Christmas is here; Uncle Santa is making his presence felt everywhere; the New Year will beckon in a couple of days and there is cheer everywhere. Or isn't there?
If the crippling economic slowdown wasn't enough to ruin our moods this year-end, we had a huge terror attack in India's Maximum City, Mumbai, further dampening the festive spirit.
While the Mumbai incident has shaken many a young Indian party-goer, the financial worries too are playing a big role, resulting in cancellation of hotel bookings and other year-end plans. Christmas Eve celebrations and New Year bashes are being called off -- and many would say, rightly so.
However, the situation isn't as bleak as that: here are six ways in which you can overcome your financial woes and still enjoy this festive season.
1. Make your own gifts
If you are planning to give gifts to your friends or relatives this X'mas or New Year, then why go shopping and spend bundles of moolah? Make them yourself! Apart from having complete control on your budget, your gifting hand-made gifts will make the recipient feel your warmth and how much you care for them.
For instance, use newspapers to make cute little handbags and stuff them with chocolates. Other inexpensive gifts ideas include soft toys, paintings, pen stands, decorative pillows, wall hangings etc. They are easy to make and will not cost you a bomb either!
2. Make your own festive decorations
Though this idea will need a bit of creativity, imagination and some time from your busy routine, it is worth a shot. And not only will you have the satisfaction of doing something for your home, it will also help you and your folks bond with each other.
Decorations that will help set the mood this Christmas and New Year would include stuff like Christmas trees, gift-wrapped matchboxes to use as ornaments hanging off the tree, popcorn strung and wound around the tree, wreaths, red Santa hats complete with bobbles, figures of Santa, large gold and silver stars, sprigs of fake holly and mistletoe, trees with fake snow and twinkle lights.
Though Christmas-specific, these decorations will lend your home a cheerful feel till the arrival of the New Year without anybody complaining. Also, they are cost-effective and you can use the money you saved on them for something else.
3. Use cash back credit cards
A word of caution: Make use of credit cards (even if they are cash back cards) only if you have enough moolah to pay the outstanding amount before your next due date. Otherwise you will end up coughing out more to cover late fees and interest charges than what you will earn as cash backs.
To encourage users to spend more and conveniently during festive seasons, most credit card companies in association with various retailers and malls offer cash back incentives on purchases above a particular amount. Grab such offers! You can end up saving anywhere between 5 to 10 per cent of your total expenditure by using such offers smartly.
4. Throng shops that offer huge discounts
Given the current economic turmoil and low consumption by Indian retailers, a lot of shops, retailers and malls are offering anywhere between 25 to 70 per cent discounts on selected apparel brands, sneakers, watches, jewellery, belts and other electronic games and gadgets.
Go through the morning newspaper with a fine-tooth comb. Scan every page like a hawk for the word "SALE". The time you spend looking for these announcements will be worth its while when you sit back and calculate the amount you spent and saved on such purchases in the first week of the New Year.
Also, a lot of deals can be made while shopping online -- especially electronic goods and gizmos -- where the discount offered is substantial.
5. Sharing and dining
Remember how Aamir Khan teases Salman Khan in Andaz Apna Apna: do dost ek thaali main khana khayenge; aisa karne se dono main pyaar badhta hai (two friends should eat in one plate; it increases the love between them).
Twist this legendary quip to suit your needs if you are throwing a party at your house. Invite friends, but ask them to come with their own bubbly and bite. Let them bring dosas, pakodas, idlis, pizza whatever they can make on their own. All the food items can be then shared amongst all the guests and as a bonus, you'll find out who the best cook is from within your own circle of friends.
This way you can not only have a low-budget party but also share in the love and warmth that your friends have for you and for one another. A perfect communal dinner.
6. Terrace party and all that
An ideal setting for throwing or enjoying that perfect party would be your own or any of your friend's terrace flat. A huge open terrace immediately solves the problem of a space crunch as well as spending a fortune on booking a party hall or a hotel. The money thus saved can be used to buy food, beverages and decorations for the terrace.
Some enterprising souls from amongst your friends (and I am sure there will be dozens) with some knowledge of music and other heavy-duty equipment could help set up music systems and act as disc jockeys for the night. If that's the case then you can have a real blast at one-tenth the cost of what you could have otherwise spent organising a grand show.
If that's not having your cake and eating it too, what is!