Enjoy the Holidays for Less

Holidays don't have to cost a fortune with the following tips.

The holidays are a special time - filled with family, friends, and tradition. Unfortunately, they are also a time that tends to cost a lot of money. By following some easy tips, you can enjoy your holidays and save money at the same time.

Save on travel
Many people travel during the holiday season which can make it hard to find cheap tickets. A little legwork on your part during the holidays can help you to save money on travel.

Use the Internet. Check several travel websites and compare prices to find the best deal on airline tickets.
Shop early, but not too early. Several months before the holidays, start looking at prices. When the tickets fall to a price that you can afford, book then. However, it is a careful dance. If you keep waiting and expecting the prices to fall more, you may wait too long and have to buy tickets at a higher price.
Travel at odd times or off days. If you fly on the days that are known as the busiest travel days, you'll pay top dollar. Be willing to fly in and out of your destination on less-traveled days or at inconvenient times to save money on travel during the holidays.
Look at more than one airport. It may be worth driving to a smaller regional airport if you can get cheaper tickets.
Consider driving. If it is close enough to drive in a day or two, consider driving to your destination. It saves money and you can make it a fun family trip through beautiful countryside at the same time.

If you are hosting the holidays instead of traveling, it can still be expensive. Here are some ways to host the holidays for less.

Save on food
Feeding the family that comes to visit can be an expensive part of the holidays. Plan ahead and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Plan ahead. For that special holiday meal, buy your turkey or ham ahead of time when you can get it on sale. (Don't forget to thaw it out!) Have your family guests help with the meal. There is no reason for you to cook everything. Your mother can provide a side dish or two while your brother provides a dessert. It is more of a family event if everyone participates.
Share the cooking. If you have guests staying for several days, consider letting them provide dinner at least one night. Your sister-in-law and husband can provide and cook dinner one night and your parents another. This gives you a little respite and also introduces everyone to family member's favorite meals.
Go out to eat. Have a night or two when you all go to a restaurant, dutch-treat. You can pick a reasonably priced one that appeals to everyone.
Have simple foods available for breakfast and lunch. Let your guests take care of themselves with a bowl of cereal or some toast and eggs for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch.

Save on entertainment
If you are hosting the holidays for your family, not only do you have to feed everyone, but you also have to plan activities for your guests.

Plan activities at home. Have a game night or movie night. If you have snow, have a snowman-building contest culminating in a snowball fight. Or, spend an evening looking at picture albums of previous family gatherings.
Plan activities that are free or at least cheap. Go sledding or go for a bike ride or hike. Drive around and look at the Christmas lights and sing carols. Find out the free holiday activities provided by your community and take advantage of them.
Take time to relax. Don't pack the schedule so full of activities that there is no time for your guests to relax and enjoy the holidays and each other.
Create a new tradition. Find an activity that all of the family will enjoy and make it even more special by making it an annual part of your holidays.

As you plan for the holidays, above all else, remember the purpose. Whatever holiday you are celebrating, the focus tends to be on those you love. Remember that it is not about fancy parties or expensive gifts, but about those special relationships with family and friends. Years later no one will remember what presents they received - they will remember the time spent with those they love. Keeping the right focus can help you to spend less money during the holidays.

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