12 days of holiday tips

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By Maryellen Garrison

Here are some tips to help over the holidays and if you want more information go online to the government websites listed.

Celebrate on a budget

The holidays can be expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to celebrate. Taking a few minutes to plan your holiday spending can help you avoid taking on debt. Start by creating a holiday spending plan, keep track of what you spend, avoid impulse purchases, and leave the credit cards at home.  www.consumerfinance.gov/plan-your-spending-to-avoid-holiday-debt/

Find seasonal 

Even in a tough economy, businesses still need extra help around the holidays. Seasonal employment can help supplement your income and it could lead to a permanent position. If you need to update your resume, this site will help create one that will stand out:   www.careeronestop.org/resumeguide/introduction.aspx  

Get more online tools to help with your job search at:  www.doleta.gov/jobseekers/find_job.cfm

Save money with LED holiday lights

Electricity bills can grow during the holidays if you decorate with strings of lights. Light-emitting diode, or LED, holiday lights offer an alternative to traditional lights and save both energy and money. The Department of Energy estimates that if every household switched to LED holiday lights, the country would save approximately $410 million in electricity costs. www.energysavers.gov/seasonal/led_lighting.html

Pay attention to portion sizes

It can be hard to choose healthy foods when the holidays are filled with temptations like sweets and desserts. One way to maintain your weight over the holidays is to enjoy your meals, but avoid oversized portions. It’s also important to balance food choices with physical activity to avoid weight gain. www.choosemyplate.gov/

Shop online to save money and time

Shopping online can help you stick to a budget because you may be less tempted to buy unnecessary items on display at the store. Look for coupons and promotion codes, free shipping offers, and return policies before you buy. Also, be sure to check holiday ordering deadlines to make sure your gifts will arrive in time. www.usa.gov/topics/consumer/smart-shopping/home-shopping.shtml

Prevent holiday fires

Every holiday season, fires claim the lives of more than 400 people and cause more than $990 million in damage. You can keep your family safe by using nonflammable decorations, not overloading electrical sockets, and avoiding the use of lighted candles. If you have a live Christmas tree, water it regularly. Dry trees could catch on fire and rapidly and fill your room with smoke and deadly gases. www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/holiday-seasonal/holiday.shtm

Buy safe toys

As the holidays approach and toy catalogs arrive in the mail, shoppers can become overwhelmed with all the choices. To keep kids safe, make sure to choose age-appropriate toys and look for labels with safety advice. For young children, avoid toys with small parts, sharp edges, and electric toys that can heat up. Always purchase safety gear in addition to sports-related gifts or ride-on toys, such as bicycles or skateboards. www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/281.html

Give the gift of service

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give to others is service. If you spend three hours a week reading to a child, that child is twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading. If you work to secure food donations for a local soup kitchen or food bank, you are directly providing meals to hungry individuals. www.serve.gov/

Get through the holiday blues

The holidays are a joyous time of the year for many people, which can make it more stressful if you are depressed. Exercise, focusing on positive relationships, and doing things that you find rewarding can help with depression. Winter depression could be a sign of seasonal affective disorder, which is caused by the lack of sunlight. www.healthfinder.gov/news/newsstory.aspx?docID=647445

Reduce holiday waste

The holiday season includes many opportunities to reduce waste, recycle, and reuse items. Think about the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money. If you plan to send greeting cards, consider purchasing ones that are made of recycled paper, or save postage costs and reduce waste by sending electronic greetings. www.epa.gov/wastes/wycd/funfacts/holidays.htm

Keep food safe

Holiday buffets are convenient ways to entertain a crowd, but leaving food out for long periods of time can invite bacteria that cause foodborne illness. To keep your holiday foods safe, cook them thoroughly, use shallow containers, never leave them sitting out for more than two hours, and keep them at the appropriate temperature. www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Focus_On_Holiday_or_Party_Buffets/index.asp
Fly through airport security

You can get through the airport security line faster by traveling with unwrapped gifts and following the guidelines at  www.tsa.gov/311/ when carrying on liquids, including liquid food items like cranberry sauce and gravy. You can also use the My TSA app or mobile website if you’re at the airport and need last-minute information about what you can and can’t bring through security. www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/holiday.sht.