Managing Money

Three Ways To Make The Holidays Cheaper and Happier

November 21, 2011

The following is a guest post.

If you’re worried about APR and the fees and charges that go along with holiday spending, you can either fret and worry or you can take practical steps toward spending less as we herald in the new year. November and December are notorious for breaking the family bank, what with the costs of traveling, heating bills, and Christmas gifts, but they don’t have to be. A little prudence could go a long way to making this a happy, thankful time of year and not nightmarish descent into guilt, anxiety and financial instability. Here are 3 exceedingly sensible strategies for making the holidays easier and cheaper:

Stay at home. With gas prices continuing to soar, a trip to see relatives several states over will cost you hundreds of dollars roundtrip. If you’re flying, it will be in the thousands for the whole family. Then, if you have to add in hotel costs (provided you don’t want to stay with family and risk losing your mind), the bill goes up. Staying at home for Thanksgiving and Christmas will not only save you money on travel costs, but will save you from the stress of wintry weather, awkward in-laws, and whiny children. Pack it in for the winter and do the holidays with your immediate family.

Enforce sane gift-giving. It’s nice to receive a gift from someone, and we all know how important presents are to the childhood experience of Christmas. But that doesn’t mean your family needs to be systematically dismantling paychecks and maxing out its best business credit cards in order to stack iPads and video game consoles under the tree. Perhaps consider one big present for the kids—one they can share, for instance, such as a video game they both like—and then a series of more personalized, smaller gifts. This can be a teachable moment for your family: you can’t always get what you want, and financial wisdom is the greatest gift of all anyways.

Get a space heater. Especially during the holidays, when families spend a lot of time together in the living room or kitchen, it makes more sense to heat certain rooms than to blast the furnace through the entire house. If you want the toilet seat to be warm, get pads for it. You don’t need to pretend you have a fireplace in the bathroom.

Ultimately, you want your family to be happy and full of love during the holidays. Part of that is spending time together and being financially sound and physically safe. These conditions can all be satisfied by staying home, gifting responsibly, and not wasting heat. Each family’s budget is different though. Think of ways your family can safe money AND become closer this holiday season.

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