Updated on 09.15.14

Eleven Tactics for a Cheaper Christmas

Trent Hamm

Trent(Yes, that’s me in the picture.)

With the Christmas holidays sneaking up on us, we’re very, very glad we saved ahead for the Christmas season around here. In fact, our Christmas shopping is in full swing and we have several people marked off already.

Isn’t that jumping the gun a little? I don’t see it that way at all. Instead, I see it as a recipe for saving money, giving thoughtful gifts, and creating a memorable Christmas holiday.

Tactics to Save Money During Christmastime

Decorate in a sentimental fashion

For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without using a set of handmade Christmas tree ornaments that my mother made for me when I was young. She made a few a year for more than a decade, eventually making a very beautiful set that I remember fondly from my early years. Then, during the first Christmas I had in a home of my own, my mother gave the ornaments to me. They are the centerpiece of all of our decorations. Rather than buying cheap disposable decorations that you’ll toss out in a few years, make your own – high quality ones that will last for many, many years. There are lots of ways to do this – ceramics, wood, and so on. If you don’t have artistic ability, you can still simply seek decorations made by others that are well made, have personal meaning to you, and will last for many years.

Write thoughtful notes, not mindless cards

Several people I know send out about two hundred Christmas cards a year. They’re generic cards, merely signed and without a note – and thus I feel indifference when I look at them. Instead of plopping down money for a mass mailing of meaninglessness, spend some time writing notes to the people you genuinely care about. That way, you’ll reduce your cost (fewer “cards” sent out and less expensive “cards”) and provide something of value to the recipient.

Focus on thoughtful gifts, not showy or expensive

A ten dollar gift that actually matches a recipient well means far more than a thirty dollar gift that’s useless to the recipient. But how can you know what to get? If you’re stymied, make a list of the interests that the recipient has – think hard about it. Then, research one or two of those areas and find intriguing and useful gifts in that area. Know a golf fan? Get that person a box of the latest, greatest balls.

Make gifts for more casual exchanges

Make and can a batch of caramel pear butter, for example, and give away jars of this in an exchange. It’s a gift that most people will appreciate and if you make a large batch of it, it’s pretty cheap per jar. In fact, my wife and I are planning on giving many people gifts like this for Christmas.

Be selective about the gift exchanges you participate in

In the past, I’ve been encouraged to exchange gifts with as many as ten different groups at Christmastime, each one expecting a gift in the $20-30 range. That wound up being very, very expensive – and very time-consuming, too. Instead of just agreeing to be in every gift exchange that comes along, bow gracefully out of a few. Suggest to the people involved that they just skip the exchange and instead just have a pleasant potluck dinner instead, saving everyone some cash.

Set a strict dollar limit for what you will spend on each person

When you’re writing your list, set a dollar cap that you’ll spend on each person and literally write it next to that person’s name. This will help keep your focus – just like a shopping list.

Buy one nice gift instead of multiple less expensive gifts

When buying gifts for a spouse or a parent or a child, you may be tempted to buy a lot of gifts. The problem with buying a lot of gifts is that not only do you avoid putting as much thought into each one, you also end up restricting your gifts to inexpensive items. Instead, focus on one or two very nice gifts instead – ones that you can put a lot of thought into selecting the right thing.

Start shopping now for those gifts – the earlier the better

Right now is the best time to start that Christmas buying process – in fact, you’re better off starting even earlier. Think of ideas, write them down, and seek them out through comparison shopping. The longer in advance you plan a gift, the more time you have to wait for the perfect price on eBay or by comparison shopping.

Stagger gift purchases so that you’re not putting the purchases on credit

Many people go on a giant rush of buying right after Thanksgiving, then are hammered with a huge credit card bill in late December or early January. Don’t let that happen to you. Buy a few gifts now, a few more in a few weeks, and so on – and consider paying in cash, too. This way, you won’t face the mountain of purchases all on one bill (or set of bills that arrive at the same time).

Use newsprint for wrapping paper

Few things make better wrapping paper than newsprint. It looks distinctive, it can be colorful if you choose the right pieces (like the comic pages), and it’s basically free. Isn’t it better to spend an extra $10 on someone’s gift than wasting it on paper that just gets torn up on Christmas morning?

