The holidays are upon us and with it, the spending season. The money spent not only delights our family and friends with our gift giving, but it also delights merchants everywhere.
What does this mean to the economy? The National Retail Federation predicts that we will spend $967 per person this season for holiday gifts, parties, clothing and food. This is an increase of 3.4 percent over last year’s totals. In Alaska, we are a little under this average. Of course, Fairbanks numbers aren’t available, but the average for Anchorage is $841 per person. These numbers are averages, so some of us are spending more and others less.
The numbers point to the strength of our buying. If you are facing an already overloaded credit card, what can you do to keep further expenditures under control? I looked at my own Christmas list and see that I have 14 gifts to buy for in my immediate family. That can create a big hole in the budget.
The experts at the National Retail Federation tell us that we are on track to end 2017 with more than $60 billion in additional credit card debt. Let’s look at some ways to keep those costs down.
Concentrate on the appropriateness of the gift, not the cost. Pay attention to people and ask questions. Sometimes the smallest gift is the most appropriate. Think about things that make their life easier. An organizer for small items, a framed favorite picture or a special ornament may mean far more than a more expensive gift if it is chosen based on the needs and wants of an individual.
Focus on experiences rather than gifts. Take your kids or grandkids on a special event. How about an afternoon at the children’s museum or a day at the sledding hill? There’s lots of time for a special adventures while the kids are out of school.
Get creative. Make a gift by sewing, crafts, baking or woodworking. If you don’t have time to finish by Christmas, make a “kit” to create the gift together. Again you may help you give people experiences for Christmas. Give the lesson along with the gift. On my list of favorite gifts to give to the people I work with is a jar of homemade jam or jelly. Take inventory of your talents and use those to fill your holiday list.
Give a family gift. How about giving family games or everything for a family movie night (movie, popcorn and drinks)? It is easier to buy one gift for several people. In addition, it will encourage your favorite people to spend time together.
Give a gift of time. How about offering to do something that may seem like an unwanted chore for the recipient? Clean house, organize a desk, babysit or run errands. All these small things will make someone’s life easier. When my children were young, I always told them to help me out as a gift. I have a dirty car, an unorganized kitchen and boxes of photos that need to be sorted. Any of those projects would be a great Christmas present.
This year, don’t break the bank or overload the credit cards to fill your holiday shopping list. Make intentional choices that let people know how much you care. Remember it is the thoughtfulness that matters, not what you are spending.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201.