chaotic time of the year with your sanity while still keeping it special:
1. Set A Gift Budget and Stick To It
Sit down before Black Friday and decide who you want to give a gift to and the budget for each person. Does Aunt Gladys really need a present? Maybe you can get away with sending a card to Uncle Moe.
The important thing is to not keep this in your head – write it down! This concrete list will help you stick to your resolve.
2. Reel In The Kids' Expectations
Before the chaos of Christmas begins, make sure to have a talk with the kids about their gift expectations. Though they may dream of getting a everything on their list for Christmas, it is not always monetarily possible for "Santa" to fulfill all of their requests. (If you have very young kids, it might be easier to tell them that Santa doesn't have room on his sleigh for everything on their list.)
These sorts of conversations will cut down on any disappointments (or even tantrums) on Christmas Day.
3. Pool Money For Big Budget Items
If Junior wants an iPod but such an extravagant gift is not in your budget, ask other family members to contribute to the cost. That way, everyone saves and Junior gets something that he'll love.
4. Give Something That Develop Kids' Skills, Hobbies, or Creativity
Kids don't always need the latest electronics or games to keep them happy. Craft kits, building blocks, and toys that stimulate their creativity can keep them occupied for hours and help them develop skills that will last them a lifetime. Best of all, these sorts of gifts don't require batteries!
5. Give Homemade Gift Certificates
If you're really low on funds, give homemade coupons promising the barer homemade cookies or muffins, a house cleaning, yardwork, gardening, or even some free errand running anytime during the next year. Tuck the certificate into a nice Christmas card and either mail it or place it under the tree for Christmas day.
6. Give the Gift of Art – Kids' Art, That Is
Kids love to draw, color, and paint. Put some of that art to work for you this Christmas season by framing their best pieces and giving them to distant family and friends. Not only will it make your young artist feel special but you'll also give grandma or grandpa a concrete emotional connection with their distant grandkids. Inexpensive frames can be found at garage sales or even the local thrift or dollar stores.
7. Host A Potluck Dinner and Gift Exchange For Your Friends
Can't afford a gift for all of your friends? Then invite them over for a fun potluck dinner and gift exchange. Each person brings a dish and a generic gift costing less than $5 or 10 (you set the limit).
After drinks and a delicious meal, have everyone gather in the living room for the gift exchange. There are different ways to do it – passing presents around in a circle, lottery, etc. – the important thing is that everyone has fun!
8. Start A New (And Less Expensive) Family Tradition
Don’t have the money for Nutcracker or the movies? Do something different instead! Go caroling or take a walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the Christmas lights. If you're in an area that gets snow, make snow angels or a regiment of snowmen before settling down on the couch with hot cocoa to watch a Christmas movie. The stars are the limit!
9. Start a Holiday Fun Jar
Write fun winter activities, like "bake cookies" or "make a snowman out of marshmallows", on slips of paper and place them in a jar. Every day, pick a slip out and do what it says. The randomness of it will add fun to your Christmas holiday and provide a great break from all of the chaos of presents and parties.
No matter how bleak your economic sights might be this Christmas, there is always someone worst off. Take some time out of your busy Christmas rush to volunteer at a local charity and find out the true gift of giving.
If you have older kids, look into having them volunteer right along side you. Not only will be helping improve someone's but you'll also get some great quality time with your teen - something that is really rare in this day of iPods and computers.