By Deborah Nayrocker
Dear Deborah: The holiday shopping season is here, but I’m not quite ready. This year I’m low on cash, and I’ve learned from past experience not to charge gifts on my credit cards. Any money tips? – A Reader
Answer: Christmas can be more about celebrating the season together with family and friends. Despite what you may hear, you must not feel compelled to spend a lot on presents to create happy memories.
- Begin by agreeing with others to limit and cut down on gift giving. Then make a gift list and set a budget on how much to spend for each person.
- Consider giving cashless gifts. Most people like cookies and other baked goods. For busy parents, give babysitting time. For tired caregivers, give a manicure or offer to help so they can have some free time. Older folks may want help with lawn care.
- Examine your overall household budget for ways to reduce usual spending to “find” more cash. This does not mean having to make drastic lifestyle changes. Two areas in which families typically overspend are on food and discretionary spending. Find more gift funds by cutting back a little in only two spending categories:
Food – Trim grocery expenses. Avoid unplanned items by sticking to a shopping list. Impulse items are one-half of the food bill for the average family, according to a Rodale Press publication. Cut back on restaurant and take-out food. Brown-bag meals for work, if necessary.
Discretionary spending – Examine checking accounts, debit card, and credit card receipts. Decide what typical purchases can be curtailed. Entertainment dollars add up for movies, sports, and recreation costs. When shopping, zip through stores faster by sticking to necessities.
In conclusion, look for ways to make holiday events with others just as special as the gift exchange. Engage in or attend a special Christmas concert or program. Go sightseeing and enjoy the holiday lights and displays in a city park and on front lawns.
People may forget who the gift-giver was, but it’s likely they won’t forget the experiences of commemorating Christmas together.
Deborah Nayrocker is an author and columnist. She is the award-winning author of The Art of Debt-Free Living and Living a Balanced Financial Life.
Copyright by Deborah J. Nayrocker. All rights reserved.