Have a Financially Friendly Holiday

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Financially, navigating the holiday season during an economic slump can be a little tough, but with early planning and a little DIY creativity, you can eliminate extra expenses associated with last minute preparation. Believe it or not, you can be frugal and still dazzle your friends and family.

Get a head start

Early planning allows you to get a bigger picture of what’s ahead. Think about things you’ll need to prepare for (food, gifts, décor, etc.), set a spending limit and stick to it!

When planning a dinner party or get-together, set the menu as far in advance as you can. Make a complete list of all ingredients needed for your holiday feast and mark them off as you stock up. Watch local sale ads for items that you know you’ll use, and don’t forget your trusty coupons! Diligent coupon clippers can save a great deal of money by digging for the best deals. Stock up on non-perishable items or buy in bulk to make the most of your money. Substitute high-priced name brand items with less expensive store brands.

You might also consider turning the holiday feast into a culinary showcase. It seems like everyone has a dish that they are known for — invite your guests to bring a dish to pass. Whether it’s your sister’s famous apple crisp or your Aunt Betty’s roasted chicken, everyone gets some time to shine.

Don’t forget about post-season sales! At the end of the holiday season, you can usually stock up on gift wrap, cards, décor and more at discounted prices. It’s a great way to save money and get a jumpstart for next year.

Gifts on a budget

If you usually buy for many friends and family members, think about organizing a gift exchange for each group. Let everyone take a few moments to write down their name and a few gift ideas, and into the hat it goes! Set a price limit that is reasonable for everyone, and choose one name from the hat each. This way you are only responsible for one person’s gift, and you can keep your holiday spending to a minimum.

Or, consider a “white elephant exchange” with your friends or family — everyone loves a laugh and you will have many with this idea. Have your guests bring an inexpensive wrapped gift (between $5 and $20) and place them all together so that you can’t tell who brought each gift. Someone is designated to pick and open the first gift. Each following person gets the choice to either open an unwrapped gift or to steal an already opened one. Continue until everyone has a gift. You may end up with something surprisingly useful or a small tchotchke that will bring laughs for holidays to come.

Get creative

If you didn’t stock up on gift wrap and other supplies at the end of last holiday season, don’t fret! Consider wrapping gifts in the Sunday comics or the recipient’s favorite section of the newspaper, or even spare scraps of fabric you’ve got at home. It’s an inexpensive way to wrap your holiday surprises.

Cutting down on extra expenses may be easier than you think! Is a $4 card necessary for each gift you give? Consider using a postcard or just decorated cardstock and attached with yarn, twine or embroidery floss. Use your imagination to create heartfelt gifts and décor that will bring a unique flair to your home!

Give back

While family and friends might be the focal point of your holiday season, remember that there are many organizations in your community that need assistance. Consider a monetary, food or item donation to a local food bank or shelter, or even spend time volunteering at one of these wonderful organizations — it’s something the whole family can be involved in. A quick search on the Internet and you can find local charities and organizations that are in need of help this holiday season.

No matter how you are spending the holidays, or whom you’re spending them with, know that you can do it without emptying your checking account. Set a budget, stick to your list and get creative this holiday season!


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Tags: april clobes, budgeting, financially, holiday budget, holiday expenses, msufcu, saving money

April Clobes

April Clobes is Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for MSU Federal Credit Union in East Lansing. She can be contacted by e-mail or by calling (517) 333-2254.