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Budget a Greener Holiday

Can you believe that the holidays are here already? Can we shop eco-friendly and budget friendly too? Incredibly most “green” shopping is easy on the budget. Yes, ’tis the season to give and to spread good cheer. However, for many families, the holiday cheer also means breaking out of their budget. To help you save money, help the environment, and avoid  financial stress this holiday season, I have put together some practical tools to help make this holiday season a joyous time.

First, take a hard look at what you typically spend on gifts, decorations, new outfits, wrapping paper, cards, special meals and year-end gratuities. At the same time, look at the rest of your budget and estimate how much you can afford to spend without racking up debt. Some financial planners recommend spending less than 1.5 percent of your annual income on holiday expenses. If you haven’t saved that much, look for ways to cut back.

Next, record everyone on your gift list and set an amount you expect to spend on that person. Keep track along the way of what you actually spend and compare it against your budgeted amount. If you overspend in one area, you must reduce costs in another. Think about some of the unnecessary gifts you received last year: would you have been any less happy without them?

Finally, make a list – check it twice. Decide what you want to spend on each item and stick to your guns. It helps to know in advance what you want to buy so you’re not enticed by all the attractive merchandise on the shelves. Monitor your spending. Plan ahead. This is supposed to be a joyous time; don’t let the temptation to overspend ruin your holidays – and make you pay for months afterward. Here are some ideas for budget and earth conscious gifts.

  • Give A Priceless Gift: When you make a gift, you give of your time — the most valued gift of all. Make a “Gift of Time” certificate: The list of things you can give is endless: a gift certificate for a chore an older relative can’t easily do; a trip to the park or a slumber party for the kids. Grandma doesn’t need more bath salts; she needs someone to help shop and do yard work.
  • Make gifts: get your kids involved in this family activity.
  • Give experience gifts: such as tickets to an event, dance lessons or membership to a museum or gym. Consider giving an environmental excursion, such as kayaking or camping trip or make a gift to charity in a loved one’s name.
  • Make edible gifts: such as breads, cookies, dried fruits, or nuts. Package them in reusable tins, baskets, jars, or decorative bags or boxes.
  • Avoid gifts: that will be thrown away, use excessive packaging, or are made from environmentally sensitive materials.
  • Holiday plants: make wonderful “green” gifts for any budget. Plants can be enjoyed long after the holiday season is over. Whatever plant you choose, add an informative publication to your gift. The Monroe County Extension Service can provide you a specific “how to care for” publication on a wide variety of plants.
  • Give investment gifts: check local extension offices for money management classes or look at “Financial Gifts for the Children”.
  • Give local products: like locally grown citrus, honey or work from a local artist. This is particularly cheap if your neighbor has a lot of fruit trees.
  •  Make, and give, holiday arrangements: like centerpieces and decorations. Links to holiday arrangements you can make your self can be found here.
  • Draw Names and Give Fewer, Nicer Gifts: This works equally well with friends, families, and co-workers.

Avoiding the holiday finance hangover is tricky, some of the things to consider are:

Consider setting up a holiday account at your bank, set up a direct debit from each paycheck to be deposited into a Christmas fund. This can eliminate holiday-season debt.

I’ve learned to let the kids spend-happy relatives cover the bulk of the holiday shopping! In all seriousness, I’ve learned to back off on my own buying for the kids because I know they will get plenty (too much) for Christmas anyway. I try to make it less about the gifts and more about tradition: Christmas Eve they always get Christmas pajamas and a new book for us to read together.

When giving a gift card, be sure to include any information you receive as well as the gift receipt. If you receive a gift card, carefully read all the information about the card and its use and check for an expiration date. Safeguard your gift cards as you do cash.

Have a safe and green holiday!

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