Start an automatic savings plan for NEXT Christmas NOW

Seriously. You have roughly 60 weeks until next Christmas. Start putting $5 a week away right now. Putting that in a savings account that returns 3% annually would give you $305 to spend on next year’s Christmas expenses – just $5 a week!

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  1. Susy says:

    I buy gifts throughout the year when I see them on sale or clearance. For my family we have a “homemade” Christmas. Only homemade gifts can be exchanged and only $10 can be spent on supplies per family. This is so fun and our Christmas gatherings are much more meaningful. We have a good time trying to come up with new & fun homemade gifts each year. This year I’m giving baskets full of chutneys, fruit butters and a few pancake mixes. The best part is that since they’re edible items, nothing to clutter up the recipients home.

    Trent, you and your wife could make beer as gifts as well, I’m sure that would be a hit!

  2. Stacey says:

    Ditto on the homemade gifts – and preserved gifts (i.e. canned) are much better than fresh, because you aren’t forced to eat or trash three dozen brownies during the holidays.

    A note on cards and wrapping paper: It’s too late now, but the best time to buy holiday supplies is January. We have a closet devoted to birthdays, holidays, ect. and refill our Christmas card and paper supply after the holidays at 75% off. Just don’t go overboard – we give very few wrapable gifts, and I have eight rolls of wrapping paper right now! I may invite my friends over for wrapping parties this year.

  3. Adam says:

    Something that always helped us at Christmas is the Discover Card since it offers cash back on timely payments. We put all purchases on it throughout the year, paying the bill off every month. By the time the holidays roll around we have a nice chunk of change from Discover we use for gifts.

  4. My family instituted the “draw” this year whereby we have to purcahse a gift for just one other person in the family and not everyone.
    This is meant to help save both money and time this season.
    The most important thing is that we will all be celebrating together.

  5. My view on Christmas is that it’s really for kids and not adults. We’ve stopped buying gifts for each other amongst my siblings but I buy for my nieces and nephews. There is just one ‘gift exchange group’ I participate in and that’s inexpensive.

  6. Anne says:

    Don’t wrap at all! My family has a set of sturdy, decorative Christmas boxes – purchased on Boxing Day for dirt cheap – that nest inside each other. We write names on sticky notes and put those on top of each box. Then just use a little tissue paper or newspaper per box and you’re done. After gift opening is done the boxes are put away until next year. It probably wouldn’t be fun for little kids but since we’re all old now it’s a great solution. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a pair of goofy socks and a note with “please see car, re: new snow tires” :D

  7. Susan says:

    Great tips and ideas! I started the exact Xmas savings plan last month for next year. $5 a week can go a long way.

  8. Mike P says:

    Andy, my family has done the same thing. Now it’s just the kids who get presents. We all spend less money, and everybody enjoys it just as much.

    On another note, can anbyody else not see the pic at the top of the post?

  9. Kevin says:

    Our family does the same thing as Andy – we stop giving to kids once they graduate high school. Now we just buy for our nieces & nephews (all under 5) since they actually care about presents. My parents still give us a gift (usually money), but that’s about it.

  10. KC says:

    Christmas just isn’t a big deal at my house. I don’t even decorate – no tree, nothing. We don’t have kids and we don’t enjoy it so we don’t do it. As for presents we try to keep them simple. Usually family members only exchange one gift for each person. The families are still small so this works. But for my mother’s and father’s extended families we draw names or we just only get the kids something. But I only buy a gift for my parents, in-laws, 2 brother-in-laws, my sister and my husband. Other than that its the drawing names thing with the extended families.

    As for friends and co-workers we just agree to go to lunch or have a pot luck or something (which we would do anyway). This way no one feels like they are forced to give a gift – we all have different financial situations.

    Anyone else that might come up I just make a big batch of Chex mix and put smaller portions it in a Christmas container. My mother also does this with her fudge. That way if the neighbors or someone shows up unexpected I have something. If not, I eat it!

  11. Abigail says:

    I like the idea of saving all year round. Definitely would make things easier.

    I already got a couple small items for my husband, thanks to some great finds at yard sales and thrift stores — new items, still in shrink wrap.

    Normally, I’d say he and I could go without presents, but it’s our first Christmas as a married couple, so I do want to exchange some small presents.

