Do you have a question about your financial affairs? Financial planning consultant Robert S. Pennartz takes calls at 1-302-654-5556, extension 138 or 1-800-366-0632, extension 138. A selection of these questions and Pennartz's responses are published in this column. Anonymity is assured.)Q. In this uncertain economy, I just can't afford to give my family and all of my friends gifts, and I feel bad about it. I don't want to let people down. Any suggestions?

A. You don't have to feel like Scrooge. In this economy, cutting out unnecessary expenses certainly makes sense. The problem is what some may call unnecessary, others feel is necessary. Take gifts. They are part of the holiday tradition. But if you have a large extended family, buying everyone a nice gift can really add up. There are some cost saving, yet nice and meaningful alternatives, to buying expensive gifts. If your family consists of children and adults, you may make some adjustments for the adults.

Instead of buying a gift for every adult, why not have a gift exchange where you draw names out of a hat and then everyone buys only one gift and receives only one gift.

Homemade gifts are greatly appreciated (homemade holiday cookies, etc.). Teenagers can give grandmom a certificate to shovel the snow at her house throughout the winter. Use your talents and your imagination.

You can also give to a charitable cause in the name of the giftee.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of love and peace for all. Consider some alternatives to over-spending to relieve your financial stress.

o Robert S. Pennartz is a certified financial planner practitioner at the Financial House, a Registered Investment Advisor, in Centreville, Del. He has been named a top advisor by Reuters, the Global Information Company (based on analysis of factors including growth of assets under management and growth of average assets per client relative to his peers). He is a registered representative offering securities through Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation, Member SIPC. Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation and its representatives do not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult your individual tax or legal professional regarding your individual circumstances.

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