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On the Money: Joy to Your Budget

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Here are a few tips so you don’t go broke this holiday season.

By Jenny Hoff, Photos by Ben White from Unsplash

There are many reasons to celebrate this month. The holidays are here, but so is the end of a year that has caused health anxiety, financial distress and a global economic shutdown. Bring on 2021!

While there is no way to know how the pandemic will play out or when the economy will rev up again, one thing you can do to start off 2021 on the right foot is to avoid high credit card bills arriving in January. That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate; it just means you might want to get creative when showing your festive spirit.

Budget First, Spend Later

The most important step to celebrating the season is making a budget and sticking to it. This should include how much you plan to spend on food, drinks, gifts and decor. If you don’t trust that you will log every purchase to know if you’ve hit your limit, then either consider downloading a budgeting app like Mint, YNAB or EveryDollar that will track it for you, or put the amount you’ve calculated on a gift card to use when making all holiday and seasonal purchases. Give yourself a hard rule to not reload it.

Make Your List and Check It Twice

The best way to avoid going broke is to avoid impulse buys on “doorbuster” sales. Instead, make a detailed list of what gifts or items you need to buy and don’t deviate from it.

Creative, Budget-Conscious Gift Ideas

If you’re shopping for small kids, there is no reason you need to pay top dollar to buy new toys. Staying at home has given people ample time to clear out their toy closets, and you can find some great deals on gently used (and sometimes new) toys on places like Facebook Marketplace, the Nextdoor app and in local resale shops. Join your local “buy nothing” Facebook group, where you can both request and offer up items that will make for great gifts, without so much as a dollar exchanging hands. For items you need to purchase, most sellers nowadays are set up to take virtual payments over Venmo or PayPal and are happy to leave items on the front porch to avoid person-to-person contact.

For adult gifts, this is the time to put personality over price. If you have a cocktail lover in the family, consider making cocktail mixes in mason jars that can be mixed with their favorite liquor for a refreshment at home. Or create cookie mixes in mason jars so those with a sweet tooth can enjoy a treat with just a few added ingredients. If it’s been an especially hard year financially, avoid spending any money and offer a virtual lesson on a skill you have to someone you love. Whether you enjoy cooking, playing piano, painting, knitting or writing, find something you can share with a loved one in a fun one-on-one class, either in person or virtually.

Saving on Food and Decorations

If there is one time you can get away with DIY decorations and casual food, it’s 2020, so take advantage of it. Search the web for creative ways to decorate using items you already have and make it an old-fashioned holiday celebration with basic dishes and simple ingredients. If family is coming over, plan out what you need and assign each person a dish or drink to bring so you only need to cook one thing yourself. To go really budget-friendly, suggest a virtual holiday celebration with family and avoid cooking altogether. This is the year anything goes!


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