Focus on presence instead of presents

The Christmas countdown is ticking away in our house. In a matter of days, many families will bask in the glow of the Christmas tree, eat too many cookies and take a long winter’s nap.

As you finish the race to a happy holiday, here are a few Christmas money-saving ideas to keep your checking account in the black instead of as red as Santa’s suit.

Get ‘gift insurance’

Everyone needs some “gift insurance” this time of the year. The next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a few $5 or $10 gift cards as you’re checking out. If you end up in an awkward gift situation — where someone gives you something and you don’t have anything to give in return — you’ll be able to have a last-minute gift on hand. If you don’t end up needing to use the cards, then you can use them at the grocery store to buy items you need in the New Year.

Look for free fun

It’s not only the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also the most tempting. There are great flicks in the theater, festive holiday shows, museums and more. However, you’d be wise to pull back and look for free entertainment instead of dropping extra cash, busting your budget.

From looking at Christmas lights to playing board games, there’s plenty that you can do with your time that doesn’t cost a dime. If you have a membership to the zoo or the Children’s Museum, it’s a great time of the year to put it to good use. Make it a game to see what you can do while spending the least.

And just a reminder, although sure to be busy, the world class Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is always free on Christmas Eve.

Chip bag gift wrap

All out of wrapping paper? Here’s a great last-minute idea to wrap up your present! Empty a metallic chip bag and turn it inside out. Clean the exterior with a damp paper towel. Place your gift inside and tie the top with a piece of ribbon or if you don’t have any, simply cut a one inch strip from the top of the bag and make your own tie.

Resist ‘one more’

In the final shopping hours, temptation amps to a whole new level. If you can, stay out of the stores or take a very targeted list, staying committed to sticking to it. No matter how strong we are, we’re each susceptible to the “one more” trap — one more gift, one more side dish, one more decoration, one more special item for ourselves, one more sweet treat.

Before you fall into the “one more” trap, pause for a minute or two (or longer if you can). The longer you wait to make a decision, the more likely you will be able to avoid impulse purchases. I practice a 24-hour “cooling off” period to test whether I really need an item, even if it’s a bargain.

Free printables

All out of ideas? Free fantastic printables abound on the Pinterest website. Search for special holiday coupon booklets can be a great way to say I love you. A quick search reveals different sets for couples, kids, moms and dads, little kids, and even blank “coupons” you could edit for anything.

Hold steady and pledge to stay on track this year. You can do it!

Commit yourself to saving money in as many ways as possible in the last weeks of the season. Don’t overspend and focus on giving your presence this Christmas.