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United Way Center for Financial Stability helps families stay financially fit this holiday season


Financially-fit-holidaysBudgeting tips and creative gift ideas for the whole family

It’s no secret; families spend more during November and December than any other time of year.  To help alleviate the stress, the experts at the United Way Center for Financial Stability have compiled top tips to help individuals and families stay financially fit through the holidays and begin the new year without additional debt.
“Have a spending plan and get your loved ones onboard” says Lars Gilberts, director of the United Way Center for Financial Stability.  “It’s important not to overextend your family budget, so be creative with gifts and outings, stay away from impulse buys and never touch your sacred money for a few days of joy.”

Staying financially fit is a family affair 

As a family - The holiday season is a perfect time to teach children about giving.  It’s always a good idea to get children involved in adopting a charity as a family, where you can donate, volunteer or give of your time and resources.
• For your spouse – instead of buying two separate gifts, agree to save your money for something big, like a special trip or tickets to a great show.
• For children – don’t set the expectation that they will get whatever they want if they behave well.  Instead talk with them about games, toys and activities that reinforce your family values – so that you may purchase gifts that matter and the family can enjoy together.
• For teenagers – give them a set amount of money and help them make informed decisions on where to spend it.  This exercise will empower them and help them gain responsibility.

Before you shop for the holidays

• Set your goals and create a spending plan that includes a list of gifts, how much you want to spend and how much you’ll reserve for auxiliary holiday expenses. Holiday foods, eating out, decorations, office parties, travel expenses and what to wear can all add up.
• Shrink the shopping list to only include children.  Encourage the adults in your family to take part in a name-drawing gift swap, where each family member only buys one gift of about $25.  This way, everyone saves money and enjoys a gift.
• Before you head to the stores, use the Internet to research items and prices, print coupons and more. When shopping online, always keep shipping costs in mind.

Shopping and Gift Tips
For nearly 90 years, United Way of Miami-Dade has been an innovative force in the community with a long and successful track record of responding to emerging needs and transforming people’s lives. Today our work is focused on education, financial stability and health—the building blocks for a good life.  We invest in quality programs, advocate for better policies, engage people in the community and generate resources.  To learn more, give, advocate or volunteer, visit, or

Black Friday, which this year starts after Thanksgiving dinner at many top retailers, offers great in-store discounts.  To avoid the crowds, Cyber Monday is a great day to shop online, with most retail giants offering savings of 20% or more and free shipping.

Here are a few creative inexpensive gift ideas:

1. Fill clean, empty spice bottles or other small jars with jellybeans, foil-wrapped chocolates or
    even brightly colored paper clips.  
2. Fill larger bottles with tri-color pasta, small cookies or miniature soaps and tie on a shiny
3. To create unique gift wrapping paper, buy a scroll of non-tear scroll paper, have the kids draw
    or make hand and foot prints on it.  Grandparents will love it!
4. Give a card to a young family that entitles them to a free baby-sitting session, or shirt ironing
    for a bachelor, or a bi-monthly sightseeing tour for an older adult.
5. Recycle old crayons to make chunky colorful pieces of art. Make paperweights or small
    sculptures with old pieces of crayons.
6. Create a fabulous hand scrub with a Mason jar, sugar and your favorite dish soap.
7. Bake a cake as a gift for a friend or family member using ingredients you already have in your
8. Write out all the steps and ingredients to some of your family’s favorite dishes. Give your
    grandchild or a friend who recently moved out on their own a handmade recipe book with all
    the compilations.
9. Make tiny holiday potpourri pouches from a combination of dried flowers found in your own
    backyard and cooking spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. For more information and
    resources on keeping your family financially fit year-round, visit

United Way Center for Financial Stability

Helping working individuals and families pave a path to financial independence is a top priority for United Way. The United Way Center for Financial Stability provides a full range of services and support – from financial coaching to free tax preparation to employment assistance and more. Branches, formerly South Florida Urban Ministries, is the Center’s operator; Bank of America is the founding partner.   For more information and resources on keeping your family financially fit year-round, visit