8 Ways to Trim Costs on Holiday Festivities

Bills.com suggests forming new traditions to keep holidays affordable

SAN MATEO, Calif., Dec. 10, 2008 – While most Americans are expected to play their credit cards close to the vest this holiday, Ethan Ewing, president of free online financial portal Bills.com, reminds individuals and families that they can enjoy the holidays fully while trimming spending. 

"A lack of green in the green-and-red season does not have to mean a lack of fun," Ewing said.  

Here are eight ideas for ways to put the jingle in spirits, if not in wallets, during this holiday season. 

1.Lower the highbrow. Instead of the city ballet's production of the Nutcracker, seek out a school or community presentation. Where theater productions of "A Christmas Carol" can set you back $50 a ticket, a youth or other local production might run just 10 percent of that cost -- and it might be just as enjoyable, not to mention more accommodating for those with restless youngsters. 2. Revise the menu. If your family typically gathers for Christmas Eve with oyster stuffing, gets together for a big brunch on Christmas Day and goes out to a movie and dinner on Christmas night, try scaling back. Create a new tradition by focusing attention on one big meal and then enjoying different, more casual fare for other meals. Rent movies instead of going out, and eat a smaller breakfast at home before the big meal (your heart will thank you, too). 3. Have New Year's at home. For singles celebrating the new year, invite friends over for a grown-up slumber party to save on pricey hotel fees, parties, dances or dinners. Borrow inflatable mattresses, bring your comfiest PJs, rent movies that make you laugh, cry, or take you back to high school. Ask everyone to bring a favorite hors d'oeuvre, order pizza or fire up the barbecue grill, and offer just one holiday cocktail selection to minimize party costs at the liquor store. 4.  Look for city specials. Many locales now have free activities in the city center on New Year's Eve. Check local news for updates on what is going on in your area. Make sure to carpool to these events and bring your own food and drink from home – stay away from expensive vendors. 

5. Do for others. Keep busy instead of wasting time grumbling about what you are missing. Help those less fortunate by assembling food baskets, providing modest gifts to a needy family or volunteering for a worthy organization. There’s nothing like donating your time to put you in the holiday spirit. 6. Get outside. In areas with snow, pick up a sled at a discount store or have a snowball fight and get some exercise out in the snow. Live in a warmer-weather climate? Try a hike, swim or trip to the playground with kids. You will build memories and wile away the afternoon. Afterward, nothing beats the timeless tradition of cookies and hot cocoa (no matter what the temperature). 7. Have a clothes swap. All that time off over the holidays is a perfect time for you (or a teenage child) to clean out a closet. Many women like to invite friends over, have some season- and age-appropriate beverages on hand, and shop for new looks from each other's discards. 8. Spend time with friends and family. Host a potluck dinner at home, have a holiday open house or just invite a friend over for a cup of coffee or tea.  

"The holiday season is about warm hearts and new hope, and remembering those you care about will help start the next year on the right foot -- at any budget," Ewing added. 

About Bills.com (www.bills.com)

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. As the online portal to Freedom Financial Network, LLC, the company has served more than 40,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available at http://www.bills.com/news_releases/.

Bills.com holds the No. 257 spot on the Inc. 500 list for 2008, and the No. 3 spot on Entrepreneur Magazine's Hot 100 list of the fastest-growing U.S. companies. Bills.com also was named a finalist as "most innovative company" in the American Business Awards in 2008. Company co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh were named to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list in 2008, and are recipients of the Northern California Ernst & Young 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.