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How to Be Grateful and Giving... on a Budget

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Nov 18, 2013 11:59 AM

Photo by Anne Marie

This is the time of year to be thankful for good food and good company.

If the reason for making excuses to break holiday commitments and stress relates back to money, it's time to reevaluate the reason for the season. The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons all preach of love, giving and togetherness. Money shouldn't be the obstacle that gets in the way of tradition.

More and more, our society puts pressure on buying and our own internal competition to reach perfection, especially during the holiday season. Often times, we feel as if we're stretched so thin like taffy being pulled from each end--it's no surprise that our wallets also feel the strain.

The holidays do not have to be this way. You can meet all your commitments and enjoy each tradition without breaking the bank. It's that simple. You can be grateful and giving and not go broke; it's all about planning and a little perspective.


Photo by Adrienne Wolter

"Gift ideas" is a list I keep ongoing throughout the year. I make one line for each close friend or relative that I want to get a gift for, record the item I want to get next to it when I think of it, and check it off when I make the purchase. It keeps me organized!

Mad Money Managing

Be grateful for what you have and cherish your hard-earned money by budgeting during the holiday season.

Check Your List, Twice

Before you go out and swipe your precious plastic, make a list of your family, closest friends and co-workers. Ask yourself, do you need to buy a gift for everyone on your list? Could you give some of these names a card, cookies, or another small token of your appreciation? Instead of buying all individual gifts, you could give a group gift in which they can share an experience together. For example, you could organize a White ElephantSecret Santa, or Cookie Swap so that everyone gets a gift, but nobody has to spend a ton of money.

Know Your Limits

Do not go shopping until you've planned a budget and looked around for deals and coupons. Search for online promotions and redeem free shipping on online orders whenever possible. I love using sites like RetailMeNot to make sure I'm not missing out on any great deals.

One of the best methods to shop and keep your sanity is to purchase items throughout the year, especially when things go on clearance. Keep an ongoing list so that you can jot down an idea when inspiration strikes, and mark it complete when you find a steal. I like to keep a to do list on my phone called "Gift ideas" just for this purpose. (Reminders is seriously my favorite iPhone app. I use it for everything!)

Most importantly, be strong-willed and stick to your budget. There's no point in being overly generous with your friends and family if it's going to make you have to ask them for a loan in a month or two!


Photo by Flávia Castanheira

Everyone loves Christmas cookies, and they are both cheap to make and show you put some thought and effort into your gift. Win-win!

Homemade from the Heart

If you're really strapped for cash, search online for homemade gift ideas. Many ideas found on Pinterest come from household items and adapted dollar store finds. Be creative and think outside of the box. Remember, some of the best gifts come from the heart, not the store. Check out this awesome list to get your ideas flowing!

Frugal Feasting

Be grateful that you have food on the table and healthy, happy people with which to share your feast. Having trouble? Here are some things to keep in mind...

Perfectly Portioned

Instead of buying an expensive turkey or ham, think in terms of portion sizes in pounds. For example, about a pound and a half is the perfect amount for a person to dine and have leftovers the next day. That way, you won't be compromising your quality or presentation.

Cash-in on grocery store rewards programs and points to get a good-sized turkey or ham. If you shop at a store that advertises these promotions already, you'll be making good strides to receiving a free family-sized portion, perfect for serving up a feast.


Photo by John Blyberg

Save time, money, and a shred of sanity by sharing the cooking responsibilities this Thanksgiving.

Plan a Potluck

Why put all the purchasing, cooking and stress on one person? Have each person contribute to the feast by bringing a dish or dessert. For a fun, holiday experience, you can partake in different cuisines and tastes. Plus, you will save a lot of time and money putting together one dish instead of five or ten!

Social Graces

Avoid going out to eat during the holiday season. Instead, invite friends and family over for a home-cooked meal so you can have your own private get-together. In return, you'll save money on tips and food costs. If you can't avoid going out, order from the appetizer menu and order water instead of a fancy cocktail. Especially during the holidays, it may be difficult to go through an alcohol detox. The pressure for social drinking can be there, but you can remind yourself or a friend that budgeting and health are the top priorities during the holiday season.

The Gift of Giving

Be grateful for the great things in your life: your job, health, possessions and loved ones. Try to be selfless and show modesty, especially during the stressful holiday season.

Choose One Charity

During the holiday season, sift through the charities you've been asked to contribute money to, and choose one with which you have a connection. The relevance will keep your heart happy that you're doing something good, but you will also remain in focus of your own well-being and budget. Maximize your donation to see if your employer will match donations; mine does!


Photo by Lindsay Széchényi

Don't let thinning out your closet get you down... your gently worn clothes will be greatly appreciated by those in need!

Donate What You Don't Need

If you can't give money to charity, do something good (and unclutter your life at the same time!) by donating to thrift shops. As a part of your "winter cleaning," sort through clothing, furniture and donate items that you don't need or with which you are willing to part. Remember, you can get a receipt for charitable donations and take a deduction off your taxes come April!

Additionally, you can give back by using your coupons to support shelters or emergency centers. Plus, any "buy one, get one free" promotions are a great opportunity to donate your free items and "pay it forward." Or, wait for gloves or clothing to go on clearance and donate these gifts to shelters.

Don't forget to declutter your kitchen and pantry - any items that you won't be using but which are not past their sell-by date would be greatly appreciated!

Give Yourself to Others

Donate your time and volunteer at local outreach programs and lend a hand. Consider your neighbors and the elderly at this stressful time of year by offering help to cook food, clean a room or a closet, or take them shopping. Giving someone company is sometimes the best way to be grateful and stay positive.

Always Be Grateful


Photo by Tirzah on Flickr

This time of year is stressful, but it's so beautiful that it's easy to feel grateful at the end of the day.

In considering these budget-friendly tips, you can also make sure that you are not pushing your limits as well. Try and reduce stress by planning ahead. Make sure your commitments don't overlap and avoid impulsive buying. This will keep you in perspective.

One of the best ways to remain positive is to maintain your daily routines. If you go to the gym or read a book, continue to follow your schedule. Don't forget to include your own personal time.

Most importantly, enjoy the season and keep the family traditions and social commitments alive. Don't let these positive outlets become the cause of your stress. Keep the reason for spending time together a priority and make time to sit back and relax. At the end of the day, be thankful you are alive and your friends and family are there to share the holiday season with you.

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