1 Swear to a spending plan (and stay on track)
The Smart Cookies always build a monthly budget - and stick to it! So, when it comes to the holidays, they're duly diligent. "There's so much prep work involved with getting ready for the holidays, it's easy to get carried away," warn The Cookies. "Don't get lost in all the mayhem!" The best way to monitor the mayhem? The Cookies advise to set-up spending alerts, such as payment-due reminders and account-balance updates.
They also say to consider everything - from travel to gifts, to décor to ribbons and wrap, right down to the stamps on greeting and thank you cards. "We love the site moneystrands.com because it is a free online budgeting tool that allows you to create a budget within minutes that will automatically link with your various accounts and cards. It even updates your budget categories automatically as you spend!"
2 DIY with Love
Do-it-yourself gifts are no longer limited to arts and crafts given from children to parents. With craft havens and scrapbook superstores everywhere, you can create a gorgeous gift that's unique, thoughtful and personal, not to mention easy on the budget!
Here are a few ideas for the holidays that get a Smart Cookie stamp of approval:
- The gift of art If your children are pint-size Picassos, frame some of their artwork for family members. You could also use the art to customize a coffee mug for year-round art appreciation.
- The gift of memories Create an online scrapbook or professional album for family and friends. You could choose a particular theme (dig up some old university photos for your old college roommate; compile photos from the last ten years of your uncle's annual parties; or collect images from your niece's baby shower). The Smart Cookies recommend snapfish.com, but scrapblog.com is another great site for digital scrapbooking.
- The gift of food Drum up the recipe for a favourite dish and fill a mason jar, old tin or wicker basket with the ingredients (The Cookies are partial to cookie recipes of course!). Print the recipe neatly - handwritten or typed on the computer - on thick cardstock. Customize it with your monogram or a note "from the kitchen of" - and, to make the recipe last years to come (not to mention, spill proof), laminate it.