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 Home>Money & Business>Personal Finance>Limited Resources>

Christmas is Coming

No need to panic, not yet, but don’t wait until you have few or no options, and end up spending more than you can afford. With some planning and preparation, you can make Christmas inexpensive and fun. And what if you’ve been downsized, or laid off? There are some ways you can deal with that too.

Make a list of everyone you can think of that you usually buy gifts for at Christmas. Carry that list around with you between now and Christmas, and watch for sales. As you find that perfect gift, check that name off your list and store the gift at home to wrap later. Use a “gift closet,” or you can use space under a bed, behind a sofa, or in a pantry. When Christmas comes and your gifts have already been purchased in advance, it takes the pressure and stress off you and your wallet.

You can find new items still in the original packaging and discounted at garage sales, charity fund raisers, store clearance sales, thrift stores, or on-line (be sure to look for free shipping). Watch for coupons and advertised “specials” for any “must have” items. If you see something on-sale and don’t have the money right now, many stores have brought back the “lay-away” concept which allows you to get the item on-sale now and pay later.

What if, like many others, you really cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts this year? Don’t wait to speak to those you have previously exchanged gifts with. Tell them now that you won’t be able to do that this year. Telling them, before they buy you a gift, saves you and them time and awkwardness. They’ll understand and appreciate your honesty. They may be in a similar financial situation this year.

Some low or no cost gift ideas:

If your credit cards allow you to accumulate points, use the points to get and give gifts or gift cards.

Talk to your immediate and extended family about exchanging names, so you buy one gift instead of many.

If you have like new books you’ve already read, consider passing them on to others as gifts.

There are magazines offering free or very low-cost 6-12 month trial subscriptions, or buy one and get one free. Give the gift of a free magazine subscription.

Prison arts and crafts fairs are great places to get inmates’ unique handmade items at low-cost.

Learn to barter. A friend or neighbor may be a good cook or seamstress, and you may be able to trade some yard work or babysitting for that perfect home cooked or handmade gift.

If you have the capability, buy blank CDs and make Christmas or other music CDs for gifts.

You may have items we have purchased or been given, that you will never use. Consider re-gifting.

Can you knit, do artwork, make jewelry, can jelly, grow house plants, sew, make hair bows, scrap book, or use your talent to create your own unique gifts? There are lots of ideas on-line for low cost homemade gifts, like potholders out of old jeans, flavored coffees out of instant coffee, or hot chocolate mixes that can be given in jars as gifts.

You can copy and share a favorite recipe, or prepare and give it as a gift. You could make and freeze rolls of your favorite cookie dough, or a lasagna recipe, to give as gifts.

Perhaps you have jewelry you no longer wear, or something that would have sentimental value to someone else, that you could pass along as a gift.

Children can make ornaments with their names and the year -to give to friends, family, and teachers.

For children in your family, identify agencies in your community that will be distributing toys or clothing for Christmas and call now to see if you qualify to be on their distribution list. Ask if they distribute Thanksgiving and/or Christmas food baskets, or ask them to refer you to an agency that does.

Do you own something of value that you no longer need or use? Consider selling it. The price of gold is over $1,000 an ounce. You may have broken gold jewelry you can sell to a jeweler to pay for Christmas.

Can you give a coupon for cleaning a house/garage/oven/closet, yard work, shopping, or a back rub?

Christmas cards:

Right before or immediately after Christmas, when everything goes on sale, buy cards for the next year. Or make your own cards, and consider handing them out instead of mailing them. The cost of stamps is increasing, and sending Christmas cards can be expensive. If you cannot afford to send cards this year, then go through your list and see how it can be reduced. Start now, and tell those you’ve sent to in the past that you will not be sending cards this year. Again, they may be in a similar financial situation this year and they’ll appreciate your honesty.

Inexpensive holiday party ideas:

If it is your turn to host the Christmas or New Year’s party then consider making it a potluck, where everyone brings a dish to share. You can provide the place, silverware, napkins, plates, glasses, iced tea or coffee, and do the clean-up. You can let guests know the categories from which they can chose -such as salads, meat, casseroles, vegetables, desserts, etc., or take your chances and be surprised. Also, let your guests know it will be a BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage) party. You provide the ice, and they bring their own drinks if the iced tea and coffee you provide is not what they want to drink.

If you want your party to be one that everybody will enjoy and remember, make it a fun “White Elephant” party. See: http://www.wikihow.com/Organize-a-White-Elephant-Gift-Exchange

This is a way for friends or family to get together for the holidays and have a fun time for very low or no cost.

Give yourself and your family the gift of reduced holiday stress by not adding debt this year. You don’t have to wait until Christmas. You can start now to make your holiday time together less expensive and more enjoyable. Spend more time together as a family by cooking and eating together at home, taking advantage of local parks, going to the library for books, playing cards or board games, attending free concerts or educational programs, watching Christmas specials on TV together, visiting relatives/friends/neighbors, going for bike rides or walks, and talking. Make your plan now and stick to it, because the holidays are coming, and this year you can make them really special.

Last Updated: 10/4/2012 12:20:50 PM
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