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Frugal Living in the Holiday Season

-- 2011-11-24 3:00 am --

The holidays can be an expensive time for anyone. With the economy gone so far south, many are wondering if its possible to have as nice a holiday season as in years past. The short answer is that it is possible to be frugal and have a great holiday season, with just some forethought and ingenuity.

First, sit down and think about priorities. This doesn't just mean reminding yourself of the "reason for the season," but also deciding what you really want out of the holidays. In all the planning and prepping, would you rather have a fantastic sit-down dinner with family or take a great vacation? What gifts do your recipients <i>really</i> want more than anything else? Keeping your priorities in mind will help make sure your limited resources go where you really want them to.

Next, look at ways to scale down what you already do:

1. Instead of sending a heap of Christmas cards, send e-cards instead. You can also send postcards, which are much cheaper to mail, or hand-deliver cards to people you'll see in person during the holiday season.

2. Buy gift wrap at dollar stores instead of high-end gift shops, where it's usually the same quality, or giveifts packaged very simply. A nice bow or gift bag can be just as pretty as lots of paper wrapping.

3. For parties, try having a potluck with friends instead of buying all the food yourself. You'll usually end up with some great recipes and conversation trays.

4. Instead of buying a bunch of expensive decorations, use nature for inspiration. Collect pine cones to make ornaments or wreaths, along with pine boughs or a brightly-colored poinsettia. If you have kids, sit down one afternoon and make your decorations. Paper snowflakes decorated with glitter look lovely in a nighttime window.

There are other ways to save money and still have a nice holiday season. If you're exchanging gifts with a large family, consider a "Secret Santa" drawing instead of everyone purchasing gifts for the whole group. If you're the crafty type, try making a few of your gifts. Even non-crafty people can put together a gift basket with things like popcorn, a DVD, and hot cocoa, or other items. Gift baskets are great for couples, kids, and co-workers.

You can also save money on entertainment and travel by thinking creatively. Instead of paying entrance fees for skiing or ice rinks, go sledding instead, even if you don't have kids. Adults can have just as much fun as kids when hurtling down a snowy slope together.

If you're traveling for the holidays, try alternative transportation, like a train ride, rather than paying for airfare or gas. Stay with friends or family instead of in an expensive hotel. Plan ahead as much as possible to avoid paying holiday prices for your trip.

Being frugal doesn't have to mean having a stringent holiday season. With these tips and your own creativity, have fun this holiday season without breaking the bank.