Here are a few ideas for reducing costs this season:
1. Drink more water.
Not only is this good for your health, but if you find yourself out for holiday parties and drinks more than a few nights - cut your bill instantly by drinking plain old water.
2. Stay home.
This doesn't mean be a hermit! Instead of going out for expensive dinners, why not host a dinner in your home? Have friends over for a potluck - share the work! Screen a Christmas movie in your own home and ask everyone to bring a batch of their favourite cookies. Or, if you are trying to keep the waistline from expanding - try some delicious cranberry smoothie recipes and go for a winter stroll. There are hundreds of free (or almost free) things you can literally do in your own backyard.
3. Give less things. Spend more time.
Does this one need an explanation?
4. Do It Yourself.
There are literally hundreds of gifts you can make yourself. A few ideas:
Homemade Cranberry Sauce (this is one of my personal favourites)
Santa Six Pack
5. Make your own gift baskets.
Never, and I mean NEVER - buy a gift basket from a store. You can always make it cheaper yourself. I do this often. My baskets all come from The Salvation Army. Throughout the year, when I see the following items at excellent prices I pick some up for in my gift cupboard:
You can quickly put any combination of the above together with some coffee, tea, hot chocolate or homemade goodies and you will have a very impressive basket. This is probably one of my favourite gifts to assemble.
6. Shop the Charity Shops
There has not been a single visit to the Salvation Army where I have not left with something that is brand new. Often you can find unused items there. Recently, I picked up several books (including a brand new cookbook as well as some brand new board books for children) and a photo album that were brand new and still had the price tag on them. Make sure you go when you have time to look around carefully (ie. when your young kid are not with you!).
|Recently acquired, brand new, Joy of Cooking from The Salvation Army|
|Brand New (still had price tag from MasterMind Toys on the back)|
|A beautiful gift basket that I used to make a wedding/house warming gift basket|
|More, brand new books from The Salvation Army|
7. Acts of Kindness
Do you feel bombarded with requests for money for charities? I do. I try to give when I can and when I feel appropriate - but the truth is that there are many, many things we can do to help those in need even if we are not flush with cash. If we are honest, we all know someone who could use a helping hand. Why not do something for them? Do you know someone who could use a home cooked meal? Could you shovel someone's driveway? Could you give a senior citizen or someone with mobility issues a ride somewhere? Could you have someone over for tea who might not have anyone to socialize with?
I have a Christmas memory from growing up that is very special. It is one of the only memories I have that involves both my parents, before their divorce. There was a boy in my grade 2 class who lived with his mom and three brothers. I am not sure exactly what their financial or life situation was, but I know they were poor. Very poor. My mom got wind of this and she and my dad schemed up something. She kept asking me all these questions about "Sam" (not his real name) my classmate and what he liked. Then she somehow gathered up other details about his brothers and their mom. Then - armed with my dad's chequebook - off to the malls she went. They literally (with the help of a few friends) put together a Santa's bag full of things for this family and on Christmas Eve, my dad, dressed in a Santa Suit - delivered it to them while my mom and I hid in the car down the road. I am not sure why they trusted me with this secret. I never told. Years later, the boy told me that he knew it had been my dad in the suit. He said it was the biggest Christmas surprise of his childhood. Now, obviously this particular act did involve my parents spending money - but I tell this story because we all know someone in need. Most of the time it means more for someone to know that you are thinking of them, than the material thing itself. Sometimes those who need kindness the most do not appear to be in need at all.
8. Free activities
Have you ever taken your child to a Home Depot kids workshop? They are great. Is there a special holiday storytime at your local library? A Christmas Carol sing? Why not organize one yourself? I remember as a kid going Christmas caroling at seniors homes and hospitals. It was so much fun.
9. Stop running around.
Do you really need to be out every night of the week? Do you really need five more things for in the stocking? I struggle with this. I am a person who takes on crazy projects. Now I try to focus and ask myself the following questions: Can I simplify this and still get what I want or need? Do I really need this or need to do this?
10. Use every loyalty point you can.
I try to save up all my points from all programs for the holiday season. It just helps stretch any cash that much further - whether it is for gifts, groceries, or services.