It’s Your Money – Holidays Can be Fun Without Breaking the Bank

Last week we talked about the physical problems that arise when people worry about too much debt. The culprit is often the overuse of credit cards. According to, 48 percent of those surveyed said they carry a balance on their credit cards. Consumers between the ages of 25-34 have the highest credit card debt with an average of $3,843 on two cards. The average planned expenditures for holiday gifts in 2001 for those between the ages of 35-44 was $889.

Holidays do not have to lead to a painful new year. Think very deliberately about what the holidays really mean to you and, with your family, decide how you can create the memories you want and, at the same time, spend very little money.

Here are some suggestions. Borrow, if possible, things that provide family entertainment such as board games that the whole family can play. Board games provide many delightful hours of fun with family and friends of all ages. Classic games I especially like are Risk and Clue. Other games that encourage discussion include Scruples and Balderdash.

Choose inexpensive gifts that encourage creativity such as crayons or paints. Books offer lasting meaning and can be shared by many people. Check out the Fort Collins Library. The library also has audio and video tapes. Teach your children a life-long lesson on how to use community resources.

Do something for someone else – a neighbor or friend. Bake cookies or a cake, read to them or teach them a new card game. You can buy playing cards for less than $1 per pack. If you don’t know how to play cards, check out a book from the library. (I would love to see a new generation of bridge players.)

Physical exercise makes everyone feel good – hiking, walking along our city trails, feeding ducks at City Park, family football games. How about singing?

Get everyone involved in making up games and skits and giving readings.

One of my best memories is making Christmas gifts with my mother and sister. We’d gather pine cones and other things we could find outside to decorate a whole host of gifts. Much of the fun of the holidays is in the doing.

If you think you might be tempted to misuse your credit card, freeze it in a block of ice. This can slow you down until your reasonable self tells you, "not this year."