By Dr. Robert E. Pritchard, Professor of Finance Rowan University(Many Ideas Provided by His Students)
Newswise — The holiday season is the time we share our love and blessings with family, friends, and those less fortunate. But Holiday Season 2008 will be different. For many Americans times are tough. Some family members may fear losing their jobs and homes. Unemployment is increasing and our little planet Earth needs some environmentally friendly holiday help. But, with a little creativity and caring we can all have a great holiday.
Here are some ideas to make this a great Holiday Season 2008 while spending less and keeping Mother Nature happy too.
1. First, whenever possible, purchase gifts that were made here, in America.. Think about our environment. Make fewer shopping trips.
2. Take the time to find out what your loved ones and friends really want. It might be something as simple as a gift certificate to a favorite store. Or, it might be a "help coupon" (discussed below). Most people are feeling at least some financial strain. So, take the time to discuss money-saving strategies with family and friends. Try to come up with a holiday giving plan that everyone can afford comfortably.
3. Purchase items that can be easily recycled. Wrap presents in newspaper; that eliminates a lot of unnecessary trash.
4. Make your own family Christmas and Hanukkah cards. This can be a great project for kids and you can convey a very meaningful and loving message. Also, stop sending holiday cards to friends. Instead, over the holidays take a few minutes to call them.
5. Shop early while the selections are good. Last-minute shopping is expensive and stressful. When planning to shop, consider E-Bay and Craig's List as well as making purchases at yard sales and dollar stores. Kids can enjoy a used bike just as much as a new one. Also, shop online. Many retailers send customer online discount coupons and provide free shipping. Use all store coupons wisely. If you receive a 20%-percent-off coupon, be sure to apply it to a big ticket item.
6. Little kids love to receive lots of toys. So wrap those dollar store gifts individually and think about tying a string to each gift. Then, let the kids "fish for the gifts," pulling them one at a time from a box or bucket. Some kids' gifts are big or bulky and not easily wrapped. Let them fish for these as well. Hide the gift somewhere in the house. Then tie a long string to the gift and let the string end where you normally open presents.
7. Alternatively, let your kids search for their presents. Write a series of short notes leading each child from place to place in your home or yard. Put the first note in an envelope in the area where you normally open presents. The final note will indicate the exact location of the child's present.
8. Consider skipping presents for adult children and focus primarily on the kids. Alternatively, for adult children, a Secret Santa that includes both the adult children and their parents can be a lot of fun. And, trading Secret Santa gifts after they have all been opened can add to the fun. Bartering can bring even more gifts to the mix. For example, one adult child might offer to swap her/his Secret Santa gift with another and throw in some free babysitting to "seal the deal."
9. Youngsters, teens, adult children, and parents can give "help coupons." These "help coupons" might include a teenager's coupon promising to wash the family car(s) a number of times, a child's coupon promising to cleanup her/his room once a week for the next six weeks (parents hope this will become a habit), and an adult child's promise to baby sit for a sibling's child. Use your computer to personally design "help coupons." The coupons can include special messages and lots of smiley faces. Children can make their coupons as well. This can be entertaining for them and also get them thinking about the importance and pleasure of giving.
10. Other important gifts that keep giving are magazine subscriptions. These can be great for school children of all ages. News magazines are especially important. They provide children with information on a broad array of topics " expanding their minds.
11. What about money? Some adult children (as well as parents) may be struggling. A cash gift could be a great help.
12. Finally, as a family, consider helping others through local charities such as food banks. If possible, pledge a monthly dollar or food gift for 2009. Look for charities that have a local impact and that have low overhead costs.