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Holiday cheer on a tight budget

Holiday cheer on a tight budget

Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2008 12:19 pm

By SHEA AUSTIN and DOROTHEA THOMPSON UT Extension With our economy in turmoil and everything increasing it seems, but our incomes, it appears that it is going to be a lean holiday season for many of us. The hardest part of being the adults in charge of both the holiday festivities and ensuring the monthly bills are paid on time is most often reported as the stress of trying to accomplish it all. We try to start with a plan and a budget-but how do we stick to it in times such as these? To answer this we must remember that in every problem lurks opportunity. We can look at our financial situation as an opportunity to reestablish family traditions that are not necessarily centered on gift giving alone. Take a quiet moment to reflect with paper and pencil. What do you remember as the best part of the holidays? Are your fondest memories centered on being together for a meal or an evening of games and festivities? What sights, sounds, smells and tastes bring back your childhood and the magic of the season for you? What do you want your children to remember fondly about their childhood holidays with you? Jot down your answers and then look at what you realistically can afford for the holidays and write that number down by your answers to what is important. And, most importantly, don’t despair — no matter what number you list — there is a way to stay within that budget. The following tips are just ideas to help you think of ways you can stick to your budget and have a wonderful holiday season. Contact extended family ahead of time and negotiate/plan your events with gift giving parameters in mind. Whatever works for everyone is the right answer. Here are some suggestions for discussion: • No gifts this year just enjoy one another’s company with planned games and a meal. • One gift per family (i.e. family night box with hot chocolate, board game or puzzle, movie, etc.) • Give gifts for children only or set a price limit and draw names so that everyone gets a gift. Again-remember your budget and what works for everyone is the right answer! • When considering gifts for your children you can have a family meeting and discuss what rules you would like to establish. You could choose to tell them that this year Santa is bringing only one gift for everyone because it is a special surprise that everyone can enjoy together. • Stuff stockings with small less expensive and personalized gifts including toothbrushes, lip gloss or chapstick, gloves, fruit and nuts, socks, underwear, nail polish, sewing notions, tools, first aid items, jams/preserves, snack items, journals, school supplies, note cards/stationary, etc. • Consider shopping within the budget with only cash. If you have to use a debit/credit card consider buying a prepaid card that matches your budget so that you are not tempted to overspend. • Instead of buying gifts consider “heart gifts” or gifts you can make. You can bake cookies or breads in bulk and package them in festive cellophane goody bags or small tins to distribute to teachers, church members, family and friends. • Instead of buying expensive wrapping paper, bags and bows at individual prices consider using butcher block paper or brown paper bags for wrapping or bagging your gift items and allow your children to decorate them. • Instead of exchanging gifts you could allow your children to pick a charity or family in need. Allow the children to plan how they will help and follow through with their plan as a family project. Teaching your children to give to others is the best gift they will ever receive. • Make applesauce ornaments to attach to gifts or decorate the tree. Have apple cider in a crockpot to make the house smell festive and comfort cold family members as they come in from school or work. Remember after all is said and done and the holidays have come and gone again what matters most are not things. It isn’t usually the gifts we receive that we remember as much as the love that was felt and the family that was gathered around. May your holiday season be full of joy and love. APPLE CIDER 1 gallon pasteurized apple cider or apple juice 1 orange, washed and dried 1 tsp. whole cloves 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 3 sticks cinnamon In a slow cooker poor apple cider/juice and add cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and cloves. Cut orange into fourths and add to cider mixture. Plug in slow cooker and turn on high setting for one hour and then turn down to low setting and simmer. *Unpasteurized cider or apple juice can contain bacteria. If you can only find unpasteurized cider or juice, it is important to bring the liquid to a boil to kill all bacteria present prior to consuming. APPLESAUCE ORNAMENTS 1 cup ground cinnamon 3/4 cup applesauce 1/4 cup white glue Mix all ingredients well until they form dough. Flatten the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Keep in mind that the dough will be quite dry, and can be tricky to work with. Use cookie cutters to cut out festive holiday shapes. Use a drinking straw to punch a small hole in the top of each ornament if you plan to hang them. Keep them flat and move them to a warm dry spot for 48 hours to allow them to dry. Turn each ornament over every few hours to dry on each side. Alternatively, put them in a warm (not hot!) oven for two to three hours. Published in The Messenger 12.3.08

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