The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year. Chances are it’s a special time for your family where you spend time together, share some great meals and even exchange gifts. Unfortunately, for many families, the holiday season can also be a very expensive time of year. Whether you have small children, teenagers or simply a lot of nieces and nephews, the cost of gifts, decorations and food can quickly add up. If you’re concerned about debt, it’s possible to minimize your costs this year with careful planning. Here’s what you need to know.
Start planning early
One of the simplest ways to save money is to start planning early. Make a list of everything you’ll need for the holidays a few months before the holiday season begins. Include everything you can think of, including small items like extra toilet paper. During the holidays, these tiny expenses can quickly add up and put you over budget. If you begin planning ahead of time, you’ll reduce your overall costs. For example, if paper plates are on sale in August, go ahead and stock up. If you see the perfect gift for your niece on sale in October, grab it. As long as you’re willing to get organized early, you can reduce your expenses by shopping when things are on sale.
Focus on spending time together
For many families, the holiday season is a time filled with stress and greed. Maybe the children in your family are focused on how many gifts they’ll receive. Maybe the adults are. This year, try to emphasize the importance of spending time together, rather than receiving expensive gifts. When you have a family get-together, for example, plan several games your family members can play together. Focus on talking with one another and sharing memories. Take a walk or participate in a shared scavenger hunt around your neighborhood. If you live in a city, you could even visit a museum or historical site together. The options are endless, as long as you’re willing to spend time planning activities to do. While you can still host a gift exchange, spending time with one another should be the focal point of the holiday.
Sometimes thinking creatively can be a challenge, but when it comes to the holidays, don’t be afraid to come up with new ways to celebrate inexpensively. For example, maybe you and your family usually have an expensive gift exchange. Even if you set a price limit, that limit might be higher than your family can reasonably afford. Why not suggest some different ideas this year? You could host a kids-only gift exchange or ask family members to exchange gifts they made themselves. You could do a baked-goods only gift exchange. You could even try something like a books-only gift exchange where each family member gives and receives a new book. Another option would be to skip the gift exchange completely and instead participate in a local charity event or do some volunteer work as a family.
With careful planning, you can reduce your expenses and avoid going into debt this holiday season. Keep in mind that while it’s worthwhile to try not to spend too much money, your kids and relatives may struggle with the idea, so talk with them early and often about your plans.