5 Ways to Beat the Holiday Financial Heat

 By Kathryn Katz

Your bank account is nearly empty, you have bills to pay, and it’s the holiday season. Your head is thumping from the stress and you still have gifts to buy and a holiday party to plan for in just a couple weeks.

Americans all over the country are facing the same dismal financial reality. But there are ways to minimize the financial impact of the holidays and still bring cheer to your family and friends. Follow these tips and create a joyous time for all.

1. Be Realistic not Materialistic: If you don’t have the money to purchase fancy gifts and throw a lavish party then don’t do it. Be realistic with yourself; it’s okay to tone down the gift giving; buy modest, considerate gifts – besides, materialism is passé. Also, create a laid back party and don’t forget to ask the attendees to bring a dish; everyone loves to show off their cooking skills.

2. Don’t be a Budget Breaker: You should have a holiday budget set up for spending. If you don’t sit down and get busy. Again, use restraint when planning out your budget; you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest. You may have to leave some friends off your list, explain that to them and they should understand, if they don’t look for new friends. Going over budget turns holiday blues into nightmares when the credit card bills arrive. It’s not worth it; don’t break the budget.

3. Get Crazy-Creative: Have you seen the prices for holiday decorations in those catalogues that arrive in your mailbox twice a week during November and December? Ouch! Forget that; go to a craft store and buy ribbons for bows, collect your own pinecones, purchase cheap candles, get red and green balloons; get crazy and have fun decorating your home.

4. Turn off the TV and See the Lights: Take a walk through your neighborhood with your family and marvel at all the beautiful lights and decorations. If it’s cold bring along a thermos of hot cocoa and some mugs. If you live in a condo or townhouse, perhaps you can take a ride through a quiet neighborhood or the local town with holiday songs on the radio. Or you can simply sit in front of your own tree and enjoy its beauty with the family – it doesn’t cost a dime.

5. Be Thankful:  There’s always someone who has more, but there’s also always someone who has less. Be thankful for what you have no matter how imperfect you think it is. Tough times bring out the character in people and showing your friends and family, your children what great character you have is more valuable than any gift.

As Americans, we’ve been inundated since childhood with the materialism of Christmas, which translates into buying loads of toys, extravagant jewelry, even luxury automobiles in the driveway on Christmas morning. But we’re finally getting a grip on ourselves again; unfortunately it’s because of the economy and not because we’ve been enchanted by the holiday spirit. Still, people are starting to understand that it’s not about getting the better gift; it’s about the better ways of giving.