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It’s the most wonderful time of the year ...
That’s how the song goes, right? The lights are twinkling. The tables are set. The kids are excited and counting down the days. There is joy and revelry in the air everywhere you go.
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year -- but it’s also the most expensive.
1. Make a plan
It doesn’t have to be a 20-page spreadsheet -– just take a look at your finances, set the absolute number you can spend and stick to it. Hide credit cards until after the holidays, so you aren’t tempted to use them.
2. Do some preemptive cutbacks
While having family around the dinner table is a tradition during the holidays, it’s as much if not more of a tradition to end up eating out.
Try cutting back on these trips during the holiday season to preserve your holiday spending fun. Eat out of your pantry for a week, and if you do go out, drink water instead of alcohol.
3. Cut back on your gift list
While wanting to give all the things to all the people is a sign of a kind and generous soul, it can also be very expensive very quickly.
Try writing your gift list down and prioritizing them: Who really should get a gift, and who will be just as touched by a card?
4. Be creative with your gifts
You don’t have to shop for everyone -- you can create some DIY gifts. One example is a little candy bag, tied up in a bag from a craft store. Another -- if you have photography skills -- is getting the best photo you made this year printed out and insert it into cards.
5. Get the kids to edit their lists
If there’s anyone you want to give all the presents to, it’s your kids. But that can quickly run up some big bills.
Ask your kids to focus their Christmas list to one or two items that they really want. This will help them reduce their greediness and you reduce your debt load.
6. Give back
The holidays are a good time to help teach your kids about people who aren’t able to give or get presents and what can be done to help them. Go through their unused or old toys and donate them to a shelter or gift drive.
7. Focus the decorations
Decorating your home is a fun part of the season that can involve the whole family.
Keep the decorations focused on certain areas to avoid clutter and buying lots of things you don’t need. Think about the front door, the living room and the dining room table, for starters.
8. Cut your own tree
Getting a Christmas tree is one of the highlights of the season -- and it can also be one of the bigger bills.
If you live near a wooded area that isn’t posted for trespassing, look at cutting one down yourself. Go to a cut-your-own tree farm for a fresher, cheaper tree and a fun family outing.
9. Potluck parties
If you’re hosting the holiday party, think about having it be a potluck affair. Everyone’s gift to each other can be what they bring for food. Or, if you all live near each other, you can have each course at a different house.
10. Find free holiday activities
Driving or walking around your neighborhood to see the holiday lights is a great way to get in the holiday spirit. If you live near a city or town, go see what their decorations look like.
A group outdoor ice skating adventure is another fun way to play outside.
If you want to stay in, try some DIY ornament projects.