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10 Ways to Minimize Your Spending this Christmas

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For many of us, Christmas may look a little different this year ... okay, more likely a lot different. Some of us may have been out of work for a while now or perhaps just want to avoid getting into heaps of debt by the New Year. Take a look at some of these budget-friendly ideas to save you money this Christmas.

1. Make a plan. Sit down with your family and write out the things that you really want from the holidays this year. Is it a lot of stuff? Time with loved ones? That warm, fuzzy feeling? Enjoying yummy foods? A magical experience? Family memories? While we might be tempted to splurge after the year we've all had, identifying what's really important for the holidays is a good start to keeping you in check.

2. Pause your spending, right now. Normally tempted to stock up on all the holiday fixings and trappings before they're all gone? Until you've made a list of exactly what you really need this holiday, hold off. You don't want to make a dent in your budget before you've even planned it out.

3. Make a budget. List all of the items you can think of that you typically spend money on over the holidays, including things like gifts, special outings, fancy foods, decorations and even transportation. Then compare that with what you can actually afford this year. Take a really good look at your shopping list to see if there's anything that can be eliminated this year. Crossing one not-so-important item off the list may just make enough room in the budget for another, more important one.

4. Communicate. Don't have room in the budget this year to buy gifts for all of your family members? Why not suggest a Secret-Santa-style gift exchange to reduce costs and save some legwork too. Simply don't want to or just can't participate in gift giving this year? Let others know well in advance that, although you appreciate their thoughtfulness in the past, you would like to opt out of gift exchanges this year altogether. This may come as a relief to them too.

5. Seek alternatives. Still want to give gifts despite the lack of funds? Get creative! Are you a talent in the kitchen or do you sew like a pro? Maybe you're good at fixing things or could even offer to babysit. Dig out the craft supplies and make your own cards this year or collect pine cones and the like for gift-wrap embellishments. Hand-made items and the gift of your time will surely warm their hearts.

6. Check your holiday inventory. Before acquiring even more Christmas supplies this year, see what you already have. You might be surprised to find that you really don't need to buy anymore wrapping paper ... or cards ... or decorations. Why not finally just use up all that you've been accumulating over the years? Read our post on alternatives to wrapping paper here.

7. Shop your home. Focus on eating up the food you already have in your pantry or freezer. Using up these items which may otherwise get wasted can reduce your grocery bill, making room in the budget for some special holiday foods and some space in your food storage areas too. Read our post on shopping your freezer here.

8. Dig for gold. Really don't want to be empty handed when it comes to gift-giving time? If recent enough, maybe you could return that stuff you bought with the tags still on that you didn't really need, use up gift cards or store credits you already have to purchase gifts or even, dare I say, re-gift an item or two which you received last year that's, well, still unopened 'cause it just wasn't right for you. Want to make some room in your home and get some cash? What better time could there be to sell some of your unwanted goods in the local community ads.

9. Find free activities. Look in your local listings and online newspaper for free events in your community. Shopping malls, libraries and community centres often have fun and free Christmas activities. Go for a drive or walk around your neighbourhood and take in all of the pretty Christmas lights. Dust off that sled or those skates. Get all dressed up and play some festive music. Do some Christmas crafts with stuff you've got laying around the house. Bake some cookies. Search your home for things you just don't need anymore that you can pass along to other families in need and give back this holiday. It will make someone else's and your holiday that much brighter.

10. Spend quality time, not dollars. Instead of focusing on all of the stuff, make the effort to see your loved ones this holiday, even if it's virtual. Take the time to send a kind note to let them know you're thinking of them this holiday, finally make that call you've been meaning to and just prioritize connecting with the people that really matter most this time of the year.

We hope these ideas help you save money this Christmas, allowing more room to enjoy the magic of the holidays! For more Bright and Breezy tips and inspiration check out our other blog posts or subscribe for immediate updates.

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