It’s hard to believe that the holidays are upon us! For many families, this time of year can create financial stress, especially with the current economic conditions. Whether or not money is a big issue with your family this year, you may want to explore some options for making the holidays more family-oriented and less focused on spending.
Creating a budget for your holiday gift giving is always the first step. Determine how much you can comfortably afford to spend, the number of people for whom you plan to buy, and then divide to get an average dollar amount per person. If you choose to spend more on some people, then simply offset that amount by spending less on others. You may also want to spend a little less on everyone just in case someone was accidentally left off the list.
When shopping, write down everyone who will receive a gift and the amount you have allotted to spend on each person. Having it in writing keeps you focused when faced with so many tempting selections in the store. It also reminds everyone, including children, of the amount available to spend. Recognizing that the family has a spending plan in place allows everyone to make choices within the set price ranges without having to argue about how much to spend on any specific item.
Before setting your budget, visit with family members about your gift-giving practices. To really make the holidays more about family, consider options other than store purchases as part of your discussion. Then, check out various web sites, library books or craft stores for ideas about hand-made gifts. Fresh baked cookies or bread, hand-painted holiday ornaments, homemade soaps or other handicrafts provide a special touch and can be less expensive alternatives.
Have the same discussion about holiday decorating. Instead of buying expensive home decorations, nametags, gift wrap and other holiday-related items, investigate other ideas to reduce spending and increase family involvement. Following are several suggestions to add family fun and cut costs on holiday accessories:
- Create a theme. Having a theme such as snowmen, trees or a specific color allows you to start small and gradually add to your collection each year. It will also help you say “no” to items that are cute but don’t add to your overall scheme, and it reduces the potential of duplicating what you already have.
- Buy craft paper instead of wrapping paper. Involve children in stamping designs on the paper. Use colored pencils or markers to draw holiday scenes or characters.
- Use eco-friendly reusable shopping bags instead of paper bags. Most stores today have cloth shopping bags that can double as gift bags, adding to your gift. Wrapping presents in inexpensive tissue paper and tying with ribbons will create a festive look. Kitchen towels or other fabric are also good substitutes for wrapping paper.
- Decorate your walls with presents. Instead of purchasing expensive holiday decorations for your home, wrap your wall paintings, pictures or other items in wrapping paper and use big bows from thrift stores or dollar stores as accents.
- Add lights. Strings of inexpensive lights or candles add a festive spirit to your home for minimal cost. The sparkle of the lights are magnified when used in groupings or placed on mirrored surfaces. For extra safety and savings, buy battery operated candles that can be used year after year.
- Include Mother Nature. Look for decorations such as pine cones, twigs or greenery in your yard or at the park. Fresh fruits or nuts also make great decorations and may be used in fruit salads or school lunches after the holidays.
- Visit thrift stores, garage sales or dollar stores. You might be amazed at the selection of holiday decorations. A can of spray paint adds a quick and easy update or changes the color to match your theme. Holidays are about spending time with friends and family, so look for ways to involve everyone in your budget-friendly celebration.
Here’s hoping you and your family have a fun, creative, festive season!
Sue Lynn Sasser, PhD, is an associate professor of economics at the University of Central Oklahoma.