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The holiday season should be a happy time of year, but more and more people are starting to dread it, especially in today's economic times. You're already working to save money all year long, and then the end of the year rolls around and here comes presents, parties, baking, planning, running down your list and trying not to spend a small fortune. But there are plenty of ways to save time and money this holiday season and put the focus back where you want it to be - on you and your family.
1. Make Time for Cost-Friendly Activities
Maybe your kids want to see Christmas plays, Christmas movies, or Christmas Ice Capades, or maybe the whole family has been thinking about those fancy Christmas light tours, but it's guaranteed that if you take an evening or two a week to get them into the spirit your own way, they will remember it a lot longer. You can drive around your own neighborhood and see amazing Christmas light displays, or even just stay at home and make Christmas decorations. Look online to find craft ideas and make homemade ornaments, or other decorations, with the family. You can even read them Christmas stories or watch old home movies of holidays past. And try staying in more, yourself, too - cut down on buying gifts and outfits for holiday parties and just go to one or two.
2. Shop Online for Unique Gifts
There are few items that are really worth the holiday rush, trying to break through the crowd just to spend too much money on one particular toy or gadget. Online shopping is becoming more and more convenient for everyone, but one of the biggest perks besides avoiding the stores is that you have so much more selection. It's great if you have a large family and you want to do something special for them. Online, it can be really cost-effective to get personalized ornaments, or if you have relatives coming over for Christmas dinner, why not personalized t-shirts or hoodies? If you're navigating your way through the internet, discussion forums of like-minded thrifty shoppers can tell you what is available at this site as opposed to another, or whatever you need to know.
3. Stick to Gift-Giving Rules
If you're going to brave the stores, have a plan of attack. Make a list of everyone you think you have to get a gift for and then narrow it down - maybe the mailman will be thankful for just a card this year. Practice good shopping habits - use coupons, employ spending limits, and be determined not to go into debt over the holidays. And think about saving money by baking. Gifts of homemade fudge or cookies in beautiful but inexpensive tins or baskets can be a great idea for coworkers or other people not in your immediate family. You can even cut back on Christmas cards by using e-cards or simply buying bargain cards instead of the most fancy.
4. Cut Your Cooking Time and Money
The most important part of cooking for the holidays is to make lists and make plans. But there are plenty of cooking shortcuts you can take. Find out what you can make ahead of time and freeze - cookies, pie crusts, rolls, and other baked goods. There are other things you can make a day before, like stuffing and casserole, and just store in the fridge. And most people know this already, but its okay to buy some things canned or processed - nobody in your family is expecting you to make everything from scratch. Use your food processor to save time on cutting and dicing, and get some help! Give the kids jobs in the kitchen - many of them will love knowing they got to help out with Christmas dinner, and if you can avoid being too stressed out, it will be something great to share with them.
Most people stress themselves and their wallet to the breaking point during the holidays simply by wanting to give the very best to their friends and family. But there are ways to do that which show the thoughtfulness and effort you put into making Christmas special. Doing crafts, decorating the tree, wrapping presents, and cooking together is what the holiday should be about. No matter what you might think, the secret to giving your family a memorable Christmas is not more money, it's just more of you.
Amie Gottschalk is an avid blogger who writes often for several clothing sites. You can follow her on Twitter @amiegottschalk.
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