Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Re-thinking the Holidays

Good news, the economy seems to be on it's way back up. What, your bank account hasn't gotten the memo? Mine either. It's no fun to have a skinny wallet, especially during the holidays. Here are five easy tips to make the most of the season while keeping both your savings and your sanity in tact:

1. Hop in the Pool
Instead of the usual gift-giving routine of buying each relative a gift, try a gift pool among the adults. Have each grown-up bring a wrapped gift worth up to a set dollar amount, keeping it reasonable for everyone participating. Assign each gift a number that corresponds with numbers drawn from a hat or bowl.

You can keep it as simple as that or take it a step further by making it a "white elephant"
game where gifts are "stolen" or traded.

If there are children in the family let relatives spoil them at will if they so desire.

Contributing to a pool takes mountains of gifting pressure off of relatives and can help remind us what it is we really love about the holidays by taking the focus off of gifts.

2. BYOFF: Bring Your Own Favorite Food
Hosting family gatherings can mean a hefty bill at the grocery check-out. Especially if your family is, like mine, enormous. It can be tremendously helpful to ask relatives or friends that live within reasonable distance to make and bring their own favorite side dish or dessert.

You won't have to chain yourself to the stove all day and you might find out that cousin of yours is quite the culinary genius!

3. Make it Personal
Home made gifts can be both inexpensive and wonderfully personal. Make the most of your creative talents and give a little piece of yourself with each gift. One of my favorite such presents was a simple cookbook that my vegetarian aunt made me. A few lovely pieces of artwork printed in color were tucked into every third page or so. The book is full of seasonal recipes including soups, stews and warm salads and was made using a simple report cover found at any office supply store and bound with twine. It's delicate and I love the fact that it was made by the hands of someone I love.

Figuring out what to make isn't as hard as it may sound. Love music? Burn a few mixed CD's containing some of your favorite songs and give them out. Love to knit? How about a hat or cell phone cozy? Whether it's a talent or something that you're really interested in, you have something to share. Another plus, homemade gifts eliminate the need to check for stray price tags!

4. Turn off the Tube
Advertisers for major retailers are paid top dollar to make you feel guilty and obligated. They wave shiny gadgets in your face and convince you that if really love your spouse or child or best friend you'll break the bank to prove it. Don't indulge them. Turn the TV off and ignore the barrage of junk mail ads and billboards.

One of the few neat things about a national recession is that no one is alone, we're all in this mess together. Your friends and family know that times are tough and they don't expect you to prove you care by going broke.

5. Get Back to Basics
Why do you celebrate the holidays? Are your celebrations based on religion? Family traditions? We all have a reason or two that we acknowledge the holidays, for me, it's all about family and my children. I have a big family that doesn't get together often. Christmas is an opportunity to catch up and reminisce. It's also a time for my kids to bond with the relatives they don't see often enough. When the day is over and the food is gone and the wine bottles all corked, no one is really thinking about gifts. We're all just happy to have had another year together.

Don't fret over price tags or wear holes into the soles of your shoes on epic shopping trips, instead, embrace your friends and loved ones and remember why you celebrate the season.

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