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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

November 29, 2022 - 9:51am --

What kind of holidays do you really want to experience for you and your family?  What do you want to share?  How much do you want to spend?  What changes are you and your family willing to make? What do the children remember most about your traditions?

This time of year, many of us get overwhelmed and some of those feelings may be because we are aiming to meet the expectations of others, both our families and our friends.  It is a wonderful time of year to create a happy season for your family and to do that, in part, we need to focus on the things that truly matter.  So, ask yourself and your family, what parts of the celebrations are most meaningful, where can I focus my efforts and what can I let go of?  When some items are eliminated that can be helpful for not only the time factor but also for the budget. 

Cut back on gift giving? Only buy for kids?How about the gift of time?

As part of the conversation with extended family, maybe this year is the time to cut down on giving gifts to everyone, maybe it’s time to draw names, or only buy for the children? It may be a wonderful time to look at family possessions and share those while the stories can be shared along with them?  Last weekend when I was home and helping my parents decorate, there was a ceramic tree (mom had made) pushed to the back of the closet that was no longer used.  When I asked if I might have it for Christmas, the conversation led to many stories that I will always cherish. 

Maybe, instead of gifts to wrap, it’s a gift of time?  It could be a future event like a dinner and a movie in February or a trip to see flowers or a special exhibit in the spring or summer.  That would spread the cost out throughout the year and the enjoyment as well.  Maybe it’s a labor of love like cleaning out the car or the garage or even help with a particular project that would be received with a smile in place of items that are not really needed.

It seems that the food, both for the meals and the gifts that are shared, take up a large part of the budget.  The average consumer spends about $2.17 (may be more with the current grocery prices) for every minute spent in the grocery store, according to the Food Marketing Institute.  Most additional purchases are the result of us seeing, touching, smelling or tasting additional products.  So, the key to effectively sticking to your budget, is to make a list and don’t shop more often than is needed.  The exception might be when there are items on sale that you use on a regular basis, and you have the extra money and storage space, for them.  Another strategy might be to shop at different stores for different sale items each week, remembering in the long run, only purchase what is needed and what the budget will allow.

Take some liberties with the recipes

When possible, plan the menus for meals or gifts around what is already in the pantry or cupboards.  Look at the recipes and see if there items that can be substituted, for example nuts on top of a casserole might be exchanged with cereal or cracker crumbs that have been toasted.  Nuts are more expensive, and cereal is most usually on hand.  If family and/or friends are close by, invite them to share the load by signing up for dishes to bring.  Sometimes the family favorites come from those who have a special recipe to share.

Thinking back to the expectations, how many paychecks do you have between now and your events to share?  With what you can budget, make a plan and stick with it so that additional debt doesn’t cloud future plans?  Being realistic to your family situation this year, your favorite traditions and being easy on yourself is important to meeting expectations so that everyone can enjoy the holidays.  As we have these conversations, remember the true meaning of the season, can’t be wrapped in ribbons or bows, or shared around the table.  May your family be blessed as we begin another year, from all of us at OSU Extension, we wish you the best for your holiday gatherings.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or

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This article was previously published in The Daily Record.