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Staff Writer at Debt Reduction Services

Saving money by creating new holiday traditions

Get More Bang for Your Buck with These Christmas Traditions

The holidays are here! Besides a Spring or Summer vacation, this is the one time of year when you give yourself permission to spend your hard earned money generously in the name of expressing your love for friends and family.

It’s tricky enough during the holidays just to decide, plan, and purchase all those gifts and dishes for get-togethers, the last thing you want to have to consider is how to do it better.

However, what if you could develop some new traditions that were less of a hassle, more meaningful, and saved money? Can’t argue with that, can you? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Revise Your Family Exchange

Growing up, my siblings and I all gave a gift to each other. As a child, it was fun to have so many presents to open and see how thoughtful we all could be. However, as we grew and started our own families that tradition became a burden on our time and money. I can’t imagine planning and purchasing gifts for a growing amount of people every year. Instead, each sibling gives to just one other sibling (and their family).

We have not felt at a loss by the lessened amount of gifts to open. I mean, do you ever look around throughout the year and think about how much “stuff” you have? Or wonder where you are going to put all those freshly unwrapped presents at the end of your holiday celebration?

What we are able to give, I would argue, may be less in quantity, but is higher quality and more thoughtful because we have more time and money to focus on that one family. As we rotate through siblings from year to year, we get to have that experience with each.

How to do it: if you have an odd number of siblings, it’s best to assign to each sibling the next oldest or youngest and work your way that direction throughout the years. If however, you have an even number of siblings, you could, in fact, pair sibling families to exchange with each other. Find the spin that works for you and start saving yourself stress and money this year.

Host a Friendly Holiday Potluck

Enjoy potluck parties without breaking the bankI’m a few years graduate of my early twenties, but I remember that time well. Money is tight and Christmas time can be daunting. You really don’t want to disappoint those friends who serve as an awesome support system year round.

You could always suggest a spending limit so everyone is on a level playing field. Real friends will understand. Although, the ones whose love language is gift giving may push that limit a bit (they know who they are), don’t feel guilty about it. It’s their choice, not your obligation. Just be sure to express an abundance of gratitude.

Another route to go is to forego gift-giving altogether. In its place suggest a holiday potluck party. Each person can bring a dish or beverage to share. In my experience, all good friends need are a few snacks, maybe some music, and each other. Memorable times are sure to follow.

Spread Cheer to Others

If your family has thrown pricey gatherings in the past years, or are looking to phase out gift-giving, finding a service activity could be the way to go these holidays. You could inform your company that in lieu of your usual tradition, this year you have arranged with an organization to volunteer during a specific time and you would like to invite them along. Most people are excited by opportunities to spread goodness and will happily attend. You can get the stragglers on board with the promise of hot chocolate and cookies afterward.

For a different spin on this idea, you could organize caroling. I have fond childhood memories of caroling with my mother’s extended family. We often visited the elderly or those we knew would be lonely this time of year. After caroling at 6 or so places, we would all meet back at a relative’s home for a potluck of chili and donuts—both inexpensive, but so well received.

These new traditions will cost far less than providing a full meal, serve a cause in your community, and give the people on your list a holiday warmth that money can’t buy.

Make Homemade Gifts

If you have some creative craft skills, then choosing to make gifts this year could save you money. Before each project, assess whether the idea is worth the hassle, and how much it will cost to make. If it will save money and stress to buy something, don’t deny yourself.

However, things like wall art or photo collages, desserts, knitted accessories, and holiday ornaments are relatively easy to make, can save money, and will surely express to the recipient how special they are to you.

Think Outside of the Box

In the past few years, Christmas philosophy has shifted from giving physical gifts (toys, electronics, serve ware, robes) to giving experiences. I have since jumped on this bandwagon and like to think these kinds of gifts are so much more appreciated because who doesn’t value adventure and memory making over possessions?

You might be surprised that making this change is another way to save. My favorite place to shop for outings is on Groupon. You can usually find something for everyone and at a much-reduced price. Through Groupon, you can gift passes to trampoline facilities, aquariums, children’s museums, go-kart racing, sports or music lessons, art classes and more. Costco may also be a source for discounted gift cards good for a variety of fun.

This year, I’m patting myself on the back for buying for three people on my list using a group deal for an activity we can do together and will not only save money but will also be gifting the promise of spending quality time with my loved ones.

Indulge in Free Events

Usually, as the December holidays draw near, cities and towns burst with magical events, most requiring paid admission. This year make an effort to discover the free activities available. These might include Christmas concerts at church, community parades, touring lights with the family in over-the-top neighborhoods, or attending the town’s Christmas tree lighting.

Often times, families go out to see movies during the holiday break. Instead opt to rent a movie, cozy up the living room with blankets and plenty of pillows, get a few favorite snacks and invite the family over. If your family is like mine, half the entertainment is the unsolicited movie commentary and conversation—something you’ll miss out on at the movie theater.

Another great source of cheer this time of year is your local library. Looking over my library’s agenda, I found story times and multiple craft activities including ornament, card, and gift making, recipe exchanges, gingerbread house decorating, and candy cane art projects—plenty to check your celebration boxes and all free!

Make your own cards to save money this Christmas

Write Holiday Letters

I’ll admit it. I am not big on sending cards—just yet. I do send a choice few to friends who I like to check in on during the holidays. I appreciate, however, how nice it is to receive a card from a friend or family member and know that someone out there cares. For many, collecting and displaying cards is a fond part of the season.

While the pricey custom designed photo cards that are sent out in mass amounts have become popular, I enjoy a thriftier more personalized approach.

This year consider setting some time aside to write an old-fashioned letter. If you have children or a significant other invite them to contribute. While photo cards show how families have grown and changed, letters really share the details of life. The holiday mail I have cherished the most have been those that have told a little about each family member usually including some of the humorous occurrences that come with raising children.

We, in fact, can’t wait to receive a letter from one family in particular who has made a tradition of telling a fictitious story surrounding all in their household. It’s typically scandalous, absurd, and completely worth reading every word!

Type out your letter, insert a photo at the bottom, print a bundle and you’ll likely save 70 cents on the dollar, all while delivering a product everyone will be happy to receive.

Wrapping It Up

For every expensive Christmas tradition, there is a money-conscious alternative. Whether you connected with one of these ideas or have had a revelation of your own, implement your tradition this year to see savings as well as create a soon-to-be-treasured holiday experience for all.

Do You Have Questions About or Suggestions for Saving Money on Christmas Traditions?

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