Friday, December 9, 2011

How to be Frugal for the Holidays

So you are frugal, or you are trying to be. Then along comes December and you are blasted with advertisements. A billboard along the highway in Madison suggests buying a loved on a remote car starter. Facebook posts mention the arrival of fruit cakes in the mail. Stores are open earlier and stay open later than ever. So, what would the frugal do?

In our house we opt to give 90% of our holiday budget to charities. Usually 3 or 4 charities receive a check this time of year. With the rest we buy a few small gifts for the kids. It is not an extravaganza at our house on December 25th. But the spirit of giving is in the air.

Giving to charity at the holidays is frugal in many respects:
  1. Writing a check requires no gift wrap, packing, or extra postage;
  2. Charitable donations are an itemized deduction on 2011 taxes;
  3. There is no time wasted looking for parking at the mall;
  4. We don't have to hire a sitter for the kids to go shopping; and
  5. Giving our money to charities forces us to come up with non-consumption ways to tell loved ones we care about them.
And if you are in an ultra frugal mood, you can maximize your donations. I did this past week after seeing an announcement that if I gave a donation to the Henry Vilas Zoo I would receive 40% off in the gift shop. Perfect! It was the first charity on our list this year (we get a lot of value from our local, FREE zoo). Plus, I had hoped to find a few items for the kid's holidays. So we bundled up and headed to the zoo. After taking in the lions, alpaca, and reptiles we headed to the gift shop. I wrote a check and then received 40% off our items: a drum, ornament, and train. In addition, the donation level we gave at included 15 passes for the train and carousel next Spring; that is an additional $15 in savings.

If you opt to give to charities, keep an eye out for ways to maximize your donation! Happy holidays.

Photo credit - image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2009.

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