What’s a winter holiday without those bright decorations to lighten and brighten a festive mood?  While some are happy to do without, many of us get caught up with the “Christmas With The Kranks” neighbor’s mentality in over-everything.  Funny movie, unless you get caught up in and accidentally STUCK in those expectations, time demands, and expenditures!  You have official permission to NOT overspend, and you can do so without being cheap about it in the areas of Decoration, Gift Giving, and Entertaining. Here are a few ways to express your holiday enthusiasm without breaking your energy and financial bank:

DECOR:  Whether everyone else in the family has a gold plated menorah, or you want to fit in with an all out light-athon on your street, here are some small adaptations to help contain your spending:

  1. Inventory resources on hand for the best way to use them this season.
  2. Go for quality/classy over quantity -if you’ve got to go budget, one or two really well put together small displays will make a more memorable impression than a bright skyline of wildly strung out displays just for the sake of it.
  3. Sharing is Caring. Have stuff you don’t use? So does a neighbor or friend. Pool resources, share, and alternate  – what’s old to you last year is new to them and vice versa, and you both win in getting a fresh festive look to create and enjoy.
  4. Power down!  Plenty of energy is wasted on all night displays for those inflatables and lights while folks are sleeping.  Use timers inside and out to power up when you and others will most enjoy your decorations, and to turn off at quieter times for a lower impact on your electric bill.

GIFT GIVING:  Often heard – but easily forgotten in our merchandise-heavy society,  “It’s the thought that counts.”  It’s pretty common for families to spend thousands of dollars on holiday gifts. What if your preferred budget is only a couple hundred for everyone? How to balance expectations and score keeping that get way out of hand?

  1. Let go of what your ‘group’ expects you to deliver and tune in to what feels reasonable and right to you. Your gift giving really doesn’t need to ‘match’ the choices others make….IF you can be comfortable with or ignore outside pressure to conform.
  2. Still riding some of those expectations?  Then purchase quality thoughtfully. Shop sales when possible, and if ordering online, free shipping is a non-negotiable!
  3. Big group?  Try drawing names.  If that won’t fly, go for agreeing to a maximum gift price.
  4. Focus on a real heartfelt need or desire of the recipient, not dollar value.
  5. Consider a gift of self: bonus for the creative mind!  Coupon books, edible gifts (see recipe in this newsletter…even diabetic friendly!) are great options. Or consider time together creating an experience – often the most memorable and appreciated of gifts.
  6. The hard to shop for: The more your recipient already has, the less impact a gift will have unless it’s somehow ‘special’ to them.  Get creative on what ‘special’ is – often it’s not a thing you can purchase, but something unique from your heart, whether in hand or in action.

ENTERTAINING:  Imported brie, top shelf alcohol, aged prime rib, and crudités aside, wonderful delectables can be offered and enjoyed in all your holiday entertainment, whether a highbrow party or a potluck tree trimming.  Some considerations:

  1. To make an impression for your event, choose ONE high quality food and build the rest of your offerings around it.  It’s that first bite people notice most, and your featured food will likely be just that.
  2. Appearance matters as much, often more, than the food itself! Baby carrots in a pretty display on a nice dish (from Goodwill if you don’t have one on hand) with just a smattering of costlier veggies works just as well as a catering tray of dippers, and is often fresher – at less than half the price! Need ideas?
  3. Put some focus on games, activities and social interaction, and make the food more of an accompaniment instead of the centerpiece of the day.  Good food and amazing food are equally satisfying and appreciated in fun company.
  4. Simplify your menu, with just a few highlights to address the needs or expectations of the group. Add non-essential fillers for snacking as you see fit and budget allows. For example, for an organic or kosher crowd, definitely honor some of the more affordable choices, and use inexpensive simple foods for sides and snacks. Nobody will be the wiser if those bowls of finger foods came from the dollar store! Try where you can to make it healthy fare, but also, remember it IS a holiday, not an everyday – one not so healthy meal won’t turn most folks’ lives upside down, and it shouldn’t yours either.
  5. Use the most affordable brand/types available where food quality is not compromised.  Most store brands are great options, and only the most particular guest would notice (if they mention something….RUDE! Permission to NOT invite them back!).
  6. Use smaller serving dishes and offer small plates to guests.  It’s a gift to your budget and your guests’ health.  It’s been shown that people fill their plates according to a sense of availability – the more food on display and the larger the plates, the more people take…and eat. Surprisingly, studies show satisfaction is about the same per serving, large or small!

Finally, and most importantly, vow to enjoy the weeks ahead with friends,neighbors, family, and co-workers without so much strain on your budget or your nerves.  Here’s to a holiday season for you that’s fun, relaxing, delicious, and filled with appreciation of those with whom you share it!

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