People often think that because I'm cheap, I don't really enjoy life. In fact, it's just the opposite. Because I don't need to spend a lot of money to enjoy life, I don't need to spend a lot of time getting a lot of money. But, you do need to know how to get the most enjoyment with the fewest bucks, and that's what this section is about.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Ultimate Cheapskate's 12 Tips of Christmas
At the risk of being branded a Bah Humbug, I sometimes think that Scrooge went a bit too far toward the other extreme after his celebrated visits from the spirits of Christmases past, present and future. Christmas is now more than a $150 billion annual spending spree here in the U.S. That's an average of about $800 per person. Certainly showing a little restraint in spending this holiday is in order, particularly with household budgets being so tight.
Here are my top twelve tips for avoiding the red ink of Christmases past and saving a little more green on Christmas present, so you have it spend on Christmases future:
1 - If you buy a live tree, consider buying a truly live tree: One with the root ball intact, so you can plant it in your yard after the holidays. The savings: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, as few as three trees strategically planted in your yard can cut your heating and cooling expenses by as much as 25%. Plus landscaping adds value to your home. Plan B: If you prefer a real tree but don't have space to plant a live one (above), buy the largest tree you can find for the price. Remove the unwanted lower limbs to use in wreaths and other holiday decorations, then trim the trunk to the right height.
2 - Cut holiday entertaining expenses - and get some fresh air and exercise - by hosting an old fashioned caroling party instead of a traditional dinner or cocktail party. Neighbors will probably welcome you in for refreshments, or you can make it a potluck affair.
3 - Re-gifting is great ... and green. Don't think twice about wrapping up something you don't care for or no longer use, provided that you truly believe that the recipient will appreciate it. They'll love it all the same, and the landfill will thank you too.
4 - According to a recent article in USA Today, the average American owns almost six unused gift cards. Last year, nearly $3 billion worth of gifts expired, unused. Use your unwanted gift cards to buy gifts for others this holiday season, or sell them for cash or donate them to charity on websites like www.plasticjungle.com.
5 - Recycle the holiday cards you received last year. Cut them up to use as gift tags or in other holiday decorating. We've even started a funny new tradition with some of our cheapskate friends: Trading the same card back and forth every year. It's the thought that counts.
6 - Among the most treasured gifts I've ever received are a handful of old family photographs that I never before knew existed and that cost nothing to give. Take the time to dig through old family photo collections and contact relatives to access their collections, and you'll probably unearth some pictures that will bring a smile to the face - and tear to the eye - of a loved one this holiday season.
7 - Instead of giving Uncle George the usual gift card with $10 in it, here's a bright idea. Give him an energy efficient CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulb for the lamp next to his easy chair. A long lasting, dimmable 100 watt CFL bulb will cost about $10, but it will save him more than $30 in electricity and replacements in the long run.
8 - Holiday gift wrapping is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. Get creative by wrapping gifts in the Sunday comics or old road maps, or decorating packages with cutouts from magazines or catalogs to hint at what's inside. And if you do use store-bought wrapping paper, unwrap gifts carefully so that you can use the same paper and ribbons again next year.
9 - Before you start shopping for the holidays, spend a day together as a family volunteering at a homeless shelter or other charity that helps those in need. It will probably give everyone in the family a different outlook on gift giving this holiday season.
10 - Baby it's cold outside! Keep your lover warm with a gift of thermal underwear... come on now, it's sexy! It also will let you keep your thermostat set a few degrees cooler this winter.
11 - It ain't a stocking stuffer unless you get it at a dollar store. Little things like stocking stuffers really add up unless you're careful. Vow to limit yourself to the dollar store when it comes to filling the family stockings this Christmas. Plenty of cool stuff for everyone in the family.
12 - How many Christmas gifts do still remember from your childhood? If you're like most adults, the answer is probably just a few of the many gifts most of us were given. But how many family memories from those same holidays do you still remember - and cherish - to this day? Objects tend to be forgotten and discarded over time, but experiences - particularly time with family and other loved ones - tend to increase in value and remain cherished throughout life. Remember that as you shop this holiday season; a gift of yourself is the greatest gift you can give to those you love.
Happy Holidays, but Stay Cheap!
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