    But we definitely plan to enjoy the season cheaply.There are plenty of cheap events in our area to enjoy, if we feel Christmas-y. And for me, a big part of the season is just putting up and decorating the tree.

    Okay, that and all the Christmas cookies.

  12. Carrie says:

    I have tried for the past 5 years to get my own family and the in-laws on board with many of these ideas. They absolutely will not do it. Even my husband insists on getting me a bunch of little inexpensive gifts (which I love — many of them are from Trader Joe’s and I love food!), but I’d prefer to go without gifts at all. Unfortunately, I’m an island in this battle, so I gave up. It’s more important to see the family happy.

  13. gsb says:

    On one side of my family we do a $5 fun gift that would work for anyone. Each person draws a number and the first person takes a gift. If the second person wants the gift they take it from the first person or if they want they take a new gift from the pile…and it goes around like that until everyone has a gift. It’s quite fun to see what you can get for $5.
    In other family exchanges we have done all homemade gifts and have also set dollar limits. This year we’re considering buying only for the children.

  14. DD says:

    I ended up being the one to kill “the draw” in my family.

    It started out a $20 limit and everything was fine for a couple of years, but then a cousin of mine convinced everybody that the limit should be raised to $40.

    I then said my wife & I would opt out and pandemonium broke out!
    The next thing you know it was over.

  15. Jillian says:

    The pear butter recipe looks yummy! I don’t suppose you know if it can be made in a breadmaker? My breadmaker has a jam setting (I guess Americans call it ‘jelly’) but I’ve never used it so I don’t really know what it does…

  16. claire says:

    Trent can you please write something which appeals to childless couples who are not in debt and who do not celebrate christmas and who are not interested in cloth nappies and making your own washing powder and other stuff like that



  17. leslie says:

    Claire – May I suggest this is perhaps not the blog for you?

  18. mtn girl says:

    My husband’s family used to do the “draw” but we were the ones to end that when after several years in a row we got his step-brother or his step-brother’s wife (lovely people but husband was in late 20’s when they joined the family and we had never even met them because we lived in a different state). This year all my husband’s family will be together for Christmas (the true gift in my opinion)and we are doing a “gift exchange” where each person that wants to participate brings a gift and every one takes turns choosing from the pile. The only rules are the gift must be $10 or less and not a gag gift. It should be lots of fun since the age range of the participants is 10 to 80.

    For many years we have reused gift boxes and bags for our own Christmas. Our kids look forward to opening the gifts that are in “their” boxes.

  19. Mike Dunham says:

    Newspaper? Really? You can be frugal without being cheap.

    My family uses cloth gift bags. Basically you cut two pieces of cloth, hem one side on each and sew up the other three sides (picture a pillowcase). Near the open end, make sure you sew a doubled-over length of ribbon. Then you put the gift in the bag and tie the end shut – pretty handy for odd-shaped items, and you can make a bag any size you need. The bags are endlessly reusable (green!), and frankly, as often as not the bags themselves are as much of a gift as what’s inside. It’s a treat to get a gift a year (or two or five) later in the bag you made. As for cost – cloth is cheap enough anyway, but you can get all kinds of holiday patterns at deep discounts just after Christmas.

  20. Leslie, I am laughing my butt off here at your comment.

    We’ve saved up this year, so there is a nice little pile of money in our ING savings account, and it’s making me feel SO good about Christmas this year.

  21. Momma says:

    Gosh, I’ve seen lots of posts about Christmas lately. Guess it’s time to post something about Christmas on Engineer a Debt Free Life too!

    Feature blogger at Engineer a Debt Free Life

  22. Meri says:

    My family has also stopped purchasing gifts for each other but we still run through the same amount of money. How? Because we decided years ago that we would take the money typically spent on gifts for each other and instead donate it to a charity of one of the family member’s choice. One year I chose the charity, the next my sister, and this year it’s my mother’s turn. We’re all adults, we are all comfortable enough with our incomes to buy whatever we truly need, so why load each other down with more “stuff”? Makes us all feel good and we still love the time together as a family.

  23. Lynette says:

    I agree with everyone else that the best time to buy Christmas cards, decorations etc is at the end of December to January. I stocked up last year and now I have enough Christmas cards and decorations to last me many years to come!

