November 13, 2008
How are you cutting back on holiday spending this year?
Whether they're employed or looking for work, everyone I know is buzzing about how they plan to trim their December holiday traditions this year.
You might think that the person who suggests cutting back on holiday travel, menus, or gift exchanges would be labeled a Scrooge by family and friends. But with year-end bonuses a quaint memory and competition for seasonal jobs at an all-time high, all I'm hearing is that the first person to suggest scaling back on holiday expenditures is met with a collective sigh of relief.
For most, the mad December dash to the mall is the year's biggest blow to the wallet. Some substitutions people have told me they're making for their family's time-honored, credit-busting gift exchange this year:
Spending limit. Trying to outdo each other with gift certificates to the priciest downtown spa or steak house is so 2006. Instead, cap gift prices at $10 or $20. If you need a bit more guidance with your low-budget gift shopping, pick a theme that all gift givers must adhere to: cooking, sports, electronics, whatever.
Secret Santa. If you have an immediate family of 25, the prospect of buying gifts is sure to be more daunting than ever this year. But not if everyone picks a name out of a hat, keeps that name a secret, and only buys a gift for that one person. As a bonus, the kids in your family will do backflips for weeks trying figure out who picked them.
White Elephant. I love this variation on the one-gift-per-person theme because it involves present pilfering. You buy one gift that would be suitable for anyone at your holiday table. On the day of the gift exchange, everyone picks a number. Number one picks a gift and unwraps it. Then number two either "steals" number one's gift or picks an unwrapped gift. And so on. Far more fun than simply shredding wrapping paper and feigning excitement over that ugly tie or scarf like you do every year.
Experiences, not products. I don't know about you, but I already have enough candles, tchochkes, and bottles of wine. What I'm short on is time to rake the leaves covering my front lawn, catch the latest James Bond movie, or cook myself a nice pot of chicken noodle soup. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who would welcome the gift of a Saturday afternoon chore, Saturday night movie, or homemade Sunday dinner.
Family newsletter. Forget about mailing bulky boxes to family and friends across the country (doubly expensive by the time you factor in shipping fees). Instead, snail mail a pithy recap of the previous year's highlights to far-off loved ones. Bonus points if you throw in photos and/or drawings made by someone under age 13.
How about you? Do you plan to scale back on your holiday spending this year, and if so, how?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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