Free (and Cheap) Fun for the Holidays! Enjoy Life!

I talk a lot about the importance of saving your money and paying down your debt, but life isn’t all about penny-pinching. In fact, the whole point of being more financially responsible today is so that you can enjoy yourself in the future.

But you should also be living your best life right now.

And that brings us to the holiday season. With Halloween over and Thanksgiving on the way, now is the time of year when you’ll start seeing ads for holiday gift giving. The big retailers want you to spend, spend, spend — but you don’t have to go into debt to have a meaningful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or winter solstice. With some careful planning and creativity, you can enjoy the holidays without spending much at all — and that will send you into the New Year with a nice bump in your budget instead of a holiday hangover.

Try these ideas to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year without breaking the bank.

  1. Turn Your Party Into a Potluck

If you love hosting, you don’t have to give up your flair for hospitality. Providing a full dinner or an open buffet and bar can get pricey, so this year, try a potluck instead. Keep things fun by declaring a theme like Mexican food for a fiesta de Navidad or asking guests to bring dishes that reflect seasonal characters like the Grinch, Santa and Frosty. When everyone gets to be creative, no one will notice that you just threw a party for a fraction of the cost — they’ll be having too much fun to care!

  1. Give the Gift of Time

Instead of stretching yourself too thin by trying to buy a gift for everyone on your list, give them some of your most valuable commodity instead: your time. Write a handwritten message offering an IOU for a coffee date or a January catch-up where you can spend time really connecting to your loved ones. You can also offer to run errands or help older folks with chores, babysit to give young parents some alone time, or give the gift of your skills. All of these things are free (or nearly so), but they’re meaningful because they come from the heart.

  1. Try a $0 Dirty Santa Exchange

Instead of succumbing to the pressure of buying gifts for each of your friends, gather your friends for a gift swap instead. You know the kind: Everyone brings a gift, draws a number and selects a present, which someone later may try to steal from them. The trick here is that there’s a $0 limit, so you’re either offering a service or donating an item from your home (regifted scented candle, anyone?). This can be a lot of laughs, and you may actually get something you need that someone else was glad to get rid of.

  1. Opt for Movies Instead of the Mall

Lots of people love to stroll the mall to get into the spirit of the season, but this is a dangerous pastime. Sure, the music and decorations are nice, but it’s awfully tempting to make a few unplanned, budget-busting purchases while you’re there. A healthier way to get into a holiday mood is to stay home, bake some cookies and put on your favorite holiday movie. Whether you love It’s a Wonderful Life or Elf, this is a much safer way to indulge.

  1. Try a Rolling New Year’s Party

A friend of mine spreads the cost — and the fun! — of a New Year’s Eve bash by hosting a rolling party with friends who live nearby. One family hosts cocktail hour, another the dinner, another the dessert, and another the champagne. Guests bundle up and walk to new locations every two hours or so, adding some fresh air and exercise to the whole night. No one has to shoulder the whole cost of hosting, and everyone travels safely on foot. Genius!

Speaking of the New Year, you can get your resolution off to a great start by investing in your future. Check out Brainy Money’s online courses to get your finances in gear for 2019!

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