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Most of us want to make holidays and birthdays a special time for our family and friends. In these challenging economic times, however, this may require a different approach in order to keep expenses down. If you don’t feel like you can “go all out” and spend a fortune for celebrations, there are fun and less costly approaches.

You might want to start by working on your own frame of mind. Rather than worrying about whether you can “keep up with the Jones’,” see just how creative you can be at keeping things cheap while still making the celebrations special.

Limiting expenses may depend on your spending habits. For example, if you always spend the holiday season at a resort in a warm climate, this might be the year to find less expensive options closer to home. If you typically throw a birthday party for your child that includes his or her “50 closest friends,” consider pulling together just a few of your child’s friends and taking them on a cost-friendly “field trip” to fun spots in or near your hometown.

Here are other ideas that can make your celebrations a bit more palatable from a cost perspective:

• Make the cake on your own. Ingredients are cheap and the process can be fun and personalized.
• Be creative with your own party decorations. The more you make yourself, the less you need to invest on items like helium balloons that will soon go flat anyway.
• Come up with unique game ideas around the house. For example, a homemade piñata filled with candy can be a memorable birthday game.
• Set a limit on gifts. Do all you can to make the day special for your birthday boy or girl, (like making their favorite meal), but focus on buying fewer, more thoughtful gifts.

• Make personalized greeting cards that include a customized digital picture. To really save money, send those greetings by email.
• Plan ahead. Shopping for “the right” gift early in the season tends to be less expensive than having to purchase full-priced items just before the big holiday. At that point, you tend to settle for anything at almost any price.
• Use online shopping as one option. It saves time and gas from driving around to different stores. Used or overstock items that can be purchased through some websites may offer tremendous savings.
• Gift cards are quick and easy. It gives recipients more freedom to choose what they really want without going overboard to make recipients happy.
• Offer something from the heart (preparing a home-cooked meal, an outdoor trip or a personalized hand-crafted gift) as a present to friends and relatives.

Consider the idea of keeping costs of celebrations under control as a creative challenge that can be fun and make the event more memorable and affordable. For more spending ideas and to discuss financial goals, speak with your financial advisor.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and is intended to be generic in nature and should not be applied or relied upon in any particular situation without the advice of your tax, legal and/or your financial advisor.

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Money tree image courtesy of pfala, via Flickr.