By: Charlestien Harris
‘Twas the week before Christmas, and when all was said and done, not a credit card was sliding – not even for those last-minute items we feel are necessary to have a happy holiday!
It takes careful planning and creative thinking to come up with ways to stay within our financial means and still enjoy the holiday season with our families. Christmas is a time of joy, happiness, peace, and goodwill to all, including our loved ones as well as our neighbors and friends. Relieving ourselves of the stress of how to pay for such gatherings can really make a difference in how we can joyfully celebrate this holiday season. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
- Share the cooking duties. Why not try a potluck or ask everyone to bring a dish? This will reduce the amount of money you have to spend, especially if you are hosting the event. Make it fun! Have a menu planning social and invite others to help you to decide what kind of food or drink you all would like to have on that special day. It will add another lasting memory and help you to keep your budget on track.
- Decorate on a shoestring. “Shopping” for items in your house is a great way to start, which basically means using what you already have. For example, you could gather candles from around the house and arrange them with ornaments you have on hand. You could also pile spare Christmas balls into glass containers or bowls for a splash of Christmas color. Using natural items that you can pick up on a nature walk or scavenge from your garden (or a friend’s yard) can work as well.
Plan a night of “free” family entertainment. This time of year, the media is full of festive movies and other holiday-themed entertainment specials that are free and can be enjoyed by anyone, at any age. Check to see when those programs will be available, and be sure to check with others to make sure their evening or weekend schedule will be free at the same time. Invite friends over for an evening of fun and games, and ask everyone to bring appetizers and beverages. Having family and friends over is always a big part of the holiday season, and there is no reason you can’t continue to do this. Here is one last suggestion: you provide the space and entertainment and ask the guests to bring food and/or drinks with them. Serve up the popcorn or snacks and enjoy!
- Give gifts from your garden. If you are one of those lucky people with a green thumb, giving fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables this time of year can be a special treat, especially when you don’t have to do the “dirty work” and still reap the benefits of a bountiful harvest.
- Try the idea of “paying it forward.” This can make a real impact on the life of the giver and the gifted. If you have a special talent or some extra time on your hands, why not perform a specific task for someone that is really struggling to have a great holiday. Some ideas such as babysitting the children while the person completes their shopping list, or agreeing to cut their lawn when the spring season rolls around, or just simply giving a 24/7 caregiver some time off to refresh themselves. My dad is my mom’s full-time caregiver, and I try to give him some “me” time as often as I can by traveling to Louisiana at least once a month for a few days, just to give him a break. He tells me all the time how he really appreciates the gesture because he can relax and re-energize himself. Try something like this for someone in your life!
- Enjoy free local festive events. Attending free local or area events goes hand-in-hand with choosing less expensive traditions. Most towns and cities have a free holiday festival where you can enjoy a parade, family friendly games, and pictures with Santa – all for free! And don’t forget about high school or local college performances for holiday concerts and plays. Be on the lookout for any events that your town has coming up. If you feel comfortable, venture out to enjoy the holidays in your own city! You can make it a family affair!
Hopefully these suggestions will make your celebrations and festivities less financially stressful this year. Happy holidays to you and yours, and a very prosperous New Year!
For more information on this and other financial topics, email me at Charlestien.Harris@banksouthern.com, or call me at 662-624-5776. You can also visit www.banksouthern.com/blog/ to read more tips and tricks to living a healthy financial life.
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a financial contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region. You’ll be seeing her columns weekly on the DeSoto County News website and our social media channels.