1. If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, avoid joining a gym unless you can truly commit yourself. If you are locked into a contract, you will have to pay regardless of whether or not you go. Exercising can be done at home or outside for free.

2. Begin saving now for the next holiday season. Paying for gifts and other holiday expenses is easier when you start putting money aside well in advance.

3. Check your insurance policies. If you experienced any changes, you may want to adjust your coverage. For example, increasing your life insurance could be a good idea if you had a child.

4. If you have debt, work out a plan to be debt-free by next year. If the amount you owe is realistically too large to pay off in one year, set a goal for how much you will pay down.

5. Cut down on take-out ordering. Even if the meal is not expensive, doing it frequently can really add up. A $10 pizza once a week will cost you over $500 a year!

6. If you have a cell-phone, consider canceling your land-line. You may not need to have, and pay for, both.

7. If you received money as a gift, try to save it, not spend it. If you put $2,000 in a CD earning 4% interest on January 1st, you will have made over $81 by the end of the year!

8. Check your credit reports periodically for errors and fraud. You can get free reports annually from the Annual Credit Report Request Service.

9. To avoid additional trips and save money on gas, try running your errands on the way to or from work.

10. Consider signing up for online bill pay. Not only will you save on stamps, but you can make sure your payments are received on time.


Cool Crafts: Over 200 Easy-to-Create Projects for the Whole Family
By Editors of Woman’s Day (Filipachhi Publishing 2007)

If you are wishing to get crafty this holiday season, this book can serve as a good guide. It provides an illustration of each craft and labels them by skill level. However, none of the crafts are incredibly difficult to do, and most can be made by children. What better way to teach your children that the effort put into gifts is more important than the monetary value than to have them make their own gifts?Cool Crafts contains both general crafts (including an adorable piggy bank made from a soda bottle – a great way to encourage kids to save) and holiday crafts for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. There are a wide variety of projects, including cards, ornaments, and decorations. For example, you can make a wreath out of clothespins or a Santa popcorn bag out of a plastic bag and construction paper. You will not have to spend a lot of money making the projects, since they use cheap craft supplies and stuff you probably already have lying around the house, such as felt, pipe cleaners, tennis balls, and wire coat hangers. Best off all, the book is cheap – under $20 – leaving you more money to make your crafts!

Holiday spending is often a budget-buster. The expenses can be numerous: presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, and travel, to name a few. Yet in these tough times, few people have thousands of dollars to spend. If you do not have the funds to buy everything you want, there is no need to despair. A little bit of creativity and energy can get you through the holidays without draining your wallet.

Why spend $75 to buy a scarf if you can knit it yourself with $15 yarn? Making your own gifts is a great way to save, since supplies usually cost less than the finished product. Not only are homemade gifts cheaper, but many people appreciate them more than store-bought gifts because of the effort that goes into making them.

Are you not an experienced crafter? No problem. Writing a letter describing what the person means to you or framing a memorable photo are ways to give personalized gifts without having to break out a glue gun. Baking is another option that is easy for most people to do. Standard cookies or brownies can be dressed up with sprinkles and ribbons in holiday colors.

Offering your services is a great cost-saving gift, since it only costs time. Why not offer a free night of babysitting to your sister with three kids or a month of lawn-mowing to your parents? Think about what service you want to offer, and create a coupon that the recipient can redeem at a later date.

Now that you have taken the time to choose economical gifts, you probably do not want to spend $50 wrapping them. Skip the fancy wrapping paper and bows, and look around the house to see what you can use. Do you have a newspaper? (The comic section is an especially suitable choice.) Computer paper? Shopping or supermarket bags? Cheap craft supplies, such as glitter and paint, can be used to decorate plain surfaces.

It is not uncommon for store cards to cost $4 apiece – or more. If you sent cards to 20 people, that would cost you $80, not including postage. Creating your own cards can help you save, but resist the temptation to buy the pricey supplies that pepper the scrapbook aisles of craft stores. If you create and send cards electronically, you avoid spending money completely. You can make your own or use one of the many free services available on the Internet. If sending electronic cards is not your thing, consider trimming your mailing list. You can probably skip sending cards to your third grade teacher and the second cousin who you never see.

Like with gift-wrapping, you can avoid buying decorations by seeing what is lying around the house. Making a garland out of popcorn is a classic holiday decoration. Pine cones and acorns – available in abundance in many parts of the country – provide a perfect seasonal touch. If you are really craving store-bought decorations, consider waiting until after the holidays to buy. Most stores will be selling them at a deep discount, and you can use them next year.

If you host holiday dinners or parties, you may find yourself spending a significant amount of money on food. Potluck dinners are an easy way to shift the burden of buying all of the food off of you. However, if you do not want to ask your guests to bring food, there are other options. Consider eliminating a full dinner and just providing appetizers and desserts or avoiding expensive items, like meat and wine. Look for where you can buy the cheapest food. Often bulk stores are cheaper than regular supermarkets, but not always.

Airfare is generally more expensive during the holidays, since that is when everyone flies. If you want to celebrate with far away family, why not have a “holiday” dinner during an off-peak time of the year, when airfare is cheaper? Whenever you fly, being flexible can usually help you save – you probably won’t have to spend as much if you fly at night or have a layover.

You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. By being creative with your purchasing and not straining your finances, you can not only celebrate during the holidays, but afterward as well.

Copyright © 2008 CCCS
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