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Surviving the Holidays

December 10, 2009 by Michael Carter filed under News, Your Money No Comments

With Christmas fast approaching, panic is evident in the malls and shopping centers as people try to get all of their shopping done. With the tough economic situation this year, a little creativity goes a long way when it comes to gift giving. Here are some tips on how to make the financial burden of the holiday season more bearable.

Personalize

Sometimes the most meaningful gifts are the ones that cost the least, but took the most thought. People always appreciate getting a gift that shows that time and effort were spent into picking it out or making it especially for them. Collage picture frames can be found at Wal-Mart for as little as $15 and, with a few meaningful pictures, can be a very considerate surprise. Another idea is a gift basket with multiple smaller gifts that don’t necessarily need to cost a fortune.

Make it yourself

Doing something yourself doesn’t have to seem like a cheap loophole to getting Christmas gifts. Utilize your abilities– baking, knitting, photography—to make a unique gift that you know won’t be given by someone else. Making your own gift for someone shows that you were willing to put forth energy for that person. Sometimes the most satisfying feeling is knowing that you were able to make something with your own hands (and save a few bucks while you’re at it).

Bargain hunt

This seems like an obvious one, but really, there are some amazing deals just waiting to be found on a variety of items. There are a lot of websites that have great offers available, though you would never know it if you didn’t look for them. Freecycle Loudoun allows users to give and get free items. Switchplanet.com serves a similar purpose, but you build credit towards buying items by giving away items. Also bargainist.com offers users coupons, deals, and tips for saving money. Beyond just “deal-specialty” sites, comparing prices can be a big help and, in the long run, makes a big difference.

Limit Your Shopping List

There are actually many clever and fun ways to get around buying gifts for everyone you know, without seeming stingy. “Secret Santa” allows you to pick one person to buy for and really focus on getting them a great gift instead of having to spend more money on less thoughtful gifts. If you can get a group of your friends to agree to do this then you can all pick names out of a hat and buy just one gift for that person and still have everyone feel satisfied. “Grinch” is another way to limit your list. Similar to secret Santa only you buy one gift with no particular person in mind. Everyone does this and then, as a group, you go one by one picking the mysterious wrapped gifts. Once you get the gift you must open it for the rest of the group to see. If someone else has a gift you want you can “steal” it and they are forced to pick again. While less personalized then secret Santa it is still a lot of fun and a lot less expensive then buying for everyone.

Volunteer

While this isn’t necessarily a way to save money during the holiday season, it is a way of giving something to others without having to pay a cent yourself. Volunteers are always needed, whether in a soup kitchen, in a retirement home, or helping at the library; there are dozens of opportunities available for anyone who is looking. The holiday season is a time when many people are feeling giving and what better way to express this then give back to the community. If you need help finding a place to volunteer try searching online or ask a friend if they know of any place that needs help.

Regardless of how you save money during the holiday season, there are plenty of options available. Creativity is always a plus, and people know when you worked hard to get the perfect gift. Not everyone can afford to buy all their loved ones ritzy or glamorous presents, but with some thought a gift just as meaningful isn’t that hard to come by.

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