By Robert Vandenbergh
North Jersey residents hoping to spend less this holiday season can shop locally and engage in community activities. In turn, shoppers will be supporting small businesses and helping to strengthen the local economy. Here are some of our favorite affordable ways to celebrate the holidays close to home at retailers, restaurants and community centers.
Shop locally. Visit your local merchants to find distinctive gifts and services for the people on your holiday list. Mention that you’re a local neighbor and you might qualify for additional discounts. Craft fairs at schools and churches may offer other unique gift ideas, as well.
Give homemade gifts. Bake a favorite recipe, package it in an attractive container and you have an inexpensive, yet thoughtful, gift. Visit a craft store for ideas on homemade crafts that you can make and give as presents. To save money on expensive gift wrap, decorate brown paper bags to wrap presents.
Enjoy local entertainment. Tis’ the season for church and school concerts, special holiday performances, and community theatre. Take your family and friends to any of these local events for a fraction of what you’d spend on Broadway.
Go caroling. Get a group together and go house to house in your neighborhood, singing Christmas carols. Then, enjoy some hot chocolate at your local eatery as a reward for a great performance.
Donate to local charity. Make a donation to a local charity in the name of people for whom you would have bought gifts, or ask a guest to bring a donation of food, toys or clothes to your holiday party. This is a great way to give back and spend less, plus these gifts may be tax deductible.
See the lights. Attend local tree lighting festivities, drive around to see the neighborhood holiday lights or stroll down Main Street to enjoy the decorations.
Carry on the family traditions. Most of us don’t remember the specific gifts we receive. But we do cherish the family traditions. Be sure to honor any traditions your family enjoys or consider any of the tips above as great idea starters. The best traditions are those that don’t cost you a dime!
Other Ways to Trim Your Holiday Spending
Give yourself plenty of time to shop, stick to a list and avoid impulse buying by planning specific outings for certain items. Keep your receipts and track totals as you shop to stay within your budget. Also try paying with cash or your debit card. Keep credit card spending to an amount that you can pay off the following month.
Finally, consider trimming your gift buying list. Talk to family members, co-workers, and friends to arrange a more economical way to celebrate the holidays. A Secret Santa gift exchange is fun and requires the purchase of only one gift.
For other ideas on how to trim your budget for the holidays check out our previous blog, Tips for Trimming Holiday Expenses