    A good hamper makes a great useful Christmas gift. Get a cardboard box and decorate it with some wrapping paper. Then put useful things inside it like cheap lollie packs, cake mixes, chocolates, pancake mixes, cookies etc

  24. Jade says:

    Trent, you’re not the only one who’s already started Christmas shopping. I usually buy my dad’s present in October, and it just came in the mail a few days ago. I always get him a t-shirt with some funny saying printed on it from a catalog I get around this time of the year, and he wears the t-shirts until they wear out. Sometimes they offer a better price per t-shirt if you get 2 or 3, so I’ll usually take advantage of that and get his birthday present while I’m at it. Having the birthday present now really helps because I do taxes seasonally and his b-day is right after tax season and the last thing I want to do after tax season is go gift shopping.

    Most of my friends are figure skaters, so skating ornaments, socks, skate tape, guards, soakers, and/or gloves, along with a card and a small tin of my homemade fudge are all appreciated.

    My boyfriend and I have agreed on a $10 spending limit for each other, but sometimes we go beyond that if we find a great deal on something that the other person really needs, like my raincoat or his magazine subscription. But we tend to stick to just a little bit of candy and a card. He gets me a gigantic Hershey kiss, I give him homemade fudge, he makes a homemade card, and I dig through cards at Target to get the funniest, cutest romantic Christmas card I can find.

    My mom’s side of the family… I’m tired of stressing about what to give them, so we came to an agreement last year that I wouldn’t buy them anything and they wouldn’t get me anything. Works out great. I usually bring some homemade fudge and cookies anyway, some cards from a box of funny cards I got on sale after Christmas the previous year, and cash for my mom instead of a card, because that’s what she always asks for when someone gives her a card.

    Anyone else that makes their way onto my gift list gets a card and/or a small tin of homemade fudge, and/or a gift certificate to a store/restaurant that I own stock in. I think that’s what I’ll do this year for my dad’s new girlfriend, because I have no idea what else to get her…

    This reminds me, I need to go update my Amazon.com wish list. My friends really appreciate it when I do that a few months before Christmas…

  25. almost there says:

    “Are there no prisons… and the Union workhouses, are they still in operation?”

    My favorite line for that time of year. christmas trees are fine but blowing the budget on gifts, wrappings and decor is mindless consumerism. I lose each year as my spouse is caught up in the crazyness. (I think women should stay in groups of two or less from Thanksgiving through New Year’s day because they tend to infect each other with shopitis when the get in groups) We still have gifts of soap and knick knacks in their gift bags we received last year. I can’t see the giving of small meaningless gifts. I would rather take the cash and give it to someone who can really use it. DON’T FLAME ME, BRO! This is tongue in cheek:)

  26. I have been using Send Out Cards for over a year now, it’s a great business tool that will grow your business by keeping in touch with clients and prospects. You can mail out 100 Christmas cards to your contacts in about 60 seconds – for under a buck a card (which includes postage).

  27. SouthernMyst says:

    I agree on the sentimental decorations. When my mom first was in her own place, away from her parents, she (as most people) had no Christmas decorations — not even ornaments for the tree. So she went out and got a bunch of cheap, tacky ones. After that, she decided that every year, each member of her immediate family would get one really nice ornament (sometimes at the after-Christmas sales, depending on how things went) for the tree, and we would keep those and take them with us when we moved out, so we wouldn’t have that problem. Now, I generally loathe decorating for holidays, but I adore decorating the Christmas tree, because it’s a trip down memory lane. Every ornament has a story, and is special. It’s the only way I think it should be; getting a bunch of matching silver balls never made sense to me, as that’s as special as a department store tree.

    And yes, I also thoroughly agree with matching the recipient and the gift being far more important than the amount of money spent on it. This is a reason why I’m not a fan of either gift exchanges at work, or draws in the family, where each person is only responsible for getting a gift for one other person. Because then, each person goes into it with a mindset of price tags: “I spent $40 on Jill, so whoever got me *better* have also spent $40!” And that’s the wrong spirit, altogether.

