How to Have an Affordable Christmas Party

Mention holiday expenses, and most folks think of immediately of the gifts. But the little costs of Christmas cheer can add up, too.

Take the typical holiday party. I have one every year. We're not talking anything fancy or expensive - just a casual gathering of friends for appetizers, drinks and Christmas movies - and yet, for many years, the cost of my simple gatherings was the last straw for my wallet. Between the groceries and festive decorations, it would push me over the line from simply scrounging to flat-out broke.

The problem was, I overdid it. Because I was focusing my budget restraint on the obvious - gift shopping - I wasn't paying attention to the smaller stuff like the food I was impulsively tossing into my cart at the store or the Christmas plates I bought off the sale rack or that cute pair of shoes I had to buy to go with that cute outfit I might wear at the party, and so on. It's hard to stay in control when you're being tempted by sales and discounts, pretty displays, tasty-looking treats and ads on TV, billboards and even shopping carts.

But use a few of the following tips to stick to your budget the same way you (hopefully) do the other eleven months out of the year and you'll be financially rewarded when the new year rolls around.

When you're shopping for food, only buy what's on your list - not what's in the pretty end-of-aisle display. If you're considering buying something on the expensive side, compare prices or look for coupons (or better yet, find a less pricey alternative). Or how about bypassing the whole shopping thing altogether and going potluck?

And as always, look out for the same old sales tricks. Let's say you're gearing up to get that free turkey at the supermarket - you know, the one you get when you spend $100 on groceries. But think about this. If you would have only bought $50 worth of groceries that day, you could have bagged a $20 turkey and got out of the story only $70 - rather than $100 - poorer. Same goes for those pre-Christmas discounts. Last year's wreath might be 50% off, but if you could survive without it, you'd be spending zero - and that's better than any discount.

Times are tough, but even if they weren't, I still don't think food that will be gone in an hour or trinkets that will gather dust in a box most of the year are worth adding to your debt for. Not when the point of the holidays is just to enjoy the company of friends and family - one of the few things in life that doesn't cost a dime.

Now, if stress over debt is cutting into your enjoyment of the holidays, it's going to take a bit more than a budget to put you back into control. It's going to take a time-proven strategy like bankruptcy. A bankruptcy plan can reduce the amount you owe creditors and get you started on the path to a fresh financial start. Find out more for free when you try a free personal debt analysis with a Chicago bankruptcy attorney.

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