Holidays are fun times. Typically, most people get together with family and friends and spend time together. To me, that is the most important things to remember: this is a time to be with those you love and care about. A few days ago, we celebrated Memorial Day. Usually we get a lot of meat as well as many different side dishes. This year, we set a limit on how much we were going to spend. We bought whatever we wanted in that limit. We still had a fantastic meal with grilled meats, homemade rolls, baked beans, a potato dish, grilled veggies and fresh veggies. We also had an English Trifle for dessert. We survived without the chips and dip, the watermelon, and a couple of other things we usually have. We had a great meal and enjoyed spending time together in the kitchen cooking as well. We didn't have as many leftovers as usual. This experience made me think of what other things I can do to have a great holiday, but save some money in the process by skipping some of the unnecessary. These are some ideas I came up with:
1. Set a limit on your holiday meal. If you don't like to cook big meals or don't want to spend a lot of money, consider having a spaghetti dinner instead of the traditional ham. For Thanksgiving, consider having a chicken instead of a turkey. We have friends who have pizza every Thanksgiving because some of their kids just don't like turkey. The whole family is happy and enjoys spending time together. It doesn't have to be in the same way that other people do. Consider doing a potluck meal instead of baking everything yourself. Instead of buying 3 different kinds of chips, just buy one. They aren't good for you anyway, so limit the number you purchase. Cut down your holiday baking. It will save you a lot of time in the kitchen, money on expensive ingredients, and hopefully help you to avoid the holiday weight gain. Try making bread or jam or muffins for others instead of desserts. People have way too much sugar around during the holidays and a loaf of bread might be a welcomed change.
2. Stop giving meaningless gifts. For kids at Christmas, consider scaling down the number of gifts. They will survive with one less thing. There gets to be a point where it is just too much. If you don't have a lot of money, consider sending cards with a meaningful letter inside expressing your gratitude for the person and how much they mean to you. Save up the money AHEAD OF TIME that you will spend, so you will not have any post holiday debt. If you can't afford to pay for it now, you can't afford it. Talk with extended family members and see how they feel about making some changes. One family exchanged gifts only when they were there in person. Figure out what is best for you and your family.
3. Use what you have. Why not just use last year's decorations? Why not use Easter baskets year after year? Save those plastic Easter eggs and reuse them. Reuse gift bags or wrapping paper if they are in good condition.
4. Whatever you decide to do, DON'T GO INTO DEBT. Use whatever you money you have and just skip what you can't afford. I know someone that was still paying the credit card for a trip to Europe 10 years after they took the trip.
Find ways to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable for you and your family. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Don't listen to what marketers tell you how to celebrate. Your attitude about the holiday and your example of how to enjoy it, no matter how little money you may have, is what matters the most. Check out the free activities in your community. You can make some of the best memories by doing creative things to save money.