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It’s easy to spend $100 or even more hosting a holiday meal. Just one of those baked and spiral cut hams can set you back anywhere from $58.95 to $70.95 and then there’s all the trimmings. You can save money by spreading out those holiday meals by asking family members to contribute dishes instead of you having to do the entire meal. This also makes meal preparation much simpler and easier by balancing out the workload. There are also ways to keep your holiday meals safe as disclosed in this short video.
Do a secret Santa
If you have a large number of family members to buy for you might suggest that instead of everyone exchanging gifts you do a secret Santa. Write down everyone’s name on slips of paper and put them in a bag or hat. Each person then draws a name and buys a gift for just that person. This will not only save you money, it will eliminate the stress of having to buy gifts for a number of people and assures that everyone will receive one very nice gift. Alternately, you could set a limit such as $15 per gift. If you keep the dollar amount low, it can stimulate people into becoming more creative with the money that they do spend – by taking advantage of sales or putting a lot of thought into how they can make the most of their assigned budget. This will, of course, reduce the number of expensive gifts exchanged but will take a lot of the pressure off holiday gifting.
Give only to your kids
If you're really strapped financially you and your spouse or partner could agree to give gifts only to your kids. We actually had to do this one Christmas when our children were young. What we learned is that it was really more fun to watch them open their gifts into open gifts from each other. There is just no substitute for the expression on a child's face when he or she opens their gifts.
Make a holiday budget
While we saved this for last it may actually be the most important thing you can do to have a great Christmas – even when you’re struggling financially. This starts by determining the total amount of money you can actually afford to spend on your holiday gifts. Use a spreadsheet to create a list of your holiday expenses including gifts, holiday foods, decorations etc. This should be four columns – one for your categories, one for the amount you’ve budgeted for each, one titled “Actual Spending” and one labeled “Amount Over or Amount Under.”
Next, begin tracking your spending by each category in the “Actual Spending” column. You will use the “Amount Over or Amount Under” column to see how you’re doing versus what you’ve budgeted. If you find you’re over in some categories, you may be able to make up for it by scaling back in some other category.
How much you spend in each category – whether you’re over or under – isn’t as important as making sure you stick to the total amount you budgeted for your holiday spending. Do this and you will have a great Christmas – and without the fear of what January will bring in credit card bills.