    Plus, the comment that “Christmas is for kids, not for adults” is complete bunk. The underlying assumption there is that Christmas = presents, and there’s so much more — or there can be, if you want. Even for me, who isn’t Christian at all, Christmas is a special time of family and friends, of slowing down and catching up with those who’ve been busy with life, of finding out what my more distant friends and family have been up to all year, of good times and lots of laughs. If you don’t want to exchange presents with adults, that’s your prerogative, but don’t equate gifts with Christmas: it’s a fallacy.

  28. kristine says:

    The best investment I ever made for gift giving was an apple-peeler-corer-slicer. I buy “as-is” mac and granny smith apples when apples are in season and inexpesive anyway; late fall. I throw the prepared apples into my 12Qt stock pot, filling it to the brim, add a half-cup of water, turn it on low, and walk away. Once in a while I stir. Many hours later I have the most delicious, completley natural applesauce you can imagine. No other ingredients are necessary, unless you want a dash of cinnamon.

    I get rubber-gasket glass jars from the dollar store, or yard sales, and fill them up. I tie some gingham ribbon, or even just curly ribbon around the top, with a little handwritten label “Homeade Applesauce… Ingredients: apples, and love.” It costs about a buck fifty per jar (max), and it is a gift that is looked forward to every year!

    As far as non-perishable gifts- I finished for Christmas this year in July. I use excel for all of my giftgiving year round, and have it set up to automatically show the average amount per month I spend as I enter each gift price in the “actual” column. (as opposed to the budgeted column). It is organized by month, and I stay 3-6 months ahead, so I never, ever, have to stress and find something last minute.

    I also keep a supply of gifts on hand for my kids as I see them on clearance, for the unexpected party. Who doesn’t love a plastic pig catapult gun? Any my teens now make funny powerpoints for their friends’ birthdays, using pictures of them together. They throw it on a CD, and design a cover.

    I challenge myself every year to make the amount per month lower and lower, by making more gifts! the funny thing is, as the amount goes down, the gifts become more meaningful, or practical, or both!

  29. kristine says:

    Note: you freeze the applesauce in plastic containers until it is time to thaw in the fridge for gifts.

  30. Kelly says:

    @Mike: I’m making cloth wrapping ‘paper’ this year (not just bags– all forms of reusable fabric wrapping) in an effort to be more sustainable and frugal and crafty. My nagging question– there’s a large up-front cost to this project. And then, it’s not certain that *I’ll* be the one reusing all the wrapping. So aside from just enjoying the process, how do I maximize my return on this project? (The gift of frugality?)

  31. ablemabel says:

    @Kelly – you can save money on the fabric by buying pretty sheets, pillowcases, etc, at thrift stores and garage sales. You can often find fabric there as well. Also, for the gifts we wrap in fabric when we are present when they open them, the recipient usually hands the fabric back to us, since they don’t know what to do with it! by the way there is a great website showing how to wrap gifts in fabric using all these Japanese wrapping methods, unfortunately I lost the link but maybe you can google for it.

  32. glenn says:

    My inlaws started using newspaper as wrapping paper several years ago when they moved at Christmas time. My mother in-law didn’t have time to buy wrapping paper and just used newspaper as it came out of the moving boxes. By the way, they still use newspaper and trash bags as main means of wrapping gifts and they are on a 6 figure annual income.

  33. Ryan says:

    In my wife’s family we did away with the gift exchange at Christmas. Instead we pool the money we would have spent on trinkets for each other and use that money to anonymously bless one family with cash, gift certificates, food, etc. that is having struggles that year from our community. It could be a neighbor, a family from one of our churches, or an acquaintance. The families have never found out who their gift givers were and we expect nothing in return from these families. We feel it is our priviledge to bless another family just as the Lord has bleesed us. Very inspirational and I feel sets a good example for the younger generation in the family. It really helps us all to focus on the true reason behind Christmas.

  34. kristine says:

    Freecycle.org is great for fabric too. Buying new fabric is unecessary. Besides- new printed fabric smells like formaldehyde.

  35. Marie says:

    I’m glad to see the Christmas decorations out already. I think 4 weeks is simply to short for such a wonderful season!

    Having 10 neices/nephews to buy for, I actually start buying in June or July. One or two gifts a week. I believe I already have everyone done with with the exception of my 2 children.

    Thanks for a great post!

