Enjoy your Holidays Without Breaking the Bank

By Maria T. Pepin


Holidays are a time to count your blessings and express feelings of appreciation for the loved ones in your life. However, with the state of the economy and rising everyday costs, families are starting to curb their spending. Not to worry! Cutting costs on holiday shopping doesn’t have to mean ditching all the fun. If you are looking for some great alternatives to purchasing gifts this year, here are some creative ideas to help you celebrate the season with cheer!





Bake Your Gift




Baked goods make delicious gifts and can be a thoughtful way to express your love for someone special. Why not whip up your famous homemade pie? If you have multiple recipients- you can double the ingredients to create a large batch of brownies, cookies or cupcakes. Make your treats festive with holiday sprinkles and frosting! Everyone enjoys homemade goodies and your loved ones will know that you spent a lot of time and effort making the present.





Use Your Talent




Use your talent. You may be a great writer, musician or singer. Put your skills to work. Burn a mix CD, write a heartfelt song or create some unique jewelry. Do you love to knit? Make your friends a holiday hat or a scarf! Remember, it is the thought that counts. These gifts will not break your bank, but will be treasured for years to come.





Photo Fun




Give the gift of pictures. Photos are wonderful because they are very personal, yet inexpensive. Check out Shutterfly or Snapfish- most of these sites have an option for 20 free prints when you set up an account. You can turn your favorite pictures into festive ornaments, make a holiday calendar for your family or present the photos in a decorated frame or colorful collage.





Re-gift




Don’t be afraid to re-gift. It is economical and no one needs to know. Throw in your own special touch with some holiday treats, a sweet card and some colorful wrapping paper to make the gift feel new. Another idea: you can sell your unwanted gifts on eBay. This will put some extra cash in your pocket, which you can use to pay off your holiday credit card bills!





Coupon Craze




Think of something special you can do for each of your loved ones and make some holiday coupons. For example: Give your spouse a coupon for a back massage, breakfast in bed or a month off from their least favorite chores. Your kids will enjoy coupons with “extra privileges.” Think about what your kids really enjoy and value. A later bedtime, extra playtime or a raise in their allowance are all fun options. For a close friend, you might offer up a free night of babysitting. Good babysitters can be hard to find and for couples that enjoy going out, this will be extremely meaningful.





Travel




Surprise your friends or family with frequent flier miles. If you are strapped for cash, but have tons of frequent flier miles ~ get booking! Do you have a granddaughter who wants to come visit? Do you live far away from your parents, who miss you terribly? If you have extra frequent flier miles, you can buy someone you love a plane ticket. Being able to travel and see those most dear to you during the holidays is the perfect present for anyone.





New Traditions




Start a new tradition with your family. As a kid growing up, did you ever go to Macy’s to check out the window display? Or take a drive around town to admire the neighborhood houses that have Christmas lights? Looking back on it, those traditions were a lot of fun! You can also check out the various free activities in your area such as tree lighting or Christmas caroling. Perhaps you and your children can make hot chocolate together from scratch each year. Or bake and decorate holiday cookies on Christmas morning. These are great ways to bond as a family and the memories are priceless!

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