This year, many families are searching for creative ways to entertain at home without breaking the bank. According to lifestyle expert Savvy Mommy Victoria Pericon (pictured), with some careful planning and preparation, celebrating the holidays on a budget can be just as memorable as a more elaborate affair.
"During the hectic holiday season, everyone is looking for easy ways to bring more fun time into their homes and keep the whole family entertained," says Pericon. "But when watching your wallet, it's important to resist the temptation to go overboard. Instead, focus on creating experiences that foster togetherness and make memories that will last a lifetime."
Pericon, together with Microsoft, offers the following tips to maximize the family fun this season without racking up the dreaded post-New Year's debt:
Go Big--At Home
When it comes to holiday shopping, a recent survey noted that nearly half of Americans will give one large family gift this year as opposed to many smaller individual items.* According to Pericon, you'll get more bang for your buck with a gift that has something for everyone in the family, such as a new computer, TV or entertainment console. She suggests an Xbox 360, which provides the biggest and best selection of games, thousands of movies for instant high-definition (HD) streaming, access to Facebook and Twitter and everyone's favorite music on Last.fm--right from the living room. For the cost of taking a family of four out to the movies a few times, pick up the Xbox 360 Elite Holiday Bundle featuring an Xbox 360 Elite console and two free games and access to entertainment whenever you want it, all year round.
Breathe New Life Into the Party
Everyday items around the house are all you need to throw a fabulous holiday soiree. Consider hosting a white elephant gift exchange where guests gather to trade inexpensive, humorous items they have no desire to keep. Or, throw a potluck party and challenge guests to bring a dish using only the ingredients they have on hand in their kitchen. Once the party is in full swing, break out the new musical Xbox 360 games "Lips: Number One Hits" or "The BeatlesÔäó: Rock BandÔäó." Even the most reserved guests will unleash their inner rock stars.
Create New Traditions
Coming together as a family to create lasting memories doesn't have to leave you strapped for cash. Pick a night to decorate cookies together, play cards or get a competitive game of flag football going out in the yard. After a big holiday meal, Pericon likes to settle down and watch a movie on Xbox 360 with her family. With a huge selection of instantly streaming HD movies from Netflix and Zune video, it's like having a movie theater in your home without the parking hassles, long lines or outrageous ticket prices.
Connect Without the Cost of Travel
With travel costs rising and budgets shrinking, not everyone will be able to make it home for the holidays this year. So at this year's gathering, pass around a digital camera and snap photos to share with friends and family members who couldn't be there to celebrate with you. With an Xbox LIVE Gold Membership, you can send pictures of the kids to grandma over Facebook, tweet about how Aunt Susan made her famous gingersnaps, and even arrange a Netflix Movie Party to virtually watch your favorite supported flicks with friends from afar. (A Netflix unlimited membership is also required.)
* "Microsoft Holiday Technology Omnibus." Survey. 21-24, August 2009.