Five Ways to Take the $$$ Out of Holiday Giving

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I watched a very sobering feature on CBS-TV’s “Sixty Minutes” about how many children are living with their parents in cars or shelters, the youngest victims of the economic downturn. For every one of them, there are countless others who are hanging on—barely—while trying to find jobs or start businesses to get back on track.

You can maintain a positive attitude during this time of year and keep up your job search. While we all know that presents and lots of “stuff” during the holidays isn’t the real “reason for the season,” it’s hard to ignore all the shopping ads and decorations to remind you that whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza, gift giving is part of the tradition.

To avoid the stress of January’s credit card bills, here are five suggestions to make the most of the giving season:

1. Make a budget. Decide up front what you can spend, and don’t waiver. Keep track as you shop. There are lots of bargains to be had, and it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to impress than you think. Contrary to Lexus’ ads, not many people expect a new car in the driveway this season.

2. If the thought of attending another holiday cocktail party or potluck unemployed is too much, send your regrets. No one said you have to go. Instead of having your own private pity party, spend the evening searching the Internet for creative job search tips, give yourself a manicure, take a bubble bath or watch your favorite funny movie on DVD.

3. Do-IT-Yourself, Keep it Simple, and Handmade are all the rage. Use your talents to make some simple gifts for friends and family. Last year I made simple gift bags out of shiny materials (on sale, 50% off) that I used to dress up inexpensive bottles of wine for gifts. Can you sew, knit or crochet? Take pictures; make scrapbooks, cook, bake? There are hundreds of ways to use your talents and a little cash investment to make a lot of people happy.

4. Get Your Geek On. Use what you did on the job to brighten someone else’s life. Give a series of private computer lessons on Microsoft Office for family or friends. Offer to set up or upgrade a website, blog, or social media page. Gifts don’t always have a store receipt.

5. Repurpose. Every year my son makes a new jogging CD for me from his vast music collection. It’s one of my favorite gifts. I download it to my IPod and it inspires me to get out and exercise. Sure, I could buy the music off ITunes, but it’s not the same and I think of him whenever I run. You may have XBox or Wii games or movies on DVD that you don’t use. Someone would be thrilled with a new (to them) movie or video game this year.

What are you doing this year to keep things simple and stress-free? Share your creative ideas in the Comments section below.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients reinvent their careers for today’s job market. You can read more of her blogs at and view additional job postings on Nexxt.

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