The holidays are a magical time of year, but I think too many people are making them last too long.  No. I’m not talking about the people who leave their lights or trees up past Valentine’s Day. I’m talking about overspending in December and paying it off until June. In my 30 years on Earth 😉 I’ve learned a few tricks that I will share with you today.

  • Use cash: I think a big contributing factor to overspending is reliance on credit and debit cards. Many people, including myself, would not be able to tell you how much they spent in a store because using cards is so easy, they often don’t even notice. When you use cash, you have to know how much you are spending in order to give the cashier the right amount of money.
  • Budget: Budgeting for your gift giving does not require Quicken or Excel, or any other high tech solution. Simply make an envelope for each of the people you buy gifts for, and stuff it with the appropriate amount of cash. When you’re out shopping, take from each envelope as needed. Shopping online requires a bit more organization, but the same goal can be accomplished using a pen and paper. Another idea is to make a separate order for each person, so the amount you spend for that person can be easily read from the order summary.
  • Sales: I am not a fan of shopping early to get an item on sale. First of all, so many sales are concocted by inflating the original price, they are almost meaningless. They also encourage people to buy more, often on credit. Unless you are paying off your balance every month, those items you bought on sale are simply transforming the amount you “saved” into income for your credit card company in the form of interest.

These tips are mostly good for things. Personally, I prefer to spend my gift-giving budget on experiences, especially when it comes to my grandchildren. Things like:

  • Going to a show (kid-centric traveling tours like Care Bears Live or Disney on Ice)
  • Fun activities (going to a trampoline park like Get Air or creating an art project together)
  • Amusement parks and water parks are not just for the summer — The Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor water park and is open year round. Of course, hopping on a jet to Orlando is always an option, too.
  • Kids’ museums with hands on exhibits like in the New York Hall of Science.

Whatever you decide to do for your loved ones, don’t make the holidays last all year!