  36. AndreaM says:

    Today I read a “saving money” suggestion in the San Francisco Chronicle that made me realize there are good and not-so-good ways to economize. The suggestion was “fire the babysitter, start a babysitting coop to share sitting with other families” So, I’m thinking…when I reduce or remove my babysitter’s income she has less to spend on clothes, food, books, etc, which reduces the income of stores in my town, which lay off employees who then don’t hire babysitters at all, further reducing the babysitter’s income. Seems like lowered spending equals fewer jobs equals lower spending. Hmmm.

    This concept actually has a name (my economist husband tells me) The Paradox of Thrift: if everybody saves, the country is impoverished.
    We need to think carefully about how our reduced spending impacts others. My plan is to cut way back on the lower quality items I purcahse and concentrate my budget on really good quality, even though I will have to pay more for them (usually).

  37. Lisa says:

    My family knows that their gifts are very likely to come from yard sales, thrift stores, and used bookstores. And I am totally happy to receive gifts from those sources. Yard sales are also great places to get wrapping paper. And if you are buying, favorite food gifts can come from the grocery store – I usually like to get pistachios and whipped cream for my dad, because my mom is too frugal to buy those for him on a regular basis.

  38. Maha says:

    Wow, I’m so envious of the ideas posted and the family’s willingness to do them. For years on my husband’s side of the family, we drew names and had a dollar limit. But no one ever wanted to draw names before Thanksgiving (no planning abilities), so we were often left buying things at full price. Last year one of the family members couldn’t afford to participate in the exchange, and that really bothered me (and my husband, but no one else, it seems). This year (just last week!) I suggested a white elephant exchange game, but with nice gifts for around $10 or gifts that are homemade. Oh, my goodness. Some people were opposed to it because they didn’t want a homemade gift, or were afraid of getting something they couldn’t use (like wine or coffee for the none drinkers). I felt like the whole Christmas spirit wasn’t even in the picture. In the end, someone suggested we don’t exchange gifts at all, but was incredibly rude about my idea, thinking I was doing it for my own financial reasons. It was hurtful, because I was actually thinking of his sister. In the end, I’m sort of glad to not have to deal with buying these fussy people anything, but at the same time I’m sad that they couldn’t see beyond their own pettiness. I thought homemade gifts would have been fun, but I guess not everyone feels that way. I also love the idea of cloth wrapping paper – it has a very Little House on the Prairie feel. I can at least do that with just my family.

    Anyway, for my kids and husband, I buy through out the year, and through some deal sites (like dealnews), I’m able to get some nice things for great prices. Now I only have one or two items left and the stocking stuffers to get.

  39. Christy says:

    Thanks for the great pear butter recipe. Someone gave us several pounds of pears that needed lots of “trimming” and we don’t really need pies or cakes at our house so this is perfect.
    If you do need to buy Christmas items-decor, wrapping paper or etc. Only buy it on after Christmas sales.I also tend to buy any paperware, silverware and etc in red when it goes on sale because it can be used for so many holidays-Christmas,Valentine,patriotic and etc.

  40. Karin says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months and enjoy it so much.

    One of the coolest things I’ve done for holiday shopping this year (uh huh, I’m almost done) is to utilize the ‘gift card’ options that we have on our World Points credit card. We have been in the “black hole of debt” and have worked hard to polish up our credit scores. After paying off all of our debt (except for our house and car), we now pay everything off EVERY MONTH. I now use our credit cards to pay for things for which I would normally pay cash (groceries, gas, dining out). I’m earning points along the way. A few weeks ago, I went online and ordered great gift cards, including: iTunes, Macy’s, and Best Buy. I will make a card for each recipient and tell them to enjoy shopping on us.

    I realize this won’t work for everyone and don’t recommend it for anyone who doesn’t pay off their credit cards each month. It has taken me 30+ years of earning, saving, spending to learn how to maximize dollars. I’ve made my fair share of bad decisions along the way; but, have also made some smart decisions as well.

    Thanks for a great blog-when I am finished reading, I always feel like I have read something from a trusted friend.

