So the American economy has been in a recession since late last year? Now there is a shocker to most people in the country. One thing that we can at least be thankful for this year is that gas prices have dropped by more than half in most areas since their summer peak, just in time for the winter heating season.

So your retirement fund has taken a hit, you are thinking more about running up credit card debt, and you really would like to cut back a bit on your holiday spending. What can you do that will still enable you to feel more like Santa Clause than Ebeneezer Scrooge this Christmas? Plenty.

The first thing that you can do is what might seem like an easy place to cut back, but in fact you should not, and perhaps you should consider expanding. That would be your Christmas card list.

The fact is that Christmas cards have become extremely affordable if you just shop around. You can go lavish and spend $20 or more for a box of 18 cards. But why do that when you can also find nice ones of twice that number for half the price?

You can hand them out at work and school, and even to most of your family members and neighbors. But make sure that you mail a bunch out to those who live far away. A Christmas card is your opportunity, perhaps the only such opportunity that you will have during a year, to let people know that they matter to you.

Take the time to include some short little personal message in as many of the cards as possible, including your phone number for anyone that you wouldn’t mind hearing directly from (don’t assume that all of your friends and family already have it.) You can reach dozens of friends and family members with this type of gift with a relatively minuscule financial outlay.

It will take time for you to fill out, seal, address, stamp, and mail the cards. That is part of the season. Do it with some Christmas music playing in the background and the time will fly.

For actual gifts, cut down that receiver list, and cut back the number of things for each of those receiving. Giving one nice gift to your immediate family members and your best friends does not have to strain your budget.

Sit down and talk with your spouse, and come to some deal on spending for one another. Perhaps you can agree to some nice shared experience as a gift for one another, rather than a boat load of gifts. Tickets to a couple of nice events that you can agree on that might be upcoming, or some getaway weekend at a place that you both enjoy.

If friends and family ask you for a gift idea, ask for movie or dinner gift certificates. These will make for great “night out” opportunities once the Holidays have passed.

If you have kids, have them make a list, and let them know that Santa may not be able to give them everything on it. But then you have a specific idea of exactly where their thoughts are, and can give friends and family members specific ideas when they inevitably ask.

Take advantage of sales opportunities. Weekend newspapers have been filled with tremendous deals, including coupons and special sales times. If you have Internet access, make use of ‘Google’, ‘Overstock’ and ‘Amazon’ and other online sources.

There is no reason that you need to play Scrooge this year just because the economy is tough. Santa has beaten many a recession in the past, and you can help him do so once again this year.

And in the mean time, always remember that there is so much more to the season than gifts, cards, decorations, and food. Give the gift of God’s love by going to church and taking your family with you if at all possible. It’s the recession-proof gift that will keep on giving.

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