The biggest holiday of the year is also the biggest burden on our wallets. Gifts for mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, in-laws, cousins, 2nd cousins and friends. It can be very stressful. It’s not a coincidence that heart attacks increase by 5% during the holiday season. And in undesirable fiscal times like these, the stress is overwhelming. However, with a slight change in attitude and some smart shopping, your Christmas doesn’t have to sink your debt to the north pole.
The first thing you have to remember is to shop smart. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of “buy now, worry later.” In truth however, that new 19 inch flat screen television that cost you $100 on sale, really ends up costing you $200 after you finally pay it off. Credit card interest is a real killer, especially during the holiday season. If you must use your credit cards, use them on the smaller items, the so called stocking stuffers, that you know you will be able to pay off in under 2 months. If you are going to buy high ticketed items, pay cash. Or, if you have to, split the cost on both cash and your credit card. This way, you’re not putting all eggs in one basket.
Another way to save money during the holiday season is rebate offers. Rebate offers are typically seen on expensive offers like computers and televisions, but are are also very common with telephones and DVDs. DVD box sets always seem to come with a $2.00-$5.00 rebate. The common practice is to disregard these rebates. We think “well, its only $2.00.” However, this rebate, along with the few rebates you will inevitably collect during the holiday season, really add up. Some rebates are as high as $50.00. That’s 2 or 3 more gifts you can get for someone else. Or better yet, that’s money you can put towards your credit cards so that interest doesn’t double.
For the less fortunate, there is absolutely no money to go around. No money for gifts. No money for food. However, the holiday season shouldn’t have to revolve around gifts. Indeed, the biggest gift we have is friends and family. And on Christmas Day, regardless of gifts or food, it should be spent with the ones we love and those who are most important to us.
If you find yourself without the ability to provide gifts or big holiday dinners this year, don’t let that get you down. Host a party anyway. A holiday themed party where all invited guests bring an appetizer, main course or dessert. Share the food over a quiet evening, talking about the joys of life. No time for negativity during the holidays. One of my favorite traditions is a game of Monopoly or Scrabble. These safe haven board games are an easy go-to during the holiday season and can provide hours of entertainment. And it doesn’t;t cost a thing. Moreover, a karaoke contest between friends always makes for an entertaining party. Have each participant pick out someone else song and watch them squirm trying to match the pitch and tone and the lyrics to the song. There’s nothing funnier than watching Grandma choke herself through a bad rendition of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance.’
Finally, with the advent of OnDemand television, red boxes and netflix, Christmas movies are in abundance. Sit down and choose a Christmas classic like “A Christmas Carol,” or “It’s A Wonderful Life.” No longer do we have to wait for these classic holiday movies to appear once a year. They are virtually available at any time and should be taken advantage of. Make a warm batch of brownies and some hot chocolate, gather all your friends and family around in the living room. Lower the lights and turn on a classic movie that will warm the heart and remind all of us that the holiday season isn’t about spending money, but about spending time with the ones we love.