  41. K says:

    I am childless, debt free, do not use cloth diapers or make my own detergent, but I still find lots of useful information on this blog. These tips are about offering ways to save money and then you choose the ones that fit your lifestyle by sacrificing things that are less of a priority for you. You may not find making laundry soap worth it since you can get it on sale with a coupon for nearly the same price (as I do.) Then read Trent’s article about coupon clipping and skip the laundry article. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then apply these tips to Birthday or other gifts you have to buy or else skip the article and read what is more important to you.

  42. Battra92 says:

    Well, my birthday came and went in the last week and I tried the whole frugal approach but people really took this in another extreme. ^_^;;

    For Christmas this year I’ve been shopping around at used bookstores (as well as Amazon Used & New) as well as cashing in some points I had from Pepsi (I get a ton of these points at work) to pick up a few things for people at no cost for myself.

    So far I’ve got 2 out of 7 people done and have spent $7. I’m planning on getting a couple more items this week and will be done before Thanksgiving. :) For 7 people (all adults) I plan on spending much less than $150.

    Oh, and I’m childless, single, I give my laundry to my parents (since I have so little and a laundromat is expensive) and I still find the site useful – most of the time.

  43. I really think the last tip is the best – I know that I should set aside a bit throughout the year but never seem to get it down.

    I am also worried this year about having to pick up gifts for two children (10 and 4). They seem to believe that more gifts is better rather than appreciate one nice gift.

  44. Karen Taylor says:

    I have had a Christmas account for several years and boy has that saved me. I get it the beginning of November but if I see something earlier I get it with cash. I make homemade items for co-workers, etc. And like Trent, have a list with names and dollar amounts so I don’t go over my dollar limit plus put ideas on it during the year. Helps to make things less stressful.

  45. Kristen says:

    Christmas Cookies… HUNDREDS of them. Everyone gets cookies from me, the only gifts I buy are for my parents, bf and brother. Everyone else gets cookies! But everyone waits all year for those cookies and they love them.

    I wish I could convince my bf’s sister-in-law that I don’t need a gift, she’s very sweet and has good intentions but I always end up with something I don’t need or want. I’d be happy with a card and a small box of chocolates or something consumable. The bf’s family can get very go big or go home about Christmas…

    We run the yours, mine and ours financial system in our house, so he buys the gifts for his side of the family and I buy the gifts for mine (we both pick them out, but that’s how the dollars break down and even his side get the cookies!). It works because we have roughly the same amount of family on both sides, and then if he wants to go overboard, I don’t have to break my budget.

    We also re-use gifts bags. Next to nothing gets wrapped, it’s all gifts bags and everyone on both sides keep them and re-use them so the system works well for us.

  46. Mike Dunham says:

    @Kelly: In our family, it grew kind of organically. A couple of the ladies made a BUNCH of bags one year, which inspired most of the rest of the family to make a few the next year, and so on. We’ve expanded it beyond the family in several cases – we gave a gift to a friend in one of the bags, and her family (probably 40 folks) now uses them.

    As mentioned, if you hunt around you can get deals on the fabric. The rest is just time in front of a sewing machine. You’re right, it’s a big upfront cost (relatively speaking), but it repays you for years down the road that you don’t have to spend a dime on additional wrapping stuff. Plus there are the intangible benefits – you’re being green, the gift is more special because it’s wrapped in something handmade, a year or two later you might get the same bag back and have more fond memories, etc.

  47. Joshua says:

    Well, all I can say is WOW… there are some GREAT ideas here. I tended to think that I was the only one who thought of more inexpensive ways to save for Christmas, but apparently, there is a flock of savers here !! ;)

    For the last couple of years I have used catalogues to order presents. One or two of those, along with a list ( with $$ amount for each person ) and I am through shopping without even having to go outside. Saves me time and energy and I can mark things and come back to them later.

  48. Bonnie says:

    My family cannot seem to make “no gifts” stick, either. Every year my dad tells everyone not to buy anything for each other, and every year, everyone ignores that and buys gifts anyway. My grandmother and aunt say they like buying things for “the kids”…problem is, “the kids” are my brother and myself, aged 28 and 32, respectively. :P One thing I do is start buying gifts in October, so that my purchases are spread out over 4 or 5 paychecks. I do try to buy some gifts from independent, locally-owned stores in my city…but I would be lying if I said I didn’t use Amazon for a lot of gifts. It’s hard to beat the prices and selection. And it doesn’t involve visiting a mall.

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