The holidays are wonderful. And they can be very stressful. Suddenly there are so many more expenses than the month before! For a family on a tight budget, that can be very tough. One of the keys to living frugally is sticking to a budget, and holiday expenses can make that very, very difficult. But careful planning makes it possible.
Holidays don’t come as a surprise. If we plan and budget for them, we can still save money AND have a festive celebration.
Here are a few tips for celebrating without going over budget:
1. Become a really price sensitive shopper. Don’t buy sweet potatoes (an example) for your holiday meal if they are suddenly priced through the roof (This really does happen here in Israel. Sweet potatoes will be 3 shekels/kg sometimes, and at others, nearly 20 shekels/kg.). It doesn’t matter if you always served sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. If the price is not right, substitute something else. (Or maybe you were really truly awesome and you planned in advance and bought them when they were really affordable, and prepared your holiday sweet potato dish and it’s already waiting in the freezer! If that’s you, you are THE BEST!)
2. Since you know there’s a holiday looming, look for extra ways to spend a bit less each week on consumables and food than you would normally, for a month or so beforehand. I have no problem serving chicken wings for Shabbat meals, purchased on sale, for a few weeks, so that the bigger expense of the holiday meal doesn’t overwhelm me.
3. Save oven time – prep a whole bunch of foods, and only put them in the oven when there is enough to fill the oven. It truly saves energy. I know, Israeli ovens are small. Mine has three racks though, and if I plan carefully, I can fit a lot in (round baking pans, however, are not conducive to saving space. I rarely use them anymore, rectangular pans fit a lot better).
4. Make ordinary foods seem festive by making a slight change. Add a small amount of dried cranberries to your cornbread, or change the spices you use for roasted potatoes. Roast some peppers to jazz up an otherwise ordinary salad... make inexpensive chicken with an exotic recipe... the possibilities go on and on. (My cornbread recipe below uses about 3 shekels ($0.75) worth of dried cranberries, so it’s not an over-the-top addition.)
5. Consider eggless baking. I use ground flaxseed as an egg substitute, and I’ve discovered that not only are there some great health benefits, it also costs me less to use flaxseed than eggs.