During difficult economic times, it is important to honor Christmas traditions and enjoy the small luxuries of the Christmas season without breaking the bank. The comfort of having warm food, a glimmering, colorful Christmas tree with a pile of neatly-wrapped presents underneath may not come cheap, but it doesn’t have to be overly expensive, either!
Here are ten easy tips to help your family enjoy Christmas this year, even in the face of the current recession.
1. Instead of exchanging several small Christmas presents, have everyone in the family agree to only exchange one present per person, with a price range fixed in advance.
Often, when trying to do our Christmas shopping on a budget, we out-do ourselves trying not to look cheap. Instead of just spending $50 on the item we know our spouse or child really wants, we will spend almost as much on several smaller, less desired gifts, just so we can put more under the tree.
To avoid the quantity-over-quality trap this year, follow these three tips: keep it simple, communicate and always keep the receipt!
2. Suggest a Secret Santa arrangement to family members this Christmas, and spare everyone a lot of expense. Each person has their name represented in a group of names, and each person also draws a name. Names can be written on pieces of paper and tossed in a hat, bowl or bag. Each person will buy a Christmas gift for one other person at random, based off the name they draw from the lot. This idea works best in a large family, and is also popular at the office.
3. To cut spending in this tough economy, consider a Christmas gift grab bag at work this year. Instead of everyone buying a gift for specific people, all participants purchase personality-neutral Christmas gifts within a certain price range.
When shopping for Christmas gifts for office grab bags, or Secret Santa situations where you aren’t familiar with the person you’re buying for, keep it simple and consider small kitchen appliances or items relating to the person’s profession. Gift cards are also a popular choice, as you can control the amount to put on the card.
Everyone turns their wrapped gifts into the grab bag coordinator, and the grab bag gifts are then doled out either at random, in a lottery or even by rank (for example, co-workers pick gifts in order of seniority).
4. To save money this Christmas, make the most out of holiday decorations already available. Go through your garage or attic’s Christmas stash BEFORE you shop for any new, seasonal decorative items.
It’s easy to purchase holiday-themed items like ornaments, lights, place mats and more, only to later realize you didn’t really need to. Buying duplicates is a common holiday money waster; take care of your holiday things and keep them somewhere you’ll actually remember them next year!
5. If money is tight due to the recession, consider a fake Christmas tree this year. Fresh Christmas trees are a tradition in some homes, but for those who wouldn’t miss the fresh pine scent and all the needles on the floor, a plastic tree might be the perfect place to cut Christmas costs.
Besides saving money from the outset (fresh trees are usually $30-50 more than their similarly-sized, fake counterparts), this is one Christmas money-saver that will keep on giving. Fake Christmas trees can easily last for ten or fifteen years, and are readily available in stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, and other local retailers. Discount outlet stores such as Big Lots and Savers often sell low-cost varieties of plastic Christmas trees, as well.
6. If you typically go all out for a huge Christmas feast, consider toning things down in light of the current recession. Take someone else up on their invitation to Christmas dinner, or simply pare down your festivities.
7. Keep track of any charitable contributions you may make during the holidays. Whether you buy a Christmas toy for a needy tot, or gift Goodwill with a bag of clean-but-unwanted clothing, get a receipt or mark the transaction down somehow. Though you may not feel any economic relief this Christmas season, you may be eligible for tax deductions when preparing your 2009 taxes.
8. Save money this Christmas season by sending Christmas e-mails instead of cards. Though it may sound like a bit much to give up your Christmas card habit, consider this: electronic Christmas greetings are eco-friendly, help keep clutter out of our homes and save money on paper cards and postage. Find free e-greetings here!
Include the thinking behind your decision to go green this year in your e-greeting to family and friends. Who knows, you may even start a trend for next Christmas! If you choose to send electronic Christmas greetings instead of traditional cards to just twenty people, you can save at least $30!
9. If you need to overhaul your holiday wardrobe on a budget, forget the department stores. Hit the thrift stores to score a new dress for the office Christmas party, and get your money’s worth all season! Wear the same holiday outfit to both office and family Christmas gatherings, and switch things up with accessories like jewelry, scarfs and shoes already in your collection.
Thrift stores offer discounts as deep as 80% on expensive, designer labels, and many pieces will still have the original tags on.
10. Can’t swing holiday travel to see the family this year? Is Grandma upset she won’t see the kids for Christmas? If getting together in-person isn’t possible, consider sending her a web-cam, and setting one up yourself! Compared with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in travel costs, the web-cams cost practically nothing, and ensure a family holiday reunion on a budget!
Free, online web-cam services like MSN Live and Skype provide user-friendly interfaces and help if you need it. Follow on-screen instructions when installing your web-cam, choose a service and sign up for a free account. A decent web-cam can be purchased at stores like Best Buy, Walmart or online at Amazon for between $25-60.