Budgeting for the Holidays

by Sarah Welch


I’m struggling to figure out the best approach for gift giving this Holiday Season. I want to give my kids and family the world, but can’t afford to spend a lot of money this year because I have been out of a job since September. What are some good ways to make a little go a long way when it comes to presents?


The spirit of the Holidays is about giving, but that does not necessarily have to mean gift-giving. There are lots of ways, for little or no money, to celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or just the New Year, in a way that makes the people you love feel loved, appreciated, and special. Below are a few thought starters – we usually stick to three – but in this case once we started thinking of ways to get yourself organized to celebrate without spending too much, the ideas kept coming.


Use Points


One of the best ways to give gifts without busting your budget is to use any credit card points you have accumulated all year long to get gifts for friends and family. Credit card companies, like American Express, have so many great things to choose from and they are free with those points you have earned but probably don't think about using.


Start Early and Shop Smart


With the economy in the doldrums, retailers are doing their best to entice buyers into stores. Be on the lookout for “BOGOs” – or buy one get one free offers, and discounts as much as 40% on brand new merchandise. In addition, be sure to look for deals online. Amazon.com, overstock, etc all usually have better deals on prices and periodically offer free shipping. Also considered gently used items on ebay. And if you’ve got gamers at home, try GameStop (in stores or online). They have a huge selection of used video games guaranteed to work. They are exactly the same as new ones, it’s just that the child who owned it before yours beat the game and has no use for it any more.


Give Together


Rather than focusing on “what I got” – focus on giving something back. This Christmas morning, or the first day of Chanukah or Kwanzaa, consider volunteering as a family at a soup kitchen, a nursing home, or hospital. Your children (and you) will get to experience the true gift of the Holidays when you see another’s face light up because you have offered a helping hand.


Make Something in the Kitchen Together


Apple pie, pumpkin pie, ginger bread cookies, rugelach – no matter the dish – time spent in the kitchen making special treats creates memories that will last a lifetime. Before you put on your aprons, sit down together and read Truman Capote’s short story, called “A Christmas Memory” to set the mood.