This time of year, many folks are thinking about holiday celebrations and gifts. To avoid January credit card shock, consider these tips.

Plan ahead

  • As a family (if applicable), decide ahead of time how much you will spend for your holiday celebrations and gifts.
  • Starting as early in the year as possible, put a portion of your planned amount into savings each month or each pay period.
  • Create a holiday savings jar where everyone is involved in adding to the funds in the jar. Be creative. Suggestions:
    • Hold a garage sale where all the proceeds go into the holiday jar.
    • Make and sell homemade crafts or baked products.
  • Plan what you will spend for each gift and for each holiday celebration. Be realistic but not extravagant.

Celebrations and family get-togethers


  • Turn your dinner party into a potluck where the host provides the meat and drinks and everyone else brings all the side dishes and desserts. Not only does this save money, but it allows the host to spend more time with the guests.
  • Have a cookie exchange party. Everyone brings several dozen of their favorite holiday cookies and the recipe. Guests exchange plates of cookies and recipes after tasting the cookies (of course!)


  • Share decorations with your friends and neighbors who are hosting a party on a different day.
  • Use free materials such as branches, pine cones and stones to make natural holiday arrangements.
  • Utilize websites such as Pinterest for ideas for easy, low-cost decorations.
  • Recycle decorations from previous years.

Save on holiday gifts

  • This is often very hard to do, but pare your gift recipient list down to the essentials. For example, your co-workers will not mind if you don’t give them a gift every year. If you feel obligated to give a gift, make them a plate of cookies instead of purchasing a gift.
  • Try to keep your gift recipients in mind all through the year. Watch for sales of items they might like.
  • Consider making gifts, if you have talent — woodworking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, or other crafts. Homemade gifts are always welcome.
  • If you don’t have the talent (or the time) to make gifts, consider bartering with someone who does have the talent and the time. Perhaps you could babysit for a mom in exchange for her making some gifts for you.
  • Be creative with alternative gifts.
  • If a person on your gift list loves music, make them a personalized album of their favorite songs on MP3 or other media.
  • Give gifts of time — present the person on your gift list with a certificate they can “cash in” for lunch with you, for babysitting services, or for a movie night.
Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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