Christmas on a Shoestring

Monday, October 11, 2010

Christmas on a Shoestring

With all of the economic uncertainty many people are looking for ways to save money in every

area they can. With Christmas fast approaching, and my budget quite tight, I am planning

ahead to celebrate the holiday this year without needing a financial recovery period afterward,

not to mention with a bit less stress! Here are some of the ideas that I came up with.

Shop year-round to get the best deals.

  1. There’s no reason to wait until November or December to begin your Christmas shopping.

    I like to begin looking for great bargains for everyone on my list throughout the year. End-

    of-season sales are a great time to pick up clothes to set aside for gifts. Also, watch out for

    changes in a product line -- whether it’s electronics or dishes because you can often pick up last

    year’s model for less than the new model and often the differences are barely recognizable.
  2. Stock up your pantry with those items which may be more expensive due to greater demand

    around the holidays. Also, as store change out their selections they will often clear out older

    merchandise. If it’s got a long shelf-life, pick it up and save it.
  3. Plan your holiday menu based on what you have on hand rather than planning it and then

    going out and buying what you need. Another option is to do what I do; I plan my menu months

    ahead to make sure I can get what I need at the best prices possible
  4. I greatly enjoy serving fruit during the holidays to my family as well as for parties, but fruit

    can be quite expensive in December. Since many deserts and dishes use frozen fruit, I look for

    good deals during the summer and freeze it meaning I don’t have to spend on the fruit later.
  5. If you, like me, just have to have a real tree for it to be Christmas, then a great money saving

    tip is to get your tree on Christmas Eve when many sellers will be marking them down. This

    isn’t universally true and you will need to be prepared for disappointment, but you will get to

    know the places where you can go at the last minute. At first this was hard for me -- there’s

    nothing I like better during the weeks leading up to Christmas than sitting in our living room,

    sipping hot chocolate, and looking at the decorated tree, but we’ve established some traditions

    that have made it easier. We have great family time on Christmas Eve, working together to trim

    the tree and singing carols as we do it. We also have a tree in our front yard that we have been

    growing for several years that I decorate early in the season.


  1. Make your own ornaments to decorate the tree and decorations for the house. You can use

    old Christmas cards to create striking ornaments with festive colors, pictures, and designs.
  2. We make our own wrapping paper by buying from plain brown paper and letting the kids draw

    and write messages for the recipients. This gives a real personal touch and involves everyone

    in the gift giving.
  3. Homemade gifts are a great way to save money and show that you care. Our gifts this year

    will include herbed soaps and candles and homemade teas, (we have actually grown our own

    herbs!). Homemade bread, cookies, and other foods are also big hits every year. The kids

    love the gingerbread men kits that I put together with marshmallows, caramel, and, of course,

    gingerbread cookies.

Keep it local.

  1. Visiting light displays and live nativities are a great way to spend less while celebrating the

    holidays. We have our list of favorite neighborhoods and areas that we visit every year and add

    more as we find them. We make a plan and go out at least one evening per week to see the

    lights. Add in some homemade hot chocolate and you have a great Christmas season family

  2. Be on the lookout for churches and other organizations having free sing-alongs, concerts,

    and plays. Community bulletin boards (in the library, for example) and free local papers are

    good places to check for these events.
  3. Our caroling parties are the highlight of the Christmas season. We usually have 30 to

    40 adults and children who attend to spread Christmas cheer around our neighborhood.

    Afterwards we have a cookie exchange and everyone brings their favorite finger foods and

    drinks. We supply plates and napkins along with punch and hot chocolate.
  4. When entertaining we use our regular plates and cloth napkins. The up-front cost is a bit

    higher than paper, but we save money in the long run and people love the added touch that it

    gives our parties and meals.

These are just a few ideas that we have come up with to celebrate the season in style without

going bankrupt. The main thing to do is be creative and everyone will enjoy the time that you

can spend together making it a memorable holiday.

Isabella York is a mother dedicated to living prudently but not giving up her life in the process. Along with raising her son, she works for Balsam Hill, a purveyor of Artificial Christmas Trees.

1 comment:

  1. Some of the things we've done over the years to minimize expenses are:
    1. Give family gifts instead of individual gifts when possible. Some years, we make the same handmade gift for each family and are able to save money and time that way.
    2. Use your talents. My brother-in-law is a graphic designer and he has given prints of his artwork as well as framed family names done in calligraphy.
    3. Handmade ornaments and decorations as gifts. Some of my favorite gifts fall in this category. My sister sends a handmade ornament each year and I treasure them! Some have the year on them or our names and I think of each passing year as I look at them. My sister-in-law made a wreath with cute felt stockings that held gift cards. It was wrapped in Christmas lights and we continue to use it as a decoration even though the cards were spent years ago. We made reversible table runners for family gifts one year. One side had Christmas fabric and the other side was for our favorite football team. It was a hit and they all still use them.

    I love hearing everyone's ideas for a frugal/affordable Christmas.


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