In part one of this article, we looked at some ways to cut back on your holiday spending. Many families find that holidays are more enjoyable without all the stress and shopping - have you considered some of these options to save money while having a more laid-back approach to the holidays?
Save money on holiday meals. One of the hidden costs of shopping is the time it takes. You spend hours driving to the mall, trying to find a parking place, walking through stores, waiting in line, and by the time you're done shopping, everyone is tired and hungry - which leads you to the nearest restaurant, where you spend even more money feeding your family. Instead of paying for pricey restaurant meals, plan ahead and cook at home - or pack a "shopping day picnic."
Simplify your entertaining: Holiday parties don't have to be stressful and overwhelming. Instead of inviting 30 people for a four-course gourmet dinner, trim down the guest list and host a casual brunch, or afternoon appetizers and wine. Or host a potluck instead of cooking a big holiday meal. It's the company that counts - your loved ones won't hold it against you if you try to save money on food and fixings. Just spending time with your family and friends can be the most important gift of all.
Make it personal. Some of the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on store-bought goods, use your creative skills to make or bake a gift for your loved ones. Do you know how to knit, sew, crochet, or do craft work? Do you have a special recipe for Christmas cookies or other sweet treats? Something that truly comes from you might be more appreciated (and longer lasting) than just another high-priced gift from the mall.
Find frugal fun. Do something free (or cheap) to celebrate the holidays. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars at the mall, take your kids ice skating at the park or visit an art museum. Instead of capping off a day of shopping by shelling out for movie tickets and theater popcorn, have a special family movie night with microwave popcorn and hot chocolate at home in the family room. Some of the best holiday fun comes from sharing quality time and memorable moments with your loved ones - and that doesn't have to involve spending money.
Beware of online shopping: People often spend more than they mean to when they shop online because the money doesn't seem as "real" as it does when paying cash. Online shopping, with credit cards and quick clicks, can drain your bank account faster than you expect. Instead, pay cash, in person - and have a plan for every holiday purchase; impulse shopping can be especially expensive at this time of year.
Be generous to those in need: As part of your holiday shopping plans, consider setting aside some time and money to give to those in need. Whether it's donating new toys to Toys for Tots, serving dinner at a homeless shelter, signing up as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, or giving a certain percentage of your holiday shopping budget to charity, you and your family have many opportunities this year to give as well as to receive. You might even find that these acts of generosity inspire you to spend less and do without some of the expensive items on your wish list.
For more money-saving tips and tools, visit Quizzle.com, where you'll learn how to pay down your debt faster and save potentially thousands of dollars in interest. And check out these other great ways to save money:
- Have Yourself a Budget-Friendly Christmas; 9 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Spending (Part 1)
- 5 Financial Opportunities to Take Advantage of before 2011
- Tis the Season: How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft during the Holidays
- Why You Need an Emergency Fund - STAT!
- How Your View on Clint Eastwood Can Help You Pick the Right Investments