It’s November and many have their eyes set on Christmas; the parties, the outings, the gift giving, the food. With the economy still so uncertain and many still without jobs, this season may have the air of being a not so merry holiday.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. With some careful planning and a few creative “outside-of-the-box” ideas you and your family won’t miss the hectic fast paced rush of previous years. In fact, you may come to treasure a slower paced holiday that allows you to reflect and appreciate the true meaning of the season. Check out these 17 ideas and choose a few to incorporate into your celebration this year, and make it through the holidays without breaking the bank or your spirit.
1.) Make a list of people you normally give to, then look over the list again and decide who you should give a gift to. The operative word here is should. Cross off people like the paperboy, postal workers, trash collector, hair stylist, handy man or teachers. These people are gainfully employed and you show your appreciation by continuing to use their services. Why spend your hard earned money and precious holiday time buying them a gift.
2.) Using the final edited gift list, determine a per person gift amount or gift item and stick to it. The amount can be different for immediate family like hubby and the kids than it is for extended family. Non-family members can receive homemade gifts.
3.) Instead of individual gifts for your brother or sister and each of their kids, give a family gift that will enable them to spend quality time together. Family packs to zoos, aquariums or living history museums are great memorable ways for families to spend time together. Even passes to the local movie theater with coupons for drinks and popcorn make wonderful family gifts.
4.) Let the kids make homemade greeting cards using craft items you have on hand and save on high priced cards. Or, send electronic holiday cards and save even more. Cutting down your holiday card list can also save you a bundle. Cards are perfect, and appropriate, for friends and family you don’t see often. It gives you a chance to get everyone caught up on what’s going on in your life. But, is it really necessary to send a card to local people you see often? A heartfelt phone call or personal greeting when you see them is just as meaningful.
5.) Give gifts that encourage your child’s interests. Activities like sewing lessons, photography workshops or music lessons rather than electronic games or other mindless gadgets will not only promote your child’s interest, but show them that you support it as well.
6.) Cut down on office gifting. Show your appreciation for an employee’s hard work with a few nice words during a staff meeting or a note of praise to their boss. If office parties are planned during the holiday season bring homemade goodies rather than purchasing party trays or liquor.
7.) When it’s time to wrap presents use up your existing stock of gift wrapping supplies before buying new. We all have remnants that could be used up.
8.) Search out free holiday entertainment. Many shopping malls now have choir groups or bands perform holiday programs. Some churches offer free to the public living nativity’s or Christmas programs. Or, fix a thermos of hot cocoa and stroll the neighborhood admiring all the decorated houses.
9.) Staying out of the shopping malls as much as possible will help curb the amount of money you spend. The lights, smells and sounds are all meant to keep you there – spending money – for as long as possible.
10.) Bring back the holiday punch bowl brimming with sparkling fruity drinks and give up expensive alcoholic beverages that are not only costly, but can cause embarrassing situations if people drink too much.
11.) Tone down outdoor décor, keeping electricity sucking decorations to a minimum. Your house doesn’t need to be lit up like a Disneyland Main Street Parade. Quiet elegance is far more pleasing to the eye and the pocketbook.
12.) Stock the freezer with plenty of “heat-and-eat” homemade meals to help curb the urge to eat out or order “take-out” when days get busy. If eating out does become necessary choose restaurants that offer coupons, share meals rather than everyone ordering their own; drink water instead of expensive beverages and forego dessert which can add greatly to the final bill.
13.) Once you’ve made your gift list, keep an eye out for and use coupons when ever possible, especially for books, clothes, or toys. Don’t be afraid to ask a retailer with a lower price if they will accept a coupon from another store. Retailers are looking at a tough holiday spending season and any sale, even a discounted one, is better than no sale at all.
14.) To add a more personal touch to gifts think about the favorite activities of each recipient. A gardener would like a pot filled with seed packets or bulbs, maybe a pair of gardening gloves and plant labels. The quilter would love a small stack of fat-quarters with matching thread or some handmade quilt labels. How about a book and a box of tea for the avid reader. Or, turn your favorite recipes into a booklet and give it to everyone. Personal, well thought out gifts, no matter how small, are much more appreciated and cherished.
15.) Throw out those big toy catalogs before the kids can see them. The last thing you need during the holidays are kids nagging you about what they want, which usually changes daily.
16.) The holidays can be a great opportunity to teach your family about charity of self. Plan a day to help at a local food bank or take an afternoon, visit your neighbors and collect food for your church or local food pantry. When you deliver your haul ask for a tour. It will not only open your family’s eyes to what is going on in their town, it will also make them feel good helping others.
17.) The holidays can be a difficult time for the elderly, especially for those that live alone. Bring a smile to their face by serving meals at a senior facility or help cook for a “homebound senior” meals program. If your family has special talents like playing an instrument or singing offer to perform during mealtime.
No matter how you slice it the holidays are more about being grateful for what you have; appreciating those you have in your life that bring you joy and solace; and learning from the past while looking towards the future. It’s not about big expensive gifts that will soon be forgotten. Or, a least it shouldn’t be.
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