Saturday, February 7, 2009

Put Holidays In Their Place

Saving Money Tip #65 - Put Holidays In Their Place. Holidays are special days to celebrate with families and friends. They are the days we bring out the cameras and do things we don't do on other more mundane days. Sometimes holidays get out of control and there is a tendency to celebrate in big ways. And in big ways, I mean expensive ways. Throughout the year there about a dozen basic holidays that most people in the USA celebrate - New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Ones birthday. Add to that other celebrations you or your family may participate in - graduations, anniversaries, others' birthdays, communions, weddings, births, housewarmings, etc. They easily add up. So there is approximately one holiday or celebration per month - sometimes as many as two per month, depending on how big your family is. It would be very easy for your spending on these holidays to add up very quickly and get out of control.

Remember one thing, you are in charge of how you celebrate a particular holiday. Other people are not in charge. The greeting card companies are not in charge. The flower shops are not in charge. The chocolate companies are not in charge. Well, the chocolate companies do have a special hold over some of us, but I digress. The key to keeping costs down is to keep celebrations of holidays, especially minor ones, in check. Celebrate how you see fit and what works well in your budget. In your budget. Did you forget to consider minor holiday celebrations in your budget? Yeah, most of us don't have a line item in our budget for Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. But you probably have a monthly budget amount for gifts. And you have probably have a monthly budget amount for entertainment or dinners out.

Since Valentine's Day is coming up next week, let's discuss how to celebrate a minor holiday such as this one while keeping it in your budget. Many people celebrate Valentine's Day with dinner, flowers, and chocolate. Some also celebrate with jewelry or a piece of clothing. If you want to do any of those things, first you must consider your budget. You may have as part of your budget once a week or once a month dinners out. This is perfect. Use the dinners out line item from your budget to eat dinner out on Valentine's Day. No need to go overboard with a fancy restaurant. You may also have as part of your budget a line item for entertainment. It may be $50 or $100 for the month. Consider carefully whether you want to use a whole month's worth of entertainment for one night. No? Good, I didn't think so. So you decide to go to the movies and you use a ticket from your Entertainment book, making your movie tickets cost $12 total for two of you. You skip snacks at the movies and when you get home you give your spouse a box of chocolate. He gives you a flowering plant that you can plant outside in the springtime. Your chocolate gift came out of your gift budget for the month. And the plant came out of the home improvement budget.

Great! You did it! You celebrated Valentine's Day without breaking the bank or losing sight of your budget. There was no need to buy an expensive piece of jewelry or exotic flowers to tell your spouse you loved her. There was no need to go to a fancy restaurant. You spent time with the one you love. You did something special and you had fun. And really that's what holidays such as Valentine's Day are about.

Now suppose you are trying to get out of debt and don't have money for even dinners out or a movie? There are so many cheap or even free things you can still do to make the holiday special. Make a dinner that you don't normally eat such as a prime cut of meat. This may cost you only $5 more than usual. Or make a fun red dinner - pasta with tomato sauce, red wine or punch, a salad with red peppers, and a cake with red frosting. Valentine's Day is on a Saturday this year. Celebrate during the day as a cheaper alternative to the nighttime. Go out to lunch or, if it's warm enough, pack a lunch and eat at a park. Visit a museum or go ice skating. For free, you can set up 'massage parlor' and give each other massages. Write your spouse a love letter. Make each other cards. Play a game. Bake a chocolate dessert. Watch a love movie on DVD. Clean up your husband's desk or shovel the snow. None of these cost money but each activity shows your family that you love them.

Whatever you do on Valentine's Day and other minor holidays, keep it in your budget and keep the holiday celebrations under control. You decide what you do and how you will celebrate. And put the holiday in its place.

In Real Life (IRL) - I am a cheap date. I always have been and probably always will be. I don't like fancy food. I don't eat meat. I don't drink wine or liquor or even beer. And I'm not a huge fan of flowers. I'm not even a moviegoer. I do like chocolate, though. Funny thing is, I prefer Hershey's over Godiva. I grew up in Pennsylvania and that's what I'm used to eating, so I just prefer the taste. And I just like plain chocolate - no fancy fillings inside. So dates or celebrations of any kind around here are usually pretty simple.

With three young children, we will stay home on Valentine's Day. We may bring in some food as it is in our budget to eat out or take-in once a week. I'll probably make something from scratch like brownies as a special treat for the kids. My husband will probably buy me a $3 bag of Hershey's Kisses. And I'm giving him a Hickory Farms box of cheese and crackers and jerky that I found at CVS on clearance for $2.50 after Christmas (it's good until June). My girls are getting some markers and paper that I got from the office supply store for free using a rewards card. And my son is getting a slightly larger than normal Hershey's Kiss (not one of those big ones). Again, this was bought after Christmas at CVS for 45 cents. The total cost of our holiday about $6 plus dinner and dessert - all of which is in our budget. Happy Valentine's Day!


Winter52 said...

I agree although I never looked at just how many holidays there were during one given year but we can celebrate as many as we want to as long as we are careful. And talking about Valentine's Day, I remember telling my husband that I didn't want a store bought Valentine card, that it had to be home made and after a lot of thought, he did it. It was overly romantic lol... it was a chocolate bar glued to a piece of paper saying... A Sweet for Someone Sweet. Have to admit... that one I remember. The purchased cards have long been forgotten.

David said...

If the builders really want to get serious about saving people money they should add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all new homes and renovations. Available at with these you won't even need toilet paper anymore, just a towel to dry off! It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; it runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper, nasty. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.

Mrs. Querido said...

Ok, the last commenter was weird.

Great post! I came over via Money Saving Mom. It's a great reminder of what is truly important on holidays :)


Kristy said...

Such fantastic ideas!
My husband likes to say that all these holidays are just another way for someone to make the $$$, tis true when you think about how much folks can spend - (even though he does still do a little something for me)! I too, am easy to please so it doesn't take much to make me smile.
Again, great post - and I think I will go back and read it again (in case I missed something ;o)
Blessings ~