Five Tips to Have an Affordable and Healthy Holiday Season

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The holiday season is upon us, which means parties, food and family. But all that extra cheer can lead to an expanding budget and waistline. Check out five tips for a healthy and affordable holiday.

1. Get creative when it comes to gift giving

If you’ve seen an increase in the price of just about everything, you’re not alone. Inflation has shot up 19% since 2020, increasing the cost of many everyday goods. Buying presents could wreak havoc on your budget. Here are a few suggestions to save money on presents this year:

Go the Secret Santa route. Instead of buying individual presents, draw names so each person gets one gift. Set a small price point for the gift.

Create handmade gifts. Making gifts can be a great way to save money and add that personalized touch. Instead of buying gifts, make cookies to hand out or crochet potholders.

Thrift it out. Thrifting is in. Head to your local thrift store to find deals on everything from clothing, glassware, furniture and more. Visit a dollar store to get everyday essentials, small toys, and candy. Throw them in a decorative jar, and you have a fun present.

2. Trim the fat in your meals and your food budget

One area you can trim the fat is in your food budget. Last year, food prices went up almost 10%, and they are expected to keep increasing. Here’s how to help keep food costs low while still eating healthy:

Plan ahead. Make a food plan budget then stick to your grocery list and avoid impulse buys at the grocery store. Go through your existing food stock to be sure you’re not over-buying.

Look for discounts. Find ways to maximize your savings with coupons, discounts and loyalty programs. Shop store brand over name brand items when you can. This is also a great time to get assistance with extra food supplies or meals from places like local churches, community centers and local non-profits.

Add more vegetarian options. Designing a menu based around vegetables can be cheaper and good for you. “Studies have found that plant-based diets can be cheaper, animal proteins tend to be the most expensive item on the plate,” according to Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of “Plant-Powered for Life.” Properly preparing and seasoning vegetables can lead to some tasty and healthy dishes. If you do want protein, choose cheaper fish options over more expensive cuts of meat.

Discover other ways to save money while eating healthy with these tips.

3. Drink in moderation—or not at all

The average U.S. adult doubles their intake of alcohol from Thanksgiving to New Years. The holidays can be a prime time for binge drinking and, over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer risks, a weakened immune system, mental health issues and more.

November and December are also the top two months for alcohol sales during the year. Sixty-four percent of U.S. households are estimated to have spent an average of $102 on alcohol during these months.

Cutting back on your alcohol intake can reduce your health risks and boost your financial bottom line. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that men have two drinks or less a day and women one drink or less per day. Enjoy a drink at events and then switch to a non-alcoholic option. Avoid drinking alone and choose certain days, for example, Monday–Thursday to not drink.

Or you could celebrate the season sober. Drink non-alcoholic beer or wine, or try a delicious mocktail to get that festive feeling without the unwelcome hangover. You can also liven up plain water by adding berries or drink a classic soda and lime.

4. Prioritize time and experiences

Focus on quality time with your family and friends. Instead of presents, maybe you can get each other a group experience you can enjoy together. Have a holiday movie night at home or whip up a batch of hot cocoa and drive around to see the holiday lights. Pop some popcorn and enjoy a family game night.

Look outside your standard holiday traditions. Are there any free Christmas events in your area you can enjoy together? Writing a letter or reconnecting with old friends could create some extra holiday cheer. Volunteering can also improve your sense of self and can be a great way to spend time together.

5. Do less

Sometimes the holidays can be excessive. That can lead to more stress, pressure and, ultimately, unhappiness. Consider doing less. “People are bad at making goals around subtraction,” said lead researcher Ashley Whillans, a doctoral student in social psychology in a recent study. “We fail to think about removing experiences from our lives as a path to greater happiness.”

Concentrate on the experiences you want to have and ditch the rest. Focusing on experiences and family traditions that make you happy can be the key to enjoying your holiday season.

Health is our top priority

The ilumed team wants to help people live healthier, happier lives. We’re dedicated to helping people see more holidays with their families. Learn more about how ilumed works with value-based providers to help advance their patients’ everyday health here.

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