How to cut holiday spending while still enjoying the season of giving

In this year's economic crisis, you may be stressed about how you'll buy Christmas presents or make the holidays nice for your family.

Many families feel they have to overspend on the holidays each year to make their families happy.

But financial counselors say this year's hardships are the perfect time to teach your children about money and rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.

"If we've learned anything this year, it's the year of different," said Tara Aldrete with the non-profit financial counseling provider Money Management International. "It's the year of doing stuff we're not used to and it's the perfect time to break out and do something different and start a new healthier financial habit."

Aldrete says to begin by talking with your children and family members about why holiday spending needs to be scaled back this year.

"I think it is really about mindset, setting expectations, having the conversation, but maybe changing the picture you've always had in your mind about how it has to go," explained Aldrete.

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When it comes to gifts, think quality over quantity.

"Things people want, need or will use, things that are meaningful for you and them.  And sometimes that's not even a gift, sometimes that's an experience or an exchange or something like that," said Aldrete.

Start new traditions, such as volunteering or having the kids make gifts.

"My kids sat down this year and made calendars for Grandma and Grandpa and everybody loved it so much, that's what we do from here on out," said Aldrete.

MMI has a link to this Holiday Budget Planner to help you determine how much you can really afford.
"Get yourself organized.  Make a list. Who do you want to shop for? What do you want to get them? What price range do you want to set?" said Aldrete.

Have a plan to pay off holiday credit card spending within a few months, shop early to avoid rushed shipping fees, and cut back on buying gifts for yourself.

Unfortunately, registration has closed for many of Houston's assistance programs for Christmas gifts, but some charities still offer other holiday aid.  You'll find links to them here:
United Way Houston

Catholic Charities

Salvation Army Houston

You can also find free and low-cost local holiday events to enjoy with your family here:

Mommy Nearest

Houston On The Cheap