By Kristine George

Happy December! We are smack dab in the middle of my favorite time of the year! While it is a happy time of shopping, baking and decorating, it can also be a stressful time on my bank account!
Despite my efforts to save up for the inevitable cost of all of this merriment, I always find that my holiday cheer level is hampered by the strain on my wallet!
I read a funny meme on social media the other day that summed it up beautifully. It read “Me: I cannot wait for the holidays to arrive.” Bank Account: “Oh, Yes you can!”
Raise your hand if your holiday budget feels like it grows tighter and tighter each year — while the cost of your holiday wish list and celebrations continues to grow?
Here are a few tried and true strategies for surviving the holiday season with your wallet — and sanity — in check.
Make a list and check it twice: This year, I simplified some areas of my holiday to do list by simply cutting out those things that are not necessary to have a happy holiday with my family.
This year, it was the pressure to do the perfect family holiday card.
Each year, we spend money on new Christmas outfits so that we can take a perfect holiday picture and have more than 100 printed to mail out to all our friends and family.
The time it takes to stuff and seal each card and annual family letter, combined with the cost of printing and postage, takes a lot away from my enjoyment of the season.
So, why am I doing it? This year, I am not.
We still took the holiday photo and I will still send out that photo and a lovely holiday message — but this year, it will be in the form of an email and/or a well timed post on my social media page.
For my family members who do not regularly access digital communication, I have a box of Hallmark cards that can be sent out.
Bam! I just saved my family at least a hundred bucks and several hours that we could spend doing something else together as a family!
So this year, I challenge you to make a list of all the things you have to do this season.
Review them all carefully.
Do they bring your family joy? Are they absolutely necessary to have a merry holiday?
If the answer is “no,” let them go and use the time and resources saved to put toward an activity or tradition that is more meaningful to you and your loved ones!
Save the halls instead of decking them: I am a traditionalist when it comes to decorating my home.
Each year, I excitedly rummage through my collection of decorations, enjoying the wave of nostalgia that many of the pieces of my collection bring.
That nostalgia does not stop me from going a little crazy at the store when the new decorations hit the shelves.
Each and every year, the stores trot out tons of fun new holiday decorations and each year, I am tempted to stock up on the fun baubles and sparkly things to make my house sparkle a little brighter!
I always come home with at least a few new sparkly things and then wonder where all the extra money budgeted for gifts went to!
This year, I made a solemn vow to decorate with only what has been in my home all year — and am paying close attention to my budget.
I set my holiday spending budget weeks ago and have been mindful about tracking that spending.
On Dec. 25, if I came in under budget, do you know how I will reward my efforts?
I will use those remaining funds to have a fun post-holiday Christmas decoration shopping spree — all to the tune of at least a 50-percent discount! Deck the halls without emptying the pockets.
O’ Christmas tree: I have found a fun way to spruce up my house and create a fun holiday tradition at the same time.
Each December, we head out to the woods near our home and in Clark Griswold fashion, have a scavenger hunt for greens to decorate the house.
It can be anything from freshly cut greens and holly that make my house smell downright heavenly to pine cones to accent my store bought baubles and lights.
It saves money to be sure and it makes for a fun afternoon with my favorite people.
Follow up the scavenger hunt with a promise of popcorn and a hot chocolate fest at home!
You won’t miss those store bought decorations and will be grateful for the memories you make with your new scavenger hunt tradition!
Create a family fun Advent calendar: Starting Dec. 1, we vow to do one Christmas activity together each day as a family.
It can be as simple as baking cookies, decorating the tree or driving through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights, but we have just as much fun making a list of ideas to fill the month as we do at each day’s activity.
Most of the time, these things are either no cost or cost very little — and it has become a fun late November tradition to fill out each day in the calendar with something fun.
This year’s addition is going to be gathering up some friends to go Christmas caroling in a few of our local neighborhoods!
Regardless of how much you spend on decorations and gifts this year, be sure to spend the most important currency you have on your family this year — your time.
The memories you make will last longer than any fancy gaming system you could buy them!
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)