How to Celebrate the Season without Breaking the Bank

Whether you’re short on cash this year or not, the holidays don’t have to break the proverbial bank. Sometimes the gifts that are appreciated the most are the ones that are smaller, carry sentimental value or are simply the gift of time.

According to the personal financial planning experts at the Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants (OSCPA), the holidays are the perfect time to teach children – and remind ourselves as adults – that we can enjoy the season without overspending. Keep your holiday spirit and your budget intact with these ideas and you’ll still feel merry long after the January bills have been paid.

Set a budget.

Include your kids when you create gift lists for family and friends, and decide on a budget in advance. Look over your finances and decide how much you can afford to spend. Shopping according to your list and sticking to your budget will keep costs manageable.

Older children can be given their own small budget to use to purchase gifts for their friends and family. They’ll enjoy making their own decisions and learn how to work with a budget.

Draw names.

Feeling overwhelmed by a gift list that’s longer than Santa’s? Talk to family members about drawing names to help minimize the financial burden and maximize the personalization. Shop and choose a special gift for just one person.

Form family traditions.

Talk about which family traditions your family loves the most. Then figure out how you can put more emphasis on them. Build some new traditions that you all enjoy, such as baking cookies or ice-skating. Ask your kids what they would enjoy doing every year and make an effort to do it.

Teach children to give their time.

The holidays bring many opportunities for families to volunteer together. Sponsor a family in need or purchase presents for less fortunate children through a toy donation program, help out at the local animal shelter, visit those in a nursing home, bring gifts or meals to those who are homebound, or lend a hand to elderly neighbors with decorating, cooking or wrapping presents. Community service helps to drive home the message that giving is much more than buying the latest technological gadget.

Make it homemade and heartfelt.

Think outside the typical holiday box and give gifts with special meaning. Photographs, homemade treats and hand drawn pictures are perfect presents from grandkids to grandparents. For older kids, have them write their own message, letter or story to give. The best gifts are those that are unique and show that thought and time were taken to make them.

Get a gift, give a gift.

If your kids are at an age where they can understand what it means to give something away, have each child select a toy they no longer play with to donate to a child in need. Parents can set an example by donating gently used items as well.

Focus on family and friends.

“Even young children can grasp the concept that the holidays are special because of the people you’re with, not how much money you spend,” said Daryl J. Hill, OSCPA executive director. “Helping your child understand that is the best gift you’ll ever give.”

A CPA can help you create a financial plan to make sure your holidays are merry and your New Year financially secure. If you do not have a CPA, visit for a FREE CPA referral, which also includes a free 30-minute consultation.

Updated 12-15-2010

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