The average holiday shopper will spend just shy of $750 this year on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more. And while many of you will comparative shop, search for sales, and travel less (or not at all), there are other ways to scale back your holiday expenses without losing any of the festivity or joy. Here are some ways to start a new holiday vibe that involves less stuff, and more memories.
Theme your gatherings. Instead of throwing a holiday bash that lasts all day and night, hold a themed gathering that will set expectations for your guests and limit your expenses. Wine and dessert parties, for example, can reel in hosting costs without displacing those who look forward to your annual event. If you typically hold an annual holiday open house, make it a cocktail hour with appetizers and drinks.
Redirect the focus. Plan your holiday calendar and make a commitment to attend free events in your area like holiday parades, lighting ceremonies and musical performances to cultivate the joy of the entire holiday season, versus the “main event” of shopping and presents.
Stress priority. If holidays have gotten excessive, kids — and adults — may view the idea of paring down holiday as punishment. Instead, communicate the “why” in a way that resonates. Approach family members about a gift budget early in the season and draw names so that each person gives to one recipient only. “Make it” or “bake it” boundaries are another way to limit costs on large family gift exchanges. If you’ve already introduced the holiday wish list to your children, continue the tradition but explain that they should identify no more than three to five items that they really want–and that they may get one of them.
Fill your events with memories. Though holiday spending can be a great financial strain, some family members may meet your desire to scale back with defensive reactions. The most impactful way to take the focus off of “missing” gifts is to plan activities that foster memorable human connection. When guests arrive to your holiday gathering, for example, greet them with questionnaires about favorite holiday memories, gifts, songs and movies. After the meal, use their answers to form a trivia guessing game that will get conversation and laughter flowing. If time spent opening gifts is something your guests value, start a tradition of exchanging family heirlooms like simple ornaments that hold special meaning and spark interesting conversation.
Give experiences. Happiness studies repeatedly show that experiences, not things, are what people actually derive lasting meaning from, and experience gifts needn’t be pricey or extravagant. Gift an activity that you and the recipient would enjoy but wouldn’t necessarily try to do alone, like a salsa lesson, workout class or adventurous hike.
Tailor the gift to life. Consider what you can give of yourself to make another person’s life easier. Deliver a few home-cooked family dinners throughout the year to a busy working mom instead of gifting a sweater she won’t remember. Offer to babysit a few evenings out of the year if you know parents who would enjoy a date night or relieve a relative who regularly cares for an elderly family member. Such gifts cost you next to nothing and are often the most needed and appreciated of all.