I know EVERYONE is feeling the aches of the economy this holiday season. I just took a stroll through Wal-mart today looking for gifts while waiting to get a prescription filled. When thinking of purchases for my children, I undoubtedly decided that being “practical” was the way to go. Their Christmas lists this year were full of toys of course, but I know they will appreciate anything they get. I strolled through the toy section just to see the prices of the many toys on their lists and couldn’t help but think “I can’t afford to spend that amount of money (even if it was $5!) on plastic toys that were just going to clutter my house and be forgotten in a few months.”
So I wanted to solicit ideas for a cheaper holiday. Today there was an article on how the country’s economic problems are leading to a slump in the recycling industry. This saddens me because just as the country’s interest in “going green” and the masses are actually proactive in saving the planet, we don’t have the means to bring this renewal of resources to fruition. In addition to putting a price limit on gift giving between family and friends, drawing names out of a hat, or making gifts, here are some ideas to make this a cheaper holiday season for you.
1. Use Craigslist: Scour your house for items to sell…especially those that may make great holiday gifts. Peruse the site for gifts for friends and family…you can save TONS of money. I just scored the purchase of all 4 books in the Twilight series (hardback) for $15 for my sister who is a fanatic!
2. Even better, use Freecycle.org to get gifts for FREE! Register for the freecycle board in your area and see what everyone is giving away for FREE. You can get rid of unwanted items here as well!
3. If you do decide to purchase gifts, try online. This will save you gas and headache shopping around in the crowds for something you can’t find. Make sure you do it eary to ensure the gifts arrive in a timely manner. Oftentimes if you do it early shipping is free. You can also find TONS of coupon “codes” online to enter when you are “checking out your shopping cart”. You can Google free coupon codes or start by going to sites like this CouponWinner.
4. Help your friends and family out by offering practical gifts. With the economic crunch, no one will reject gas cards (although gas is already significantly low…woo hoo!), groceries, toiletries, household goods. Make a gift basket of those items that EVERYONE needs and uses all the time. You can even buy a whole gift like this at your local dollar store. I definitely wouldn’t mind if someone gave me a gift bag of some common staples for my pantry: sugar, spices, flour, pasta, canned veggies and fruits, etc. These things are inexpensive and are much appreciated. Make a gift basket that acts as an “emergency dinner kit”: This too can be something like pasta, canned spaghetti sauce and a box of texas toast!
5. Don’t buy individual gifts for all the young kids that you know. If many of the kids know each other, just invite them over for a playdate of baking cookies. Sugar cookies are very cheap to make and the icing is a cinch as long as you have food coloring. Have everyone bring their favorite cookie cutter so you have a variety to choose from, or have the kids shape them by themselves. The kids will appreciate the time together.
6. Keep your electricity down by opting not to put lights all over your house a la the Griswolds.
7. Make the holiday gatherings 100% potluck or 100% appetizers. No one cares to impress each other anymore, so challenge everyone to make something out of items they already have in their pantry. The host can splurge on a protein, but everyone else can share their pantry goodies!
8. Enjoy holiday entertainment for free. Find out when your nearby high school, middle school, or elementary school or church is having their holiday chorus concert/show. Take a stroll or drive with the family through a neighborhood where residents have decorated their houses with lights. See if the library is having holiday storytelling. Better yet, get together with friends and sing carols together.
9. Send your holiday greetings through Voicethread or Animoto. Voicethread is a free online resource that allows you to upload photos and add an audio comment on each picture. Take several goofy pics of your family and intersperse with pictures from throughout the year. Chronicle the year by recording your voice. If you don’t have a microphone, you can simply type text with each picture. In seconds, voila!, you will have a “voicethread” that you can email to friends and family afar. What’s nice is that if your friends and family sign up for a free account, they can add audio or text “comments” on your photos! Animoto allows you to upload photos and add music to send a free 30 second holiday greeting. If you want to send a longer slideshow of pictures, you can purchase a year subscription for ~$30.
10. Entertain visiting family and friends the cheap way:
- get $1 movies from the Redbox kiosks outside of Walmart and local grocery stores (or better yet, check them out for free from the library!)
- visit free museums or local landmarks
- borrow board games from friends who won’t be using them so you have a large variety to choose from
- make your own entertainment by having a “talent night”, “cooking lesson night”, “pictionary night”, etc…announce them in advance to everyone can prepare.
These are just some off of the top of my head that I am doing this holiday season. We are moving back to a point where we’re forced as a society to appreciate things that can’t be bought by money. I’d love to hear everyone else’s ideas!