Pinching Pennies for the Holidays?

Pinching Pennies for the Holidays?

(ARA)- It's hard to get excited about the holidays when it costs more to fill up your gas tank than it does to buy a Christmas tree. Making plans for the holiday season is more stressful when you're on a tight budget, and it's easy to find yourself down in the dumps when you'd rather be decking the halls. So what can a cash-poor holiday elf do to keep her spirits up and gifts under the tree on a shoestring budget?
* Don't panic.
If Santa can supply gifts for the children of the world in one night, anything is possible. You, too, can have an amazing holiday season without breaking the bank or the spirit of the season -- it just takes a little planning ahead. By starting a few weeks early and sticking to a timeline, you can give yourself some much-needed breathing room come crunch-time. You'll even have more time to enjoy the season with family and friends because you'll be tackling your to-do list over time, not all at once.
* Get serious about your budget.
It's time to get serious with your budget -- start by writing down how much you want to spend on holiday gifts, cards, decorations and celebrations. If your total doesn't reflect the reality of your bank account, start over. While it's hard to cut costs on special items like Uncle Pete's favorite slippers, these items can easily be covered if they're in your budget at the start. Stick to your budget -- but create a slush fund to cover unexpected surprises, like that last-minute secret snowman gift for the office party. If money is scarce but your list is long, consider starting a new holiday tradition: send an easily shared group gift to relatives, such as a harvest basket full of tasty seasonal treats. You'll save money by avoiding individual gifts and make gift giving a breeze in the future by carrying on your new tradition.
* It's the thought that counts.
When you give a gift, you're letting someone know you care, no matter how big or small that gift is. If you think you're not spending enough on loved ones for the holidays, remember how special you feel when you get something nice from someone in the mail -- it's always nice to be remembered. In this day and age of e-mail and instant gratification, going out of your way to do something kind for someone speaks louder than words or a gift card from a big-box store.
* Look to old traditions for new inspiration.
While taking the entire family for a good old-fashioned wassailing might not be in the game plan this December, taking cultural cues from bygone days isn't a bad idea at all. Some families take to the woods to cut down their own tree for the holiday; others await the annual arrival of The Swiss Colony catalog before kicking off the season. Your friends and family can start a new tradition easily -- all it takes is a fun activity to bring you all together. A time-honored tradition that's fun for the whole family is building and decorating a gingerbread house together. While making one from scratch can be challenging, it's a snap to order a pre-made kit online.
* Shop smarter to save more.
It's easy to buy more than you need at the mall, so avoid that trap by shopping online or using catalogs to nip impulse purchases. Another way to shop smart is to take advantage of budget-friendly credit plans offered by many retailers, including The Swiss Colony, which can help stretch out payments over time and ease the strain on your wallet.
* The cheapest gift you'll ever give: Love.
By demonstrating your love in little ways during the season, you'll brighten the holidays of everyone around you. Make a CD of your favorite holiday songs for a friend or organize an afternoon of fun-filled sledding with the neighbors. Afraid of being labeled a Scrooge? Take a lesson from corporate America. You're not downsizing, you're rightsizing by focusing on the things that really matter during the holidays: spending time with friends and family and making wonderful memories together.
For more ideas and tips for finding affordable, memorable gifts for everyone on your list, call (800) 804-5188 or visit www.TheSwissColony.com.