It seems like the back-to-school shopping rush barely ends before the holidays start to arrive. First Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then winter holidays, September to January seems to consist of one expense after another and they all just seem to run one right after another. Just because you want your family to enjoy the holidays, doesn’t mean you have to throw your budget and green lifestyle out the window. With a little planning and some creativity, your family can enjoy the holidays without going overboard, just keep your budget in mind and leave yourself some wriggle room for last-minute expenses.
Kids often have ideas about who they want to dress up as for Halloween, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to compromise if you come up with a better idea. Steer clear of the costume aisle at your local and consider crafting homemade costumes using materials you can recycle from your house instead. Another good option is to start scouring thrift shops and/or yard sales in September. You can often find gently used costumes at low price. Not only are you getting a deal, but you’re saving a costume from thrown out prematurely.
The Thanksgiving Family Feast
Planning a fantastic family dinner, even one large enough to account for unexpected guests, doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Spend some time comparing sales at different grocery stores and stock up on items in advance when they’re on sale. Thanksgiving food special usually start in late October/early November, so make your list early and you can load up your reusable grocery bags with the items you need while they’re on sale. It is a little less convenient than buying all your items at once, but you can save a lot of money and have extra food on hand.
Many teachers plan classroom parties and don’t give the parents much warning. If you need to come up with a contribution for your child, don’t just run out and buy a couple dozen cupcakes or other store-made foods. Try to be creative and come up with something that you can make at home. For example, creatively decorated sugar cookies aren’t expensive or difficult to bake, plus you and your kids will have fun making them together. Your child’s classmates will be a lot more impressed with homemade treats than anything you can buy.
From Halloween parties to New Year’s Eve gatherings, you can save yourself some money and hassle if you don’t try to do everything yourself. People often love to show off their favorite recipes, so why not have a pot-luck party? Decide what you can reasonably afford to contribute to the occasions and then ask guests to each bring something of their own. Keep a list of who is bringing what so that you know you have the right assortment of food available. Try to plan your contributions to cover things that other people aren’t already bringing.
Plan on Saving Leftovers
After holiday meals and parties, there are almost always leftovers. Determine which leftovers you can save for future meals instead of throwing them out. For example, many people have recipes for turkey soup, pot pies and other ways to reuse Thanksgiving leftovers, but what about Halloween goodies? Instead of tossing out a partial try of uneaten cookies, put them in your children’s lunch boxes for snacks. You can also freeze many items and eat them after the holidays have passed, so that your family won’t feel like they’re eating the same food for a week.
Use Debit Instead of Credit
According to debtconsolidation.com, online shopping accounted for 47.5% of Black Friday retail sales. While you can get some great deals online, that’s not a good reason to run up your credit card balances. Start a holiday savings account that you contribute to throughout the year and use your debit card to pay for online purchases. No matter which winter holiday you celebrate or how many gifts you want to buy, you’re always better off to pay with the equivalent of cash than to run up debt on your charge cards. Plan a holiday shopping budget and stick to it.
Greener Gift Cards
While buying e-gift cards won’t always save you money, it does keep some plastic out of landfills. Instead of buying plastic gift cards at the store, consider getting online and buying electronic versions instead. Many major retailers like Amazon and Apple offer gift certificates that can be delivered via email. You can even get electronic gift cards for stores like Whole Foods and services like Task Rabbit. As an additional plus, e-gift cards are great ideas if you need to come up with a last minute gift.
Don’t Spend to Impress
Indulging your children during gift-giving holidays is one thing, but spending a lot of money on people you aren’t that close with just for the sake of keeping up appearances is rather silly. People that truly care about you will appreciate the thought you put into choosing their gifts, not how much money you spent on it. Besides, if you have to spend a small fortune just to impress someone, there’s a pretty good chance that he or she won’t appreciate your gift anyway and it will just go unused.
There really is truth to the old adage that it is the thought that counts. Whether you’re buying gifts, contributing to holiday celebrations, or planning your own family dinners, your creativity and careful thought are more important than how much money you spend. Even though it seems like the fall/winter holidays creep up on us before we expect them, they’re occasions you can count on every year. Try to keep room in your budget for holiday and spending and throw in some extra savings for the inevitable surprises that come up. You’ll enjoy your holidays a lot more if you don’t have to worry about spending more than you can afford.
About the Author: Angela Quint is a mother of three. She loves looking for new ways to spoil her family without blowing her budget out of the water and enjoys helping others do the same.