Tips for Holiday Shopping

I don’t know about you but to me it seems we just finished shopping for the holidays and they are here once again. Holiday shopping can be a whirlwind and we forget to take time to stop and think about how much we have spent until the bills arrive. Having a budget for the holidays can be your best defense to not overdoing it this holiday season.

If you plan for the holidays, it can save lots of time, energy, and of course, money. It is important to prepare a budget, make the budget realistic and base it on your cash flow and financial obligations. Once your budget has been created, stick to it!

The next step – make a list of gifts you want to give. When shopping, use cash whenever you can as this helps you watch how much you are spending. When you have reached your budget limit, your shopping should be done! If possible, do not use credit cards to buy gifts. If you use credit cards, keep track of the amounts and stop when you have reached your budget limit.

Gift cards appear to be great but be aware of fees or usage terms that can reduce the value of the gift. Before buying gift cards, ask if the card can be used for online purchases. This may not affect most retailers but some online retailers do not allow using gift cards.

If you want to stretch your budget, you don’t have to purchase all of your gifts. Try making gifts such as food or give a coupon book volunteering your services (i.e. babysitting or yard work). Below is a mix ranch dressing recipe you can give to family and friends this holiday season.

To help with your shopping next year make your list early, then spread your shopping throughout the year.

Use these tips to help you enjoy your holiday.


Spoonful Mix for Ranch Dressingranch-dressing-mix

2    tsp. dried parsley flakes

1    tsp. salt free herb seasoning blend

½   tsp. garlic powder

¼   tsp. dried basil leaves


  1. Mix all ingredients in small bowl.
  2. Place mix in to plastic wrap and attach to spoon.
  3. Decorate spoon with a pretty bow.


Ranch Dressing

Remove decorative wrappings from spoon, leaving the mix inside the plastic wrap and still attached to spoon.

  1. Empty ½ cup low-fat mayonnaise and ½ cup low-fat buttermilk into a medium bowl.
  2. Hold spoon over bowl and cut open bag of mix, allowing mix to fall into bowl onto mayo and buttermilk.
  3. Mix until very well blended (use gift spoon to mix). Refrigerate 30 minutes up to 8 hours to blend flavors.


For more information on holiday shopping, contact your local Extension office.

Give Yourself the Gift of Time This Holiday Season

Give Yourself The Gift of Time graphicIt’s the season to be jolly, but for many of us it’s the season to be overstressed as well. If getting ready for the Holidays is beginning to feel like a full-time job, start rethinking your holiday plans and consider streamlining, or even scaling back, some of your activities.

Following are some holiday survival tips that can help you save time and money, and preserve the holiday spirit in your heart.

  • A few shopping strategies can help you save time and reduce the hustle-bustle stress. Shop early in the month and early in the day.
  • Take advantage of free gift boxes and free or low-cost wrapping services. Wrapping presents can take as much time as shopping for them.
  • Shop online and have the company wrap and ship gifts directly to recipients. Make sure you are shopping on a secure site. Look for the padlock icon.
  • Simplify gift giving by choosing a theme. For example, buy a book or a sweater for everyone on your list.
  • Suggest exchanging cards instead of gifts at the office.
  • To keep packages sorted, wrap all of each person’s gifts in the same wrapping paper color or pattern.
  • Instead of exchanging gifts with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, suggest a Dutch treat lunch date at a nice restaurant.
  • Call a family meeting or, if family members are distant, arrange a conference call, or a mass text or email to discuss gift giving. You are probably not the only one who wants or needs to scale back on gifts. Strategies to discuss include drawing names so each individual buys a gift for only one person; giving family gifts; or giving gifts only to the children.
  • Establish a spending limit and stick to it. If your holiday cash is limited, make gifts well in advance or think of creative ways to give of your time AFTER the holidays.
  • Simplify your plans. You don’t need to decorate every room in your house or give gifts to everyone who sends you one.
  • Reduce your entertaining requirements. Plan a themed potluck instead of dinner parties for which you are responsible for all the food. The same goes for family get-togethers. Ask each participant to contribute a dish for the meal.
  • Keep your priorities straight:  take time to think about what is really important to you; be realistic about how much you can do; don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Setting priorities will help keep your schedule manageable. Draft a schedule that includes all the tasks you have to complete, how long you think each task will take, and when each needs to be done.


Most importantly, enjoy the holidays!


For further information contact:

Dorothy C. Lee, C.F.C.S.

UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County

3740 Stefani Road

Cantonment, FL 32533-7792

(850) 475-5230


For additional information, go to the University of Florida Solutions for Your Life website,


A “Green” Holiday

A “Green” Holiday

Green Gift Giving

Green Gift Giving

The holiday season will soon be upon us. A Green Holiday focuses on finding ways to reduce consumption by using renewable resources and reusing or repurposing objects. Practicing these principles can fit in line with holiday celebrations, making it a time of sustaining traditions as well as helping the environment. Here are some fun ideas for greening your holiday season when it comes to wrapping gifts.

It is not about sacrifice; it is about an opportunity to…..


  • Wrap gifts with brown paper bags, newspaper, or reused wrapping paper.
  • Create personal wrapping paper with stamps or collages, or drawing on paper bags.
  • Avoid wrapping altogether and tie a large bow around an item instead.
  • Make the wrapping part of the gift such as using reusable tins, planting pots, or new towels.
  • Give presents or gift certificates from local businesses.
  • Focus on homemade or non-traditional gifts such as baked goods, plants, fishing licenses, dance classes, travel mugs, local art, or battery chargers.
  • If giving appliances or electronics, make sure they are Energy Star-certified.
  • Make donations in someone’s name to charities or conservation organizations. Investigate to see if any organization in the area is offering an alternative giving holiday festival.
  • Give “time”.  Help an older relative with difficult chores or take children to a park.
  • Teach someone a skill or talent you have.


Investing time and creativity into the holiday can help make it more fulfilling and meaningful for you, your family, and your friends.


Seasonal Savings

Holiday Spending

Holiday Spending

The holiday season will soon be upon us. It seems to begin earlier each year placing more stress on both retailers and consumers. Retailers struggle to sell more products while consumers are subjected to a bombardment of messages via ads and media to encourage us to buy more!  Through careful planning, the journey can be more emotionally and financially stable.

It is not about sacrifice; it is about opportunity to…..

  • Make the commitment to be debt free from holiday expenses on January 1, 2016 through good planning.
  • Create a spending plan and log each expense. Use cash and/or debit cards when at all possible. Money coming directly out of your pocket will likely make you think harder about your purchase.
  • Stay motivated by finding a support system of people who have similar goals. Share your vision and ask for assistance and support.
  • Think of ways to find alternatives to pricey presents. Holidays are about spending time with family and loved ones so don’t let gifts be the focus of your holidays or break your holiday budget.
  • Track and assess your spending. Recommit daily to being debt free on January 1, 2016 from holiday expenses.
  • Learn more about this subject with worksheets to assist with your planning at  FCS5267

Spend Less & Save More This Holiday Season

pig presentsLast year, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) found that 12 percent of people said they were planning to spend more during the holidays than in the previous year. That number was up from 2011, where only 8 percent planned on spending more than in the previous year.  This year, help reverse this trend and plan on spending less and saving more. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, not the amount you spend. Helpful tips for spending less and saving more:


  1. Make a Budget and a List:  Decide how much you can afford to spend and stay within that budget. Make a price list of all gifts and other holiday items you plan to purchase. Take the list with you shopping to avoid overspending and impulse buys.
  2. Comparison Shop:  You can easily save more than 10 percent on most items, sometimes considerably more, by comparing prices at different stores. The Internet and smart phones have made comparison shopping that much easier. But when shopping online, shop wisely.  Be sure you are purchasing from a secure site and review emailed statements for accuracy as you receive them.
  3. Make Time Your Ally:  The reason to start sooner rather than later is that when you delay, you pay. At the last minute, you have to settle for something, and it might cost more than you had wanted or planned to pay. Another benefit to starting early:  It gives you more time to find the “right” gift and avoid impulsive decisions, which too often leave you less happy with your purchase.
  4. See what’s in your supply drawer:  You may have more wrapping paper, ribbons, unused cards, and gift boxes stored away from last season than you realize. Use up those holiday supplies first to trim down the amount you’ll have to buy this season.
  5. Find Some Low- or No-Cost Ways to Celebrate:  Adding a few changes can ease the strain on your spending budget. For example, draw names to reduce the number of people you have to purchase gifts for; give homemade items; make your own gift wrap; or organize a potluck rather than trying to make, and pay for, the entire holiday meal yourself.

With the money you save on gifts, you can give yourself the gift of financial freedom by paying down debt or building your emergency savings fund.

Need help finding ways to save? Take the America Saves pledge to make a commitment to yourself to save and to receive emails and/or text messages to keep you motivated.  (America Saves, managed by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), is a non-profit researchbased social marketing campaign that seeks to motivate, support, and encourage low- to moderate-income households to save money and build wealth. Learn more at

Source: Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Director

Additional ways to make a difference in YOUR financial future:

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•       5 Simple Steps to Seasonal Savings – November 13
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