Have a merry, thrifty holiday

  • Published
  • By Kiersten McCutchan
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Christmas music and pumpkin candles, candy and pet treats are at the top of every checkout aisle weeks before Americans even celebrate Thanksgiving, and there is definitely no escaping computer, radio and television suggestions for what gifts to buy for friends and family during the holiday season.

"Spending a lot of money on gifts can be stressful and detract from the meaning of the holiday spirit, which is spending time together and strengthening our relationships," said Tracie Faulk, 341st Force Support Squadron Airman Family Readiness Center community readiness consultant on Malmstrom.

To keep your holidays merry, guilt-free and the focus on family, Faulk has five tips.

Develop a budget
"Decide how much money you have and how much of it you are willing to spend this holiday season," Faulk said. "Take into consideration gifts, food, entertainment, decorations, holiday cards, postage, special event outfits and travel expenses."

"Looking at the numbers will help you make a smart shopping list. Make sure you stick to your list, too," she said.

Do something different
"Discuss with family and friends the idea of drawing names for a gift exchange instead of each person buying something for each person," she said. "When you have large extended families or a big circle of friends, those gifts can start piling up and be expensive and stressful to your budget."

"Consider even only buying gifts for the children in your families. Be sure to set a reasonable price limit so everyone will get a gift of equal value," she said. "Or perhaps agree on spending the money on a special activity or travel together."

Keep a record
"Make sure you track your expenses by keeping a notebook and record things as you buy them," Faulk said. "It would also be helpful to have a copy of your spending budget for referral."

"This will help you stay on task as you make your purchases. If you see yourself coming close to going over budget, there will still be time to fix it," she said.

Avoid impulse buying
"First, make a list of everyone you intend to a buy a gift for. Write down a few gift ideas after each name on your list and then do your research," Faulk said.

"Go online and check different stores to find the best price for the items you want. And if you do hit the stores, you will have a rock solid plan and save money," she said.

Be creative
"Gifts are a big part of Christmas, but can be the most expensive and stressful part," she said. "Some people are trending towards making gifts or making a donation in someone’s name," Faulk said. Or, this year, instead of buying expensive items, perhaps opt for something that makes a memory, helps that person or recreates a moment. Make a scrapbook, give a coupon with an offer to do a chore, make a family photo session or create a special meal with a theme," she said.

These are all wonderful gifts and some unique ways to save for the holidays. Plus, these kinds of gifts are usually fun to brainstorm, she added.

The Airman and Family Readiness Center wishes you a joyful holiday season -- without the stress! Airman Family and Readiness Center personnel take care of Airmen and their families and can be reached at 731-4900.