Holiday Cash Is King

11/24/2008 11:02 am EST

Focus: MARKETS

Terry Savage

Author, The Savage Truth on Money

We’re approaching the holiday season amidst dire economic predictions and warnings about credit card spending. Since we issued those warnings months, even years, ago, it seems more appropriate to take a positive approach toward seasonal gift-giving.

Even though your budget is stretched, and your finances are over-extended, you can still give meaningful holiday gifts to those you care about. Where did we ever get the idea that “meaningful” is synonymous with expensive? It’s time to re-define the spirit of gift giving, as well as the practice. Here’s how to get the process started.

Thanksgiving dinner is quite a tradition in many homes. There’s likely to be turkey, and trimmings. Then everyone will head for the couch to watch football games. And it’s also become a tradition to get up early to start shopping for expensive bargains on Black Friday.

Stop right there. This year must be different. This year “cash is king”—especially the cash you <<don’t>> spend! So here are some tips for a family conference about a new kind of gifting during this recession. If you’re creative, you can come up with gifts that mean more than money.

<<More than Money
The first step in gifting more than money is a general agreement that includes everyone—from kids to grandparents, as well as budget conscious parents. When everyone “buys” in to these ideas, creative spirits take over.

  • Family Grab Bag—Instead of stressing out for the perfect gift for everyone on your list, cut your list to one! Put everyone’s name in a hat, and draw for the name of the person who will receive your gift. Be sure to put a limit on it—maybe only $10 or $20, so you lower expectations and increase the challenge.
  • Gifts of Service—Who says a great gift has to cost a lot? Giving of yourself, your time and talents, can mean so much more. So kids can create “gift certificates” for promises to take out the trash, or walk the dog, without being asked twice. They can attach little tear-off coupons to their card, so Mom can present them to remind them of their gift-promise. And parents can equally promise inexpensive gift certificates—for a free ride to the movies for the whole gang, or for a special dinner to be cooked at home, or a week of no-nagging!
  • Gifts of Time—For some family members, time is more valuable than money ever could be. Spending an afternoon with grandma, or driving her shopping might not sound like a teen’s idea of fun—but what a gift it would be. And for a busy dad, promising to coach the little league team might be more costly—and more appreciated—than even a new mitt.

Your family can create its own new tradition, one that is affordable and won’t bring a January blizzard of bills to pay. The challenge is to get everyone to agree, and that’s best done on a full stomach, just before kickoff! Timing is everything—as all MoneyShow.com investors know so well! So you’re the natural leaders to bring your family—in all its generations—back to basics. Talking about money, or the lack of it, doesn’t have to ruin the holiday spirit. In fact, a frank discussion with family and close friends could make everyone appreciate the positive aspects of our life. Don’t you agree?

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