Many people do their best to save up for the holidays all year round. But even if you went that route, you may be on a budget for numerous reasons this year — persistent inflation that’s been keeping your bills expensive or a nagging credit card balance you really don’t want to add to.
The good news is that you don’t have to part with a fortune of money to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest. Here are some steps you can take to celebrate for less.
1. Host a potluck Thanksgiving
Hosting your family for Thanksgiving dinner could be a multi-hundred-dollar affair when you factor in everything from drinks to sides to decadent desserts. Rather than do it all this year, have everyone share the load.
Supply a turkey and some basics, but let it be known that this November, you’re going potluck style. You may be surprised (in a good way) at the creative dishes your aunts, uncles, and cousins whip up.
2. Skip the lights and check out other people’s homes instead
Many people enjoy adorning their exteriors with lights during December. But the cost there can really add up.
For people who pay to have Christmas lights installed, the average cost is $420, says Forbes. Doing the work yourself has the potential to reduce that figure. But remember, it’s not just the expense of buying and installing lights you need to think about. There’s also the higher electricity bill to consider.
If money is tight, instead of decorating your own home this year, scope out other people’s. If there’s a night that’s not super cold, have everyone in your family grab hot chocolate in to-go cups, bundle up, and walk around the neighborhood together taking all of those decorations in.
3. Volunteer as a family
There’s something about giving your time to a meaningful cause that allows you to embrace the holiday spirit. If you can’t afford a big outing or trip to celebrate the holidays, stay local and volunteer as a family at a local church, food pantry, or animal shelter.
Or, organize your own toy or food drive. That may be an easier way to get younger kids involved, since some organizations may not be able to take volunteers below a certain age. When your kids look back on the holidays, chances are, they’ll remember something like that more so than the exact gifts they found waiting under your tree.
4. Have a family night instead of a large holiday party
Love hosting parties during the holidays? Those can be fun, but expensive. Rather than do that, keep things intimate and have a family night.
Bust out the board games your kids are always begging to play and have a marathon. Or microwave a big patch of popcorn, find some movies everyone enjoys, and cozy up on the couch for an evening in. You don’t need to bear the expense of a big party when you’re likely to have just as much fun spending quality time with the people you love the most.
Many people end up spending a lot of money during the holidays and landing in debt as a result. But frankly, that’s a lousy way to start the new year. Instead, carve out new routines and find joy in simple but meaningful experiences. That’s really what the holidays are supposed to be all about, anyway.
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