‘Tis the season for spending: Families in Hampton Roads have tips to afford the holidays

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Sylvia Wentworth and her fiancé Michael Chicon have two different faiths and four kids. “I start (preparing for the holidays) really early, I start at the beginning of November to plan it out,” she said.

With Hanukkah it’s eight nights of gift giving, weeks before Christmas even arrives.

“That’s 32 presents right off the bat,” Chicon said.

“I have a 20-person table for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas all in one month. That’s a huge cost,” Wentworth said.

Michael Chicon and Sylvia Wentworth are trying to come up with the right recipe for making ends meet when the holiday season is costing more than it used to.

“I’m always the one doing the food shopping so I kind of see it dead-on,” he said.

Across town, Sarah Skinner, her husband and their two kids hit the roads for the holidays. They just returned from Michigan for Thanksgiving, and will go to upstate New York for Christmas, all at a time when the price at the pump is up about 40% from last year.

“It’s costing me $70 to $80 now to fill up my tank, which is not great,” she said.

Even affording the Christmas tree was a tall order. “It was about $30 more this year for the tree itself.”

The Consumer Price Index is up from last year, but gas and energy costs are the main culprit.

“When we’re buying groceries, when we’re going out to eat, when we’re going to a movie theatre is up 5 to 6 percent over the past 12 months, and that’s even before you go to the gasoline station and put gas in your car,” said Bob McNab, professor of economics at Old Dominion University.

McNab says three factors are driving inflation right now: supply chain problems, where both manufacturers and shipping companies are still trying to recover after cutting back during the pandemic; we’re spending more money, incomes are up, and unemployment is down; and global oil production is down.

“The good news is that wages are up, but the typical wage increase is not accommodating for the increase in inflation,” said McNab, who expects inflation to continue through at least the first half of next year.

It all means it’s the time of the year for being cost-conscious, crafty and clever. If you can, buy in bulk.

“I just bought a huge 12-pack of candles. Everybody likes a candle, so everybody that came to a house got a candle instead of something individual that I usually would have purchased for them,” Wentworth said.

“You’ll want to maneuver a little bit and pivot. Maybe certain cuts of certain things you would normally get, kind of side-step and grab another cut of meat,” Chicon said.

“My daughter likes to do crafts so we’re gonna do some Christmas crafts and make our own ornaments this year,” Skinner said. “I’m a big baker so a lot of people are getting baked gifts this year. Try a new recipe and take it to the neighbors or go to a craft store and they have so many cool kits and they’re really inexpensive. Try to make a gift instead of spending a lot of money on a gift.”

Chicon has another tip — the Getupside app. He says he uses it regularly when filling up his tank. It gives you a rebate when you buy gas.

Sarah Skinner has some additional suggestions.

“Many grocery stores offer fuel points. Take advantage of them. I’ve saved up to $1 a gallon,” she said. “Churches and schools offer many free activities to put you in the holiday spirit, and thrift stores have tons of holiday décor and clothes (think ugly sweaters) for reduced prices. Consider hosting a pot luck, if everyone brings a dish, it takes away the strain of preparing/spending money on the entire meal.”

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