7 Budget-Friendly Ways Retirees Can Create Memorable Holidays

After you retire, the holidays often present new financial challenges. With your flexible schedule, you might feel pressure to travel and visit family, host a larger number of parties and bake more goodies. “Pressure to spend lots of money can make the holidays a particularly stressful time of year, especially for retirees who often operate on a strict budget,” says Stephen Heitzmann, co-founder and CEO of Altruistic Investing in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Fortunately, spending consciously doesn’t need to put a damper on the holiday spirit. By setting priorities, there are plenty of ways to create special times throughout the season. Follow these guidelines to stay on financial track and enjoy the holidays.

[See: 10 Classic and Unique Retirement Gift Ideas.]

Weave memories into gifts. If you collected ornaments during years of travel or spent decades building a winter village, now may be a good time to pass these treasures to the next generation. Wrap each special item and include a note explaining the history behind it. Mention where the piece came from and what it meant to you.

Photos can also be given as gifts. “Compile pictures and stories that chronicle the family’s early history through its most memorable events,” says Susan Hosage, a semi-retired senior consultant at OneSource HR Solutions in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Online services such as Shutterfly, Mixbook and Snapfish make it easy to create photo books. Look for discounts as the holidays approach or make your own book with materials at home.

Record recipes. Before baking the family’s favorite pie, invite a grandchild over to videotape the process. “Everyone wishes they were more attentive when watching grandma make her world-famous ravioli or regret not quantifying the ‘pinch of this’ and ‘little of that’ so they could replicate that favorite holiday dessert,” Hosage says.

Another way to share favorite recipes is to compile a mini cookbook. Make a list of your family’s traditional recipes. If you’re not sure which ones to include, ask family members to suggest dishes they would like to have in writing, and then print or make copies of the recipes. Put them in a folder or booklet, and give the collection as a gift to children and grandchildren.

[See: 10 Ways to Celebrate Your Retirement.]

Focus on time. If you live close to family members with children, consider offering to babysit little ones during upcoming holiday events. “The gift of time truly can mean much more than a packaged gift, and be a wonderful gift to your budget,” says Kevin Gallegos, senior vice president of new client enrollment and Phoenix operations for Freedom Debt Relief. Rather than shopping for presents for all your neighbors, organize a holiday event such as a caroling party. If you want to do something to help others in the community, volunteer for several weekends at a local organization.

Use decorations you have. To cut back on spending for new lawn ornaments and wreaths, look through your boxes of holiday ware. Branches and pine cones from your yard can be used as centerpieces. If you have a large craft supply, browse magazines and Pinterest for ideas on holiday-themed pieces. “Gather the young ones in the family to make decorations together,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot.com. “You’ll get to spend quality time with your loved ones and knock out your holiday decorating all at once.”

Look for ways to collaborate. Hosting meals for large groups can be expensive. “Instead of baking 10 different holiday cookies, choose the top three favorites and enlist your guests to bring other kinds,” Skirboll says. Another option is to set up an entire potluck style dinner. Ask everyone to bring a dish that can be shared with the group.

Check your dinnerware when preparing for the group to get together. “Use the china to avoid the expense of plastic and paper ware and to reduce waste,” Gallegos says. If you need additional plates or dishes, ask family or guests to bring several to share.

[See: 10 Retirement Rites of Passage.]

Find meaningful entertainment. Check local listings to find free activities in your area. Consider driving around the neighborhood to look at lights or attending a free community concert. Check sites such as GuruWalk or Free Tours by Foot for free walking tours nearby.

Also look at TV listings or websites to find when upcoming holiday specials will run. “Make a plan, then settle in with popcorn, cookies and cocoa to get into the festive spirit,” Gallegos says. If your family enjoys watching holiday movies, gather favorites from the library or discount stores. Then set up a movie marathon and invite relatives over. Ask everyone to bring a favorite holiday snack to eat during the viewing hours.

Go digital. If you’ve always sent out holiday cards through the mail, try sending electronic messages this year. A relative can help you sort through free or low-cost electronic card options. You could also put together a video to share with loved ones. “If you have a video camera, or capability on a cellphone, put together a holiday message for relatives far from home,” Gallegos says. “Talk about your best moments of the year, sing carols, tell jokes or whatever will best send your wishes to loved ones.”

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7 Budget-Friendly Ways Retirees Can Create Memorable Holidays originally appeared on usnews.com

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