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How to Save During the Holidays and Involve Your Community

The holidays don't have to burn a hole in your pocket. Here are some fun, easy ways to saving during the holidays that involve your community.

Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels

With the holiday season just around the corner, many of us might be excited to partake in the festivities with friends and relations. Our wallets, however, might not feel as merry, out of fear of getting drained from spending overload, and rightly so.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), in 2020 holiday spending spiked 8.3% despite the fears and financial uncertainty some faced during the pandemic. And for those who are trying to steer clear of holiday debt hangover and avoid the "must get started shopping as early as possible" due to impending inventory shortages and shipping delays, one might feel pressed for time and money this year.

Instead of digging a deeper debt hole, consider saving in a way that not only saves you time and money, but also can strengthen your community. Beyond experiencing warm, fuzzy feels from gift-giving, you can also enjoy merriment and spread good cheer by reaching out to your tribe. Here are a handful of ways you can curtail holiday spending that involve your community at large:

Host a Buy Nothing Bazaar

If you're in a Buy Nothing Group, you can enlist the help of the members in your group to organize a buy nothing bazaar. Otherwise, round up some like-minded friends, family and neighbors and put together a shindig.

Whether it's virtual or in-person, have a free section where folks can donate holiday-related items—gift wrap, decorations, craft supplies, cards, stocking stuffers and gifts. Other areas to save might include gently used festive attire that, with some light cleaning or added flair, could become new. If you're so inclined, consider turning it into a potluck.

Organize a Virtual Crafts Workshop

Gather your friends and family together for a virtual crafts workshop. With some simple, low-cost supplies, such as scrapbooking paper, scissors and glue, stickers, rubber stamps and glitter—host a short workshop where you can create holiday cards, DIY decorations, gift wrap, and ornaments for the Christmas tree.

These little workshops not only help you save on gifts but could spare you from doling out a significant amount of money on those pricey visits with Santa and other holiday get-togethers.

Schedule Family Traditions Throughout the Month

In the weeks leading to the holidays, have a few family members sign up to host a virtual or in-person gathering featuring a time-honored family tradition. If you're not planning on traveling, it's a great way to get together and stay connected during this time of year.

Maybe your family makes tamales for the holidays, concocts their own version of an apple cider, or decorates homemade sugar cookies. Or the songbirds in the clan can host a virtual Christmas caroling. You can also organize a movie night with a handful of your favorite holiday classics, or put together a nostalgic slideshow from holiday gatherings past.

Put Together a Produce and Recipe Swap

If you have a garden, consider sharing your seasonal harvest with neighbors. Host a produce and recipe swap. Through a produce exchange, you can reap the benefits of others' labor, and gift some produce you have in abundance. You might find yourself with enough apples to whip up a delectable apple pie, applesauce, or a loaf of persimmon bread for the holidays.

Volunteer

There's no shortage of ways you can donate your time during the holidays. Think about the causes you care most about and reach out to a local organization on how you can volunteer for a few hours. Sites such as VolunteerMatch can connect you with one-time opportunities.

Or, instead of buying gifts, consider creating a coupon service book, where you volunteer a few hours throughout the year to your family or friend's favorite causes and organizations.

Agree to Do a White Elephant Exchange

Instead of having to buy presents for every single person in your family, do a White Elephant exchange instead. It serves as a great excuse to rummage through your closets and see if there's anything you can re-gift or repurpose during the exchange. If your entire family isn't on board with a White Elephant exchange, consider a compromise: have the adults participate, and the kids can receive presents from each family as usual.

Do Your Own Version of a Santa Photo Session

Skip the photo with Santa at the mall this year. Instead, ask a shutterbug in your life to put together a simple photo booth setup in your yard. Then, see if anyone has a Santa suit and if they wouldn't mind putting on for a few hours.

The cost of a photo with Santa can cost anywhere from $20 to $50, and upwards for a more extensive, in-depth, session depending on where you live. With modern gadgets such as a cell phone with excellent cameras, a simple tripod and lighting setup, and a few festive props, you can do your own version of a Photo with Santa session.

And as always, manage your credit cards

To avoid going into debt because of the holidays, be sure to set limits on your credit card usage. A good way to keep track is to set alerts. To avoid overspending online, each time you make a transaction online with your card, you can get a notification via email or text. And of course, make sure to always make the minimum payments on your card, and pay on-time.

The holidays don't have to shake up your savings nor put you into debt. With a bit of planning, creativity, and a little help from your friends, you can enjoy this time of year without stressing out about money. As you step into the new year, you'll be on sound financial footing.

Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer whose work has appeared in Salon, Business Insider, and GOOD.