Trim the Tree, Trim Your Budget: 10 Tips For Saving Money During the Holidays
Are you worried that holiday spending will put you in the red this year?
To alleviate the potential pain of an expensive season, we asked three experts -- Evelyn Prasse, economics instructor at the University of Illinois; Cynthia Townley Ewer, editor of www.organizedchristmas.com; and Jodi Levine, editorial director at Martha Stewart Living -- for their best tips to save money while keeping the holidays joyous.
Here's what they had to say:
1. Make new family traditions. If you can't afford the annual ski trip, find a new way to celebrate. Spend the day building snowmen at the local park or attending a free holiday festival or concert. You could even volunteer together.
2. Give gifts that require your time and talent. Baby sitting, snow shoveling, home decorating and cleaning certificates are often more appreciated than store-bought items. Consider the needs of the people on your gift list. A busy mom might appreciate several home-cooked dinners she can reheat. An overworked homeowner might be grateful for an extra set of hands for a home-improvement project.
3. Give theme gifts. Choose a category of gift to give. Depending on your budget, everyone gets a magazine subscription, DVD, tickets to concerts or sporting events. This will also keep you from buying little extras that always add up.
4. Discover holiday magic. Think of low-cost ways to celebrate. Let your children sleep under the Christmas tree. On a snowy evening, fill a thermos with hot cocoa, bundle up and take a walk to look at decorations around the neighborhood. If it's too cold to head outside, make a CD of your family's favorite holiday music or find a low-cost arts-and-crafts project that will keep your kids busy for hours.
5. Send e-mail greeting cards rather than printed ones. It's an inexpensive way to share holiday wishes, photos and family updates with friends and family.
6. Foster your kids' imaginations with unusual gifts. Little ones love to play store, so create a kit by filling a container with receipt pads, an open-closed sign, Post-Its, play money and a basket. Then, price and tag items around the house with the Post-Its and create a shopping game.
7. Host a decorating party. Invite friends over to make holiday decorations, assemble gingerbread houses or decorate cookies. Ask each guest to bring a particular item so that everyone shares in the cost of the evening.
8. Host a holiday movie party. Get two favorite holiday flicks and throw a potluck shindig.
9. Reuse and recycle. Create paper snowflakes from recycled office paper, newspaper or old gift wrap. Turn holiday cards or gift wrap into gift tags and Christmas ornaments and use greenery from your yard to decorate the house.
10. Give family gifts. Rather than buy a present for every member of a family, give a group gift, such as a board game, water park passes or zoo membership.
Related: How to Handle the Holidays When Your Ex Has the Kids
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.