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Financial Tip of the Week - Tips on How to Save Money During the Holidays

Source: Military Community and Family Policy (MC&FP) Weekly eNewsletter


'Tis the season for overspending. Excessive holiday gifts and entertainment drain the checking account faster than usual. The commercial aspect of the holiday encourages spending, but there are many ways to shave costs from the holiday budget without earning the nickname Scrooge. Money-saving strategies help focus on friends, family, and making memories without the need for a second mortgage to finance it all.

Budget for gifts. You budget for the mortgage, car payments, and groceries, so it's only natural to add in a gift budget. Write a holiday gift list to figure out how many gifts you need. The list is key in keeping your holiday budget low. Sure, your mail carrier is nice, you have friendly neighbors, and the lady in accounting always pays you on time, but your holiday gift list has to stop somewhere. Pare down your gift list to those closest to you to save money. Set a reasonable spending limit for each gift. Save that money all twelve months of the year so you'll end up with enough cash in December to buy the gifts outright rather than reaching for the plastic.

Host frugal celebrations. The point of holiday get-togethers is spending time with family or friends. Those closest to you won't mind if you serve cocktail wienies instead of Cornish hens at your holiday party. An appetizer potluck gives all of the guests a chance to show off their favorite holiday dishes while saving on the food budget. A tree-trimming party, holiday game night, winter movie marathon, and cookie exchanges are other party ideas. If you want to relive your childhood, plan a sledding party followed by hot cocoa and cookies. Your guests will probably enjoy themselves much more than they would at a formal dinner party.

Stock up early. If you've ever been to the grocery store the night before your holiday dinner, you know there's a mad dash for all of the holiday staples as everyone prepares to cook their feasts. To avoid a scuffle over the last box of stuffing, set out to do your food shopping early. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, grab a few non-perishable items you'll need for dinner. This spreads the cost out over a few weeks instead of a large grocery bill right before the holidays. Plus you avoid shortages of your holiday favorites.

Give time instead of gifts. The homemade coupons you made as a child might sound cheesy, but offering your time instead of a gift that will end up in the attic is more meaningful and less expensive. Consider the recipient and how your time could benefit her. For example, you might offer a night of babysitting for your friend who is a new mom or girl's night out with a friend you rarely see. A similar option is to gather a group of friends or family members to help a charity at the holidays. Instead of exchanging gifts, donate time as a group for the selected charity. You might host a holiday party at a children's hospital or put on a winter variety show at a nursing home. After the volunteer efforts, enjoy a meal together at a restaurant. You save money on gifts and spread holiday cheer with friends.


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