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16 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Christmas

16 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Christmas

Decorations

1. Decorate with what is meaningful to you

When you think about the real meaning behind Christmas decorations, they are used to add a festive touch according to your tastes and based on what the holiday means for you. Whether you believe in the religious roots of Christmas, or just like the magic of the whole season, pick your decorations to express that, without feeling pressure for more. You can’t compete with Martha Stewart or the big shopping malls, but you can choose what is displayed at your home. Below are some easy ways:

(i) Pick children’s favorite ornaments or toys to add to the tree or hang in their rooms

(ii) Make simple handmade tree trimmings

(iii) Choose a string of lights

If your budget Christmas has minimal or no allowance for decorations, choose a string of lights only. They will instantly make any room look Christmas-y

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(iv) Use Fresh greenery you find while walking out in nature or garden

2. Set the right atmosphere

Christmas is one of the most atmospheric times, when memories are recalled, scents encourage thoughts, and there’s a feeling in the air that makes everything seems possible. To make sure you will have a beautiful celebration at home, set the right atmosphere, by including warm and festive smells, cozy corners and of course the right tunes. You can do these:

(i) Play a CD or YouTube videos

(ii) Take out cozy blankets

(iii) Put a few spices and fruit simmering on the stove

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Activities

3. Plan family activities ahead

Include board games or classic group activities during and/or after the Christmas meal, to have something to look forward to and shift the focus from the food or the gifts. No one remembers how many side dishes they had last year, but memories from funny times and inside jokes created over board games are more likely to stay forever. Start brainstorming ideas beforehand and ask for everyone’s opinion on what they’d like to do. This also teaches your kids that family time needs planning too, same as presents and food. If you’re not really fond of games, looking at family photo albums would be lovely and fun too.

4. Cook together as a family

What you are serving on your table doesn’t matter if everyone is grumpy and disappointed or rushing to get to a party afterwards. A happy meal is made of happy sharing. To encourage more interaction and fun in your family, try to involve everyone with the food preparations. Even toddlers can help wash vegetables or cut cheese. Having everyone work as a team will ensure a fun time; just remember to ignore the mess and be more open to things not being done your way. In the end, all of you will appreciate the labor of love sitting on the table and might even linger a bit more sitting around and talking to each other, instead of heading for the phone or TV.

5. Stretch the joy in the whole season

Being on a budget sometimes means less things to look forward to, compared to old times. This can lead to a moody feeling. To avoid this, spread out the little things on different days leading to Christmas and leave some for after. There’s no reason why you can’t watch a movie every single day of December instead of doing a marathon night or why you can’t have a festive brunch on other days besides Christmas morning. You can also write everything on a calendar or put it on your advent, so each member of the family can look forward to some fun. Focusing on a couple of activities you enjoy most will create meaningful memories for your children.

Gatherings and social interaction

6. Create your own traditions

Traveling to celebrate with family and friends equals great holidays, but sometimes the high cost of flights, the bad weather and the full houses you visit aren’t worth it. If you are used to visiting your big families every year, stay at home this Christmas for a change. You might even like this more, but you have to try it. Prepare your children, if they have been looking forward to meeting their cousins all year long, by telling them you will be on a different adventure this year. Mention things like discovering your town, visiting different festive events and celebrating your own magical way at home. If you think about it, you’ve been leaving home every year, to be part of big loud tables, when you don’t always have the opportunity to spend productive time with those you care about most, or avoid relatives you don’t get along with. When you celebrate with a big crowd, you are often following others’ traditions and way of doing Christmas. Why not sit down and think how you really want to spend this holiday? Write a few thoughts and ask everyone in the family for one thing they’d like to do. Limit it to one thing or you’ll create unwanted stress. Be sure to balance quiet time with some fun and eventually create your own version of Christmas. If you like it, next year you can start inviting people over to your house, or go back to traveling if you realize that’s what your ideal Christmas looks like.

7. Show people your way of doing Christmas

Don’t sit there stressing about what others might think of you, especially if it’s the first time you’re doing a budget Christmas. Instead, make the first move and let them know about your decision to celebrate differently this year and tell them what to expect. You might even make them want to adopt your way or join you for some of the new activities. By letting people know your intentions, you will have fewer of them judge you or express disappointment later. Learning to say no to anything that doesn’t align with your intentions is one of the most common pieces of advice that experts give for having a stress-free holiday season.

