Holidays on a Shoestring Budget: How to Give Great Gifts Without Breaking the Bank

Holiday BudgetDuring the holidays, it’s natural to want to give your loved ones the perfect gift…yet doing so may leave your wallet considerably lighter. Not to mention, trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday list can be time-consuming and frustrating. Unfortunately for some, holiday shopping means maxed out credit cards—which is a stressful way to start off the New Year.

But the holiday season doesn’t have to be a time to go into debt or to overstretch your means. Take advantage of these easy, low-cost ways to spread the holiday cheer without running up your credit lines:

Use your talents. Take an inventory of your basic talents and skills to see which ones you could put to use to create holiday gifts. Most people appreciate a gift that someone put time and effort into and personally made for them. With an investment of just a few dollars for ingredients or materials and some basic skills, you could:

  • Bake some holiday treats and decorate them just for the recipient.
  • Knit or crochet a scarf, mittens, or a hat—or a blanket for your friend’s pet!
  • Scrapbook an album of special photos, or craft a beautiful greeting card.
  • Paint or draw a picture the recipient can display in their home.
  • Complete household repairs for someone.

Use your imagination, and get creative! The beauty of using your talents is that you can customize your gifts especially for your loved ones.

Give the gift of your time. Another easy way to manage your holiday budget is to give the gift of time. Offer to do a specific chore for someone in place of a store-bought gift. Some ideas could be:

  • Make a home-cooked meal.
  • Do a week’s worth of laundry.
  • Clean their house.
  • Wash their car.
  • Do an afternoon of yard work.
  • Babysit their kids.
  • Walk their dogs.

Remember, you can tailor the offer to the gift recipients needs, and if you know them well, you should have a pretty good idea of what offer would be most appreciated.

Get your family involved. Consider discussing cost-saving strategies with family members, such as:

  • Setting a spending limit on individual gifts.
  • Doing a gift exchange where you each draw a name out of a hat, instead of exchanging individual gifts with each family member.
  • Going in together on a family gift, like a family vacation or a season pass to an amusement park or zoo.

When your whole family can agree on basic gift-giving guidelines, you can save money and ensure your family is on the same page, so everyone can enjoy a happy, stress-free holiday!

Have more ideas? Share your tips for staying on budget during the holidays!

How to Reduce Stress During the Holiday Season

According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans already take medication for stress-related causes each week, and the holidays only tend to perpetuate anxiety. Even if you’re one of the lucky people who don’t ordinarily feel stressed under the pressure of deadlines or events, the holidays have a way of sneaking stress into the most carefree lives.

There are your children’s wish lists to tackle, the holiday expenses to wrangle, the gifts to wrap, parties to plan, cookies to bake and cards to write—all in addition to your normal responsibilities.

Don’t let stress ruin your holidays. Here are some quick tips for how to keep calm during the bustling festivities:

1. Take some “you” time. If there were ever a time to get a massage, this is it. Book one for December to diffuse the chaos of last-minute frenzies. If you’d rather stay in, pamper yourself with a little dark chocolate and red wine—and for solidarity, invite your best friend over to enjoy a much-needed break.

2. Focus on fitness. Not only is exercise  good for the body, but it also releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more content. Frustrated that you couldn’t find that impossible gift for your niece? Take it on the treadmill! You’ll burn calories, improve your state of mind, and give yourself some time to gain perspective. Remember, a fast-paced walk through the mall also counts as an aerobic activity!

3. Volunteer. Consider volunteering at a local charity. In addition to benefitting from what experts identify as “helpers’ high,” you may also meet new friends and make lasting connections that will enrich your life throughout the entire year.

4. Rethink gift giving. Streamline the hectic process of gift giving by buying fewer gifts, doing all your shopping online, or making modest online donations to the favorite causes of friends and family. No matter what the catalogues tell you, the best gift you can give is your time—so spend it with your family and friends and relish every minute of it.

5. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Remember, you can always say “no.” Consider this an absolute necessity for protecting your health and sanity during the holidays. As a bonus, it works well the rest of the year, too! Stay positive, anticipate happiness, and you’ll make it through the holidays with the right attitude in place for the coming year.

What are some ways you combat your holiday stress?