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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Green for the Holidays -- Money Saving Ideas

Recycle, reduce, reuse – these are familiar words year-round, but during the holidays it can seem like our mantra is more like buy, buy, and buy more! Are you looking for some creative ways to stretch your dollars (and be green) this holiday season? Consider these ideas:

  • Give gift certificates or IOUs that use your time and talents.
  • Send greeting cards only to those you won't see during the holidays.
  • Trade holiday decorations with a friend. You'll both have something new at a low cost.
  • Create a "dress up" box or old suitcase for children filled with old hats, clothing and jewelry.
  • Instead of exchanging gifts at the office, suggest bringing canned goods for the hungry.
  • Give your child something that belonged to a family member and include the story about the person who first enjoyed the item.
  • Write a letter of your feelings and memories to a parent, child or friend, or make a memory collage of family pictures.
  • Buy a household gift instead of buying something for everyone in the house.
  • Wrap gifts in the Sunday comics.

The pleasure that someone receives from a gift is not usually proportional to the cost, in my experience. My nieces and nephews all enjoyed the "junk box" they received with odds and ends, bits of packaging materials, and craft items that let them create their own masterpieces. This unique but practically free gift gave them hours of entertainment.

Another way to save money and be good to our environment is to switch from incandescent holiday lights to LED lights. While LED holiday lights still cost more initially, the price difference is less than you may think. Recently a local store's name-brand incandescent clear mini holiday lights were $1.99 compared to the clear mini LED lights for $3.99. Not much of a price difference when you take into account the energy savings. Consumer Reports estimates that LED mini lights will cost about $1.00 less per 50 foot string of lights for 300 hours of use. LED holiday lights consume about 75% less energy than traditional holiday lights.

In this case, the energy cost savings quickly pays for the initial higher cost of the LED lights. This may not always be true, and I found it difficult to compare the costs of LED versus incandescent holiday lights as often the number of bulbs or the string length were different between the packages.

However, LED holiday lights have other important advantages. They run much cooler and pose a lower fire risk than incandescent lights. They are more durable overall than incandescent lights, and the LED lights are predicted to last ten times as long as traditional incandescent lighting! In other words, LED lights use less energy and will last you longer. This year, as you replace broken or worn out holiday lights, consider purchasing LED holiday lighting.

One safety note about all holiday lights: only use lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Look for the UL label on the lights. There have been problems with lights that do not have this label.

The holidays are a special time. Taking a little care to protect our environment and to spend within our budget are good ideas no matter the time of year. Enjoy the holiday season!

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