by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA
Stretching your holiday budget doesn’t mean you’ll be giving lumps of coal as gifts this holiday season. Smart shoppers have always known that the holiday season doesn’t have to cost a lot to be fun.
Here are a few tips to make your holidays brighter but not budget busters.
Determine the total amount you can spend and don’t go over budget. Track what you have spent by keeping a tally of your purchases in your purse.
Simplify gift giving. Ask people what they want and need. You'll be able to choose more wisely from their lists than your perceptions of what they want. Encourage family to create a wish list on popular Internet websites such as Amazon or Barnes & Nobles.
Go shopping with your shopping list in hand. Don't succumb to impulse buying. Many holiday shoppers end up busted budgets by purchasing expensive gifts for themselves and spending more than planned on friends and family.
Give your family a gift everyone can enjoy, such as a museum or aquarium yearly pass.
Subscribe to a high-quality magazine everyone will read.
If someone gives you a gift you don’t like or need, save it to give as a gift later on or donate it to a charity for a tax deduction.
Ask family members to set a price limit on gifts. Insist everyone stick to the agreement.
If you're really stuck for ideas or cash, consider giving your time as a gift, including free babysitting, housecleaning or lunch out every few months. Seniors would be especially appreciative of help around the home. The gift of time is the most precious gift of all.