Holiday traditions are fun. They bring warmth to the heart and signal to us that the season of goodwill is upon us. We connect more with others. We serve more than we normally would. Love abounds at every corner, but so, unfortunately, do bills.
Whether you’re spending more on your kids’ holiday school parties, or just trying to make sure Santa has enough under the tree without making you broke, the holidays can bring a financial stress that doesn’t jive well with that feel-good spirit. This year, you can take steps to avoid the cash flow mayhem, and have a little more fiscal peace.
The Christmas Cards
Sending out holiday greetings is a fun tradition that helps us stay in touch with people we care about, but may not get to talk to as often as we’d like. It’s more personal than letting them drift into the Facebook acquaintance zone, but it can cost a good bit of money if you’re not careful.
One way to shave costs is to send out non-photo Christmas cards. You can pick them up at a drug store or retailer for a much lower price per card than if you personalize your letter. Then, print out an insert with those obligatory family updates, including a couple pictures in your Word document.
If you feel strongly about sending photo cards, using promo codes is a great way to save. You don’t have to order 60 cards with the same photo, either. Sites like Moo allow you to print a different image on every single one in your order if you so desire. That way if you have more than one family shot you’d like to share, you don’t have to place multiple orders and pay multiple shipping costs.
The Baked Goods
Buying premade dough for those sugar cookies sure is convenient, but you can save some money by making your own from scratch. The internet abounds with simple recipes. Take a couple minutes and find one that fits what you already have in your cabinet.
Making cookies of the gingerbread variety? Instead of buying brand name chocolate candies for buttons and eyes, look at your local grocer’s bulk candy section. You’ll be able to buy a smaller, more appropriate amount, likely at a much lower cost per ounce.
Gifts are typically the biggest budget buster this time of year. When you’re dealing with your own children, tell them that Santa can either bring one big present, or a bunch of small ones. After all, he does have to have enough toys for everyone.
If your child is more mature, present the same options to them, citing the budget instead of the big man in red. You don’t want to take the magic out of Christmas, but learning about budgets at a young age is empowering long-term.
For the adults in your family, especially if you exchange with extended family, discuss drawing names. Everyone can buy one present for one person, rather than stretching themselves too thin. This also allows you to give more meaningful presents, as you’re likely able to spend more on one person than on five or ten.
Give Your Time
It’s become engrained in us that the holidays are about stuff, but the true spirit of the season is the giving of our time. Stop to help people when you see a need. Spend extra time with your family. Go out of your way to give that one commodity that can’t be bought, which makes it all the more precious.