“This year, people will try to get into the spirit of the season against the backdrop of a troubled economy,” says Noel C. Borck, the LHSFNA’s Management Co-Chairman. “Higher gas, food and cost of living expenses may have you thinking twice about how you spend your money this holiday season. Wallets and budgets will be stretched to accommodate presents and parties while also trying to make ends meet.”

Below are several suggestions to help you enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank.

  • Make a budget and stick to it. Start off your holiday shopping by figuring out exactly what you can afford. If you start early and look for sales, your shopping can fit well within your means. Most importantly, being able to pay your bills and meet your expenses needs to be a priority over gifts. Don’t feel as though you are a “Scrooge” by limiting your spending.
  • Shop with a list. In addition to setting a budget, make a list of everyone to whom you are giving gifts and what you are going to get them.  Consider getting the entire family to draw names for gifts so the pressure on everyone is reduced. Remember to include presents for any gift exchanges that you may participate in at work.  This will help you stick to your budget and resist impulse buying.
  • Pay with cash or a debit card. It’s best to leave your credit card at home when you go shopping. You don’t want to rack up debt in December, because you will regret those high-end purchases when the bills arrive in January.
  • Shop online. Few places are more hectic and stress-inducing during the holiday season than a shopping mall. You can save on gas and reduce frivolous spending by taking your list and doing all your shopping online from the comfort of home. Keep in mind that many websites have free shipping during the holidays.
  • Think outside of the (gift) box. It is easy to make the holidays all about getting and giving presents. Consider centering your holiday on activities that do not emphasize gift-giving. Go caroling or serve meals at a homeless shelter. Humanitarian organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Meals on Wheels Association of America always need extra hands during the holiday season. To learn more about volunteer opportunities in your area, visit volunteermatch.org.
  • Start thinking about next year now. Purchase decorations after the holidays. It is tempting to get new lights or candles to spruce up your home every year. Yet, the prices on most of these items will be dramatically reduced in late December and early January. Consider buying your cards, decorations and other festive materials when the holidays are over.
  • Take time out to relax. The holidays can be a busy and stressful time when you are picking up extra shifts and part-time work to meet your financial demands. Make sure that you take some time for yourself. Do activities that are relaxing for you, and while you’re at them, be sure to breathe deeply and release tension. You will think more clearly and be more apt to make wise financial decisions when you are not stressed.

“Lastly, remember the reason for the season,” notes Borck. “The holidays are a time of joy and showing appreciation towards your friends and loved ones. No matter what the economy looks like and even if material gifts are not plentiful this year, focus on what truly matters and celebrate all the wonderful things that money cannot buy.”

[Jennifer E. Jones]