Be creative when planning holiday gifts on a budget

Contact: Bridget Mouchon, 608-328-9440,

For most people, spending on gifts to celebrate the holiday is an important family tradition–whether the holiday is Hannukah, Kwanzaa or Christmas. This year, gift-giving offers the opportunity for families to be creative and give meaningful gifts as they try to do more with less, says Bridget Mouchon, UW-Extension family living educator in Green County

Mouchon suggests some ideas to consider as you do your holiday shopping.

Plan your purchases in advance.

“If you are a parent or grandparent buying for children, planning is especially important,” says Mouchon.

–Determine the maximum amounts you will spend on each person on your list and don’t exceed them.

–If you’re using credit, plan to make more than the minimum payments over the coming months. Remember that interest rates can range from 10 to 28 percent–or more. If you spend $500 on holiday gifts and make only the minimum payments, it may cost you hundreds of dollars extra to pay off the bill.”

–Let your fingers do the walking. Window shop and compare prices with catalogs and on the Internet to come up with gift ideas that fit your budget.

–Visit resale shops in your neighborhood. Check online for gently used items.

–Think about the person who will be receiving your gift, and aim to make your gift special–but not necessarily expensive.

–Next year, think ahead and save for gifts throughout the year, or for a few months before the holidays. You can set up a special savings account or set aside cash in an envelope labeled “holiday spending.”

Make or give something inexpensive but meaningful.

–Frame a piece of your child’s art work for a grandparent.

–Make a wall calendar using computer images.

–If you are good at crafts or baking, consider knitting a hat or giving cookies or fudge as gifts. Spend less money, but more time on the gifts you give to your work associates and clients.

–A scrapbook based on a grandparent’s life could make a one-of-a-kind gift for grandchildren. Or an aunt could take photos of her nieces and nephews to create a special album for a busy mom.

–Use community resources if your family financial situation is very difficult, such as Toys for Tots or the Empty Stocking Club.

Be creative.

–Children younger than five or six years old don’t know how much things cost and aren’t counting how many gifts they’ll receive. Plan your budget accordingly.

–Children ages seven, eight and up may be disappointed if they receive less, but they will understand if things are not the same as last year. Enlist their help and support to make this holiday season even more memorable and meaningful.

–Older kids can help make edible or craft gifts for teachers and family members.

–Offering to do chores like walking the dog or shoveling snow can be much-appreciated gifts from kids.

–Older kids can research the price of the items on their wish lists and prioritize the ones they’d prefer within a set budget.

–Children can think about donating some of their own gently used toys, or using part of their gift budget toward a food pantry donation.

To learn more ways your family can stay on a budget, during the holidays or anytime of the year, contact your county UW-Extension office. Contact information is available at



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