Thursday, December 08, 2005

Seven Ways to Get Holiday Happiness With Less Money

Seven Ways to Get Holiday Happiness With Less Money

By Jay MacDonald

OK, despite your best intentions, you never quite got around to saving for the holidays, and now that the festivities are approaching, you're not exactly flush with cash.

Cheer up! With a little creativity, you can still save your holidays. Who knows, you might even have a warmer, closer gathering with family and friends without the credit card hangover that comes from holiday overspending.

The federal government's Citizen Information Center in Pueblo, Colo., has a bunch of ideas, and using them as a stepping-off point it's possible to find a number of ways to have all the fun you want this holiday season without going broke.

Here are some methods you can choose to use to save your holidays:

* The 'card-n-all' rule: If your liquidity has only temporarily dried up, you may still have time to buy now and pay later. Depending on how much time you think you'll need to acquire the money you expect to spend, you might check into low introductory APR credit cards that offer zero percent for three to six months. Pay it off, cancel the card, ho ho ho. If you need less cushion, say a month or so, check the closing date on your last credit card statement. Let's say it closes on the 20th of the month. Window-shop for your presents now or even put them on layaway until after Dec. 20, then charge them. You won't receive the bill until February.

* The payday shopper: Organize your shopping list, then buy only one gift per pay period. You'll hardly miss the money, and you'll be less likely to succumb to overbuying at the mall.

* The man in the moon: Go moonlighting. That's right, take a second job or an extra shift at work. There's still time to earn extra money for those holiday gifts.

* The my mouse to your house: Let your fingers do your shopping. You're more likely to purchase meaningful presents and less likely to fall victim to capricious holi-daze spending.

* The bag lady: Kids, bless them, have not been brainwashed into believing that the only fit gift is one that comes sealed in industrial packaging. Perfectly good new and nearly new toys, games, clothing and cool stuff abound at garage and yard sales, at your budget, without sales tax.

* The who knew: Used CDs make great gifts for the whole family and fill the house with a joyful noise. You'll get two to three discs for the cost of one at the mall.

* The pretty as my picture: Don't blow your time and money shopping for individual gifts for everyone; give each of them the one gift that only you can give: a photo of yourself. For under $50 and a few smiles, you can delight far-flung aunts and uncles with how well your orthodontia turned out.

Unthink Your Old Traditional Ways
By taking these tips, maybe you'll scrimp by this holiday season. But what about next year, and the year after that? If it's rampant holiday commercialism that's got you down, maybe you need to start a few new family traditions, ones that won't leave you cash-poor the rest of the year.

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