EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE ?
Cut the costs, not the joy, of Christmas
Creators News Service
As much as I love Christmas, there are parts of the holiday season I dread. It?s easy to let the busyness of Christmas get the best of us. We are driven to keep up. We feel obligated to meet the expectations of our kids, friends, relatives, communities, even our employers. The stress and the pressure can be overwhelming and no matter how fantastic Christmas was last year, we are compelled to make it even bigger and better this year.
I find myself yearning to do less this year, but to enjoy more. I don?t want to run a shopping marathon. I don?t want to feel like we have to mortgage the house or raid a retirement account just to keep up with the national averages. I want to experience the sights and sounds of the holiday -- slowly and meaningfully. I want to cut the cost, not the joy, of Christmas.
Here are ideas for how to keep spending under control and make your dollars go farther this year.
GIVE RETAIL VALUE. Determine the amount you want to spend to buy a gift for each person on your list. Let?s say you designate $50 for your sister. To your utter amazement, you find a gorgeous sweater in her size and color for $49.99. It is perfect and it?s on sale for $29.99.
Don?t spend another $20 on your sister to meet a preconceived requirement. Your mission is complete. You purchased a lovely $50 gift and cut the cost by 40 percent. The actual cost is your secret.
There are tons of deals out there. Find coupons for name-brand merchants at websites like DealCatcher.com and DealNews.com/coupons. At Amazon.com, look for the gold treasure chest at the top. Every day, they tuck a deeply discounted deal inside. Be patient and you?re bound to find something that fits your list and your wallet too. Try Woot.com and Overstock.com. All silver jewelry is ?free? at SilverJewelryClub.com for the price of shipping, $6.99 per item.
GIFTS ARE FOR KIDS. This year, give the adults on your list the boot and give gifts only to the kids. You?ve got time to get the word out to extended family members and all adults with whom you?ve felt obligated to exchange gifts. Give cards instead.
WHOLE FAMILY GIFTS. Rather than buying individual gifts for all of the kids in one family, consider a single gift that will be enjoyed by everyone. Here are some ideas:
* Family Fun: Fill a large bowl or other container with a movie rental gift card, a DVD, microwave popcorn, theater-sized boxes of candy, a puzzle, a deck of cards and bottles of soda. Give a board game or movie tickets, a big jigsaw puzzle, a stocked picnic basket or an outdoor game like badminton or croquet.
* Family calendar: Create a 2009 calendar that is unique to your family. Include the dates of every person?s birthday, anniversaries and other significant personal events. Find free calendar templates online like the one at printablecalendar.ca. Add photos for a more personalized feel.
* Family cookbook: This can be a compilation of your own recipes or recipes from an entire group. If it is the latter, write a simple letter to family members requesting that they send you recipes according to the criteria you?ve chosen.
Companies like The Secret Ingredients (thesecretingredients.com) specialize in family cookbooks. Secret Ingredients will print and bind as few or as many as you like. Prices range from $29.95 for one keepsake cookbook and to $195 for a single heirloom edition.
* Family memories: Share your family?s year in stories, pictures and movies. Select and transfer family photos and videos that capture the essence of your life together to a DVD. Add captions and short stories to create the equivalent of an electronic scrapbook.
As we head into the holiday season, don?t concentrate on the money you have to spend but on all you have to give, including your time and talents. Gifts that celebrate love and hope bring us together as friends, families and communities. No matter how much we have to spend, we all have something to give.
Mary Hunt is the founder of DebtProofLiving.com and author of 17 books, including "Debt-Proof The Holidays." You can e-mail her at [email protected] or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.