Sadie Holloway loves planning family-friendly parties and activities. She has a background in event planning and fundraising.
Have you promised yourself that this year you won't blow your budget on expensive gifts, food, and decorations?
If you want to stay on budget and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas this year, here are some things you can do to make holiday parties and gift-giving more affordable and much easier to manage. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to have a truly relaxing Christmas with just a few simple changes to some old holiday traditions.
1. Get other people involved in your Christmas planning. Asking for help is a wonderful way to make others feel useful, valued and appreciated for their talents. The side benefit of asking others for help is that you get to spend more quality time with them. Some of my fondest holiday memories involve helping my mom and my older sister with simple tasks like baking, gift wrapping and decorating the center of the dining room table. Choose simple tasks that are age appropriate and fun to do. Don't forget the tween and teen members of your family. Make sure to give your helpers plenty of praise as they check off the tasks on their holiday to-do lists. When children and teens are encouraged to take pride in their assigned jobs, they’ll feel more involved in the Christmas spirit of giving.
2. Help other people decorate their homes. For safety reasons, hanging Christmas lights on the outside of the house is a job that shouldn’t be done alone. If you don’t have the time or money to decorate the inside or outside of your home this year, consider helping a neighbor, senior or single friend decorate his or her home. You’ll feel good about being a holiday helper, and who knows, there might be a yummy home-cooked meal waiting for you when you're done!
3. Decorate without a Christmas tree. There are many creative ways to dress up your home to reflect the true joy of the Christmas season. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to simplify your Christmas by not putting up a Christmas tree this year.
4. Pick a signature gift for all the adults in your life. Who says that you have to buy something different for each adult on your gift list? If you want to simplify your Christmas shopping this year and save both time and money, give all the adults on your list the same elegant or practical Christmas present. A gourmet food basket, a bottle of local wine, a practical kitchen gadget or a gorgeous festive planter make wonderful gifts for adults. In one day, you could have everyone crossed off your gift list. Plus, some stores and suppliers offer deep discounts when you buy in multiples. The more you buy, the more you save! You'll also simplify your budget planning by getting the same gift for everyone. Simply multiply the cost of the gift by the number of people on your list and your Christmas shopping budget is done!
5. Consider hosting a brunch, luncheon or tea instead of cooking one big meal on Christmas Day. Hosting big holiday parties takes a lot of work, not to mention the cost of feeding and entertaining so many people in your home. Evening affairs can be expensive to host because you often end up having to serve three courses: appetizers, the main course and dessert. Then there's the added cost of beer, wine and spirits if you choose to serve alcohol with Christmas dinner. Opting to host a luncheon or tea on or near Christmas day means that you can fill your menu with items that can be easily prepared ahead of time (finger sandwiches, mini pies, pastries). Brunches, luncheons, and teas also work well as a potluck. Since the meal is made up of smaller side dishes and appies, no one has to tackle a big, time consuming dish such as a stuffed turkey.
6. Do a themed gift exchange with your co-workers. Instead of feeling obligated to buy a gift for everyone in your office, suggest that you all participate in a secret Santa gift exchange. They're relatively easy to plan, making them a great way to simplify Christmas gift giving among your colleagues and peers. You can also cut back on the cost of giving office gifts by having all participants agree to a set price for gifts. That way you won't feel tempted to overspend on a gift for a co-worker because you're worried about looking cheap and thrifty. Besides, the challenge of finding a unique gift for $10 can actually make the secret Santa gift exchange kind of fun!
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7. Let someone else do the Christmas baking! Sometimes store brand cookies can be just as yummy as homemade! If you aren't the type of person who does a lot of baking, you might not have all the ingredients you need on hand to make Christmas cookies. Nuts, vanilla extract, specialty flour, dried fruit, spices, chocolate...all of these items can add up if you don't normally keep these items in your pantry. A pantry full of baking ingredients you only use once a year can be a waste of money.
On the other hand, if you are an avid baker, consider doing a cookie exchange with some of your co-workers, friends, family, or neighbors...anyone who loves to bake. How it works: you bake a dozen cookies of a single recipe for everyone participating in the Christmas cookie exchange. On an agreed upon date, you get together with all the other participants who will have also baked a dozen cookies for each person, and exchange your cookies. If there are eight participants, you'll get 8 dozen batches of different cookies! Yum!
8. Make your own holiday music! Singing Christmas carols with friends, neighbors and loved ones is a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the crisp winter air.
9. Go to a spa resort or fancy hotel for Christmas. This might sound counter-intuitive if your goal is to save money at Christmas, but there are a lot of good reasons to skip doing a big fancy dinner at home and sneaking away to a romantic spa resort or hotel for Christmas. By the time you factor in the cost of buying ingredients for a full Christmas dinner and all the accoutrements such as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, appetizers, dessert and Christmas crackers, plus breakfast and lunch on Christmas Day, you could spend several hundred dollars. Plus you'd have the added stress of planning and executing it all. Many hotels offer Christmas dinner packages that include extras such as breakfast or other goodies.
No matter how much you and your family try to simplify Christmas and reduce stress over the holidays, you can't control and manage everything. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball when you least expect it. When that happens, focus on all the things you have to be thankful for and let the holiday stress just melt away.
© 2016 Sadie Holloway