December 1, 2007

Things to think about when getting ready for Christmas

The holiday season requires a lot of planning (and sometimes praying for the money tree to sprout). The first thing you need to do is make a wish list, a shopping list, and a baking list. I always had my kids (when they were little) make a list of things they wanted, and then things they really-really wanted. I would remind them that money doesn’t grow on trees and ask them to be reasonable and not ask for things that they knew I couldn’t afford. Then its time to decide up front how much money you can afford to spend on the holidays this year. Rethink the meaning of gift giving and consider some creative options that could save you lots of money, and make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful for your entire family.

Examine Your Intentions
What is the point of gift giving? Is it to reciprocate the dollar amount of a gift that was given to us, or one that we think might be given to us in the future? No! The point is to acknowledge that other person's positive influence on your life.

Develop Your Own Gift Guidelines
There are lots of ways to temper the "gimmies" our kids can be so prone to during the holidays. Consider setting a specific dollar amount for each child, and sticking to it. Or decide that you'll limit the number of gifts to three items per child. Remember, there are always going to be people who will spend more on their kids, but attempting to "keep up with the Jones'" comes with a heavy price. Teach your children early that thoughtful gifts don't have to cost a lot of money, and what's most important is appreciating all that we've been given already.

Avoid Buying Holiday Gifts on Credit
When you buy a $20 gift on credit, you're basically telling the credit card company that you'll pay them back that $20, plus another 20% or so in interest - each month - until the balance is paid off. That means that unless you're able to pay off the balance of your credit card in full when the next bill arrives, you could still be paying for that $20 gift thirty years from now!

Keep Track of Your Spending
Use a worksheet to keep track of all the gifts you intend to buy or make, and record the amount of money you'll spend on each person. This can help you stay within your spending budget and actually enjoy the months that follow the holidays.

Consider Your Options
If you're on a limited budget, consider making gifts for everyone on your list. This can be a fun project for the kids, and it can really save you a lot of money. Homemade gifts like bread, cookies, candy, or fudge are delicious, thoughtful ways to convey a "Thank you" or let someone know how special they are to you.

Being creative and keeping your mind focused on the real meaning of gift giving will help you keep the culture's "buy more" influence at bay.

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