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Food

8. Use all you have in your pantry

Doing a budget Christmas is a great opportunity to take out every food item from your fridge and cupboards. Make a rule of buying no food unless you have used everything you already have at home. Plan your meals around them and incorporate some in the festive meal too. You might come up with interesting combinations and new flavors.

9. Serve finger food

If you are having guests over, serve meatless dishes and a lot of appetizer-style ones. Small bites and finger food are child-friendly, too. Anything that can be served cold or at room temperature will cut your time.

10. Put a theme on it

To add interest to a simple celebration with minimal spending, put a theme on it and pay attention to adding a couple of details. Everything will look more exciting if it’s part of the “Christmas at the English pub” or “Beach-cottage Christmas”. Pasta, pie, sparkling water with lemon, or wine with sliced apples will never look more fancy than on your thematic gathering. A Subtle Revelry magazine founder and book author Victoria Hudgins is a big advocate of making everyday food festive with a few details added. Here are a few ideas to get inspired.

11. Same food, different way

You can totally cook your usual dishes for Christmas, with a slight variation in presentation. If you normally cut your roasted veggies in big chunks, cube them or slice them diagonally this time. You won’t believe what a difference such small trick makes. Make sure there are two or more colors in there for visual interest. On the same note, slice the meat thinly if you normally serve it whole.

Gifts

12. Teach children the joy of giving

A sudden Christmas without presents for a child used to getting 10 wrapped packages under the tree will be disappointing and dramatic. Instead of making drastic changes, slowly introduce new traditions to your children, while dropping old ones you don’t want to continue. Assign one person for each child and help them make or buy a gift for them. It can be a relative, a senior, or a struggling neighbor, but it is more real and encouraging when the child knows that person. The joy in their eyes when unwrapping presents under the Christmas tree might be less with fewer gifts. However, your children will get to know a deeper and longer-lasting joy, that of giving and sharing, which often wins over the joy of getting. The younger they are when you introduce this tradition, the easier it will be for you to establish more meaningful and non-materialistic Christmas celebrations. Joy Cho has been doing this with her three-year-old daughter since she was born.

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13. Re-gifting done right

If you haven’t already, start to embrace re-gifting right now. Even experts give it a thumbs up, as long as it’s done right. Ditch the guilt and the social embarrassment fear by following these simple tips:

  • Make sure you know who gave the item to you
  • Don’t re-gift it to someone related to the person who gave it to you
  • The item should be new and functioning
  • The person who will get it will love it and use it

14. Spend your time instead of money

Don’t spend a dime on wrapping paper or gift tags, fancy bottled beverages or anything you can make yourself easily. If you really want to commit to spending less this year, consider every coin you can save and be ready to spend a little more time making things. Also, follow the rule of one present per person only. You’d be surprised, but studies have led to the conclusion that a second gift actually lowers the value of the whole experience. It’s actually called the “Presenter’s Paradox”.

Where to start

15. Make a bouncy budget

As with every other aspect of your life, there’s no reason not to make a budget for Christmas. To avoid feeling like a Scrooge about it, bounce your categories. Pay attention to each of them and choose where you want to spend more and where you wouldn’t mind cutting back. For example, after the initial equal division between all categories, feel free to bounce some money from the food category to the gifts one, if you don’t want your kids to get disappointed, while you enjoy making food from scratch. Alter whatever works for you and bounce everything according to your needs, so everyone is content even on a budget.

16. Be honest about it

If the whole Christmas-celebration thing still looks intimidating to you, follow none of the above tips. Simply be honest with yourself and go through the reasons you need to do a budget Christmas this year. Be it financial problems or just the need to establish a more simplified and meaningful life, tell everyone in your family why you are doing it and you can all speed up the process of getting where you want to be together. Experts like Leo Batuta always advice to dig through the reality of your current life, in order to be able to achieve the changes you want. Get started with these five questions.
If you manage to establish healthy habits, try to continue them after Christmas too. Especially with kids, consistency is the key to sticking with new behaviors.

Go on and enjoy Christmas your own way! Don’t stress too much about pleasing everyone or getting the best gifts. Only you know what is best for your family right now. After all, every single study agrees that it’s the experiences that make us happy on the long run, rather than material objects. Focus on spending time with those who matter for you, rather than anxiously waiting for a January full of debt to come.

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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