Eve, a calendar from the 99 Cent Store and a couple of books, puzzles or a small toy. Anything else on their wish list gets sent out to grandparents, who ask us for suggestions. 

One last thing: The best way to enjoy the holidays is do all this early, so there really is some peace and joy at the end of it.

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31 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mayra November 11, 2010, 2:24 PM

I started my Christmas shopping early this year and I am officially done. All I need to buy now is the wrapping paper. I started with the V.S. semi-anual sale and continued from there. I took advantage of special promotions like buy one get one off. In the end I don’t think I saved much money but the fact that I did it little by little helped me a lot.

Johnnia November 11, 2010, 4:19 PM

To make my holiday shopping easier, I start out by making a list of people that I have to buy for right after christmas. I keep this list in my wallet and throughout the year I jot down ideas for presents that aren’t budget breakers. When I find the item or items that I need to buy I mark it off my list. Buying a little each month spreads out my holiday shopping bill and doesn’t break my budget all at once.

KS November 11, 2010, 9:46 PM

My husband sells back vacation time every single year. We have savings and take vacations yet he still has plenty left over. Then for friends and all the people we just want to exchange small gifts with I bake up a storm. Our Christmas never breaks the bank, never use a single credit card and we always stick to our budget.

Our children’s gifts are all purchased on black friday. Everything we buy is what is on sale that day. We discuss what we generally want for them that year then go by the sale adds. The system we have ended up with works very well for us.

???? November 12, 2010, 12:57 PM

how about don’t buy anything? that saves money!

Jenny November 15, 2010, 9:51 AM

I buy for my brother’s kids, but since I do not have kids that he has to buy for, he has me pick out a charity and makes a donation on my behalf. It helps balance out all the money I have to spend as a single person with no kids.

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