Planning a Chanukah Gifts Shopping Budget

Chanukah has become a holiday during which families exchange Chanukah gifts. Some families give presents on each night, which can become costly, especially for families with more than one child. Add to that Chanukah gifts for nieces, nephews, grandchildren, cousins and friends, and one can begin to wonder where the money is going to come from.

Having a Chanukah celebration without the presents is actually easier on the wallet. Even a traditional meal is inexpensive to prepare. A bag of potatoes, a jar of applesauce, sour cream, eggs, flour, salt and oil are the ingredients in potato latkes, a must-have for a dinner. Tuna salad is a great accompaniment to potato latkes, and doughnuts for dessert add a traditional sweet ending. None of these preparations require your raiding an extra savings account.

Dreidels are also inexpensive, and a box of chocolate Chanukah gelt is about $5.00. Use dried beans for markers, or small chocolate pieces, and the games are ready to begin. Candles for the menorah are the only other must haves for a party.

Inexpensive Options
Many families give a big Chanukah gift on the first and last night of the holiday, and they devote the other nights to small, or necessity, gifts. Underwear, socks, art supplies, inexpensive toys, books and a package of stickers are all easy, less pricey selections for the many in-between nights.

You can also dedicate each night to a family activity instead of presents. Family time is important, and spending time with each other can help bring you closer and build strong relationships between parents and children. Here are eight ideas for family night activities that won't break the bank:

  • Art Night: For the first night, make and hang decorations. Use construction paper, glitter, metallic markers, pompoms, ribbon and tissue paper for creative fun that makes the house look festive for the entire holiday.
  • Movie Night: Let the kids pick a flick, and cuddle on the couch with popcorn after lighting the candles.
  • Mitzvah Night: Plan to spend one evening doing some type of social service project, inside or outside of the house. Some ideas include collecting and wrapping gently used toys to give away or finding clothing that is outgrown or just not worn for donation. Or, you can make cards for patients in a senior home and deliver them in person.
  • Dreidel Championship: Have a prize like a Get Out of Chores Day for the winner.
  • Family Game Night: Choose a game everyone likes, make some hot cocoa and have fun together.
  • Cooking Night: Follow a meal of latkes by making and sharing dessert together. Bake cookies and decorate them. Have sprinkles, chocolate kisses and frosting on hand, and let your imaginations run wild.
  • Homemade Gifts Night: Everyone has to make a gift for one other person in the family, and they have a gift exchange. Homemade gifts can be more meaningful and can express more caring than something from the store.
  • Family Pictures and Home Videos Night: Look at pictures, watch home movies together and reminisce about how fast everyone grows and changes. Before the night is through, take pictures or a quick video to remember this night and watch next Chanukah.

Budgeting Ideas
Even with family nights planned, some gift buying will still be involved. Here are some tips for planning instead of stretching the limits on the credit cards at the end of the year:

  • Plan ahead. Open a savings account in January, and add something to it each pay period. Even $50 a month can create a little Chanukah fund when gift-shopping time rolls around.
  • Grab bargains whenever they show up. During the year stores are always having sales, so when you see a great bargain, even if it's summertime, grab it and hide it away until you need it. You'll save both money and time in the long run.
  • Save gift bags. Don't throw out gift bags from birthday or other gift-receiving occasions. They're easy to reuse, and they stay neat and out of the way if they are folded and placed into a drawer. Any writing on them can be easily covered with colorful stickers. It saves the time of wrapping, and saves the expense of buying them.

With the right planning, and a little creativity, Chanukah can be affordable, meaningful and filled with fun memories for the entire family that last until next Chanukah rolls around.

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