Four Quick and Easy Ways Not to Blow Your Budget during the Holidays
By Yolander Prinzel
Okay, I love the holiday season. Love it. And I am the biggest sucker for holiday related consumer goods. Holiday themed peppermint flavored drinks? Yes please. Jingle bell shaped earrings? I’ll take two. The Nutcracker on ice starring that guy who did the voice of Papa Smurf? Oh, I wouldn’t dream of not buying tickets.
This kind of willy-nilly holiday free-for-all isn’t actually free for all — it’s costing you and your family something major. It is taking you way off budget and making 2010’s financial goals that much harder to attain. But how can you say no to earrings, holiday food and special shows during this special time that only happens once a year? Easy — by setting a budget, prioritizing your spending and replacing some of you activities with more affordable ones.
Set a Budget
Decide how much money you can reasonably afford to spend on holiday activities with your family. By “afford” we mean pay for in cash, not out of savings, and with funds that were not earmarked for bills. If that means you only have $10, then you only have $10. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun it just means you might have to work harder to find it.
Find Free Holiday Activities in Your Area
Many libraries have free holiday movie screenings and book readings; many small towns decorate their downtown area and host a day of street carolers, parades and costumed-character visits; many churches and community centers have free meals and concerts; many neighborhoods have fantastic free light displays. It is really just a matter of finding some free activities to bring your family to that keep you in the holiday spirit.
Prioritize the Activities
Now that you have decided how much you can reasonably afford to spend and you have found some free activities to reduce your NEED to spend, decide what activity or activities you most want to attend and how much money out of your budget to spend on them. If you fill your holiday season with free activities you may have enough money in your budget to blow it all on those Nutcracker on ice tickets. Just remember, some free activities might still need some funds for the purchase of hot cocoa or parking so plan accordingly.
Create Your Own At-home Traditions
Your holiday activities do not all have to take place outside the home. You can make putting up the tree while watching holiday movies (rented for free at the library) a tradition. You can also take out holiday books from the library and make a new tradition of reading one out loud each night to the whole family. Buy some instant hot cocoa, bring out the fleece throw blankets and crack open the board games for family game night.
Just think, creating new traditions that require less money to maintain means you are setting your family up for frugal holidays for many years to come — and there is no greater gift than the gift of frugal living.
Photo credit: Michael Holden
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