It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but somehow it’s also the most stressful time on your wallet: Read on for tips on keeping your holidays jolly and your budget in check.
1. Set a Gift Limit. Stick to It.
It can be an awkward conversation: Let's all keep to a certain dollar amount. Yet, everyone saves money in the end, and the person you're nervous about asking may have been uncomfortable about approaching you! Plus, you can zero in on one really great gift. With less shopping to do, you all receive the best present – time.
2. Decorate the House with Nature
Instead of spending money on expensive decorations, have fun with the great outdoors. It's unique, inexpensive and an expression of you and your surroundings.
- Residents of the Pacific Northwest can find holly bushes and trees in their own backyards – clip the holly (careful – it's spiky), and use it as tree decoration, on a wreath, or in a vase.
- Tap into your primary-school art days and use pinecones dusted with glue and glitter.
- Drill holes in a small log (bonus points if you use a birch tree) to make a beautiful candle holder.
- Buy (or hunt!) a slightly larger tree, then saw off the bottom and trim the branches off the stump. Ensure you use the right saw. Save the bottom, clean off the sap – try hand-sanitizer – and place it on your table for a beautiful centerpiece. Add candles, berries and touches of glitter.
- Leftover pine boughs can be used in vases, as garland, or twisted into simple wreaths.
3. Gifts of Service
Remember when you used to give your mom a coupon for a free hug? Time to dig out those crayons and ask yourself what service you can gift your loved ones. Ask yourself what you can offer that your friends would enjoy: A home-cooked meal? An hour of handy-man skills? Perhaps you sew and can provide tailoring. Or, you can put your perfect penmanship to work writing beautiful cards on behalf of the giftee. Whether it's baking a dessert, replacing lightbulbs or offering an evening of childcare, you might be surprised how much your simple act of service will surprise and delight.
4. Give Back to Others
The saying, “it's better to give than receive” is a commonly repeated phrase because it's true. Instead of giving gifts to each other, give to individuals, families in need or nonprofits. Your family unit could select a family similar to yours and spend a day shopping for them. If you have children, it offers an opportunity to teach your child about sharing and helping others. Need help finding a charitable organization? GIVEBIG is a great place to start.
5. Sock Away Savings
Sock away for the holidays beginning in January. Every year, the holidays come around, and every year, the same budget-crunching scramble ensues. Avoid the panic and slowly save in a separate fund. At BECU, it costs nothing to create additional accounts. Many members use separate saving accounts to help them save for specific goals, e.g., a “Holiday Fund,” or a “Vacation Fund.”
Simply set up your new savings account, give it a fun nickname, and initiate a monthly automatic transfer from your checking account. You'll be surprised how little you'll miss the money - even $25 a month will net you $300 by the time the holidays come around.
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