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25 “Merry & Bright” Ways To Save On Christmas Spending This Year

According to this year’s National Retail Federation holiday survey, Americans will spend an average of $967.13 this season on gifts, cards, decorations, and food. That’s a hefty chunk of change! Especially when you consider there are 13.6 million Americans who are still trying to pay off holiday debt from last year! Don’t join them. There are plenty of ways to trim the Christmas budget without being a Scrooge.

Let’s start with the BIG one…..


If you are going to buy gifts this year (and really, who isn’t going to buy at least SOME gifts!?), the key to avoiding overspending is planning.

Budget for Gifts
You budget for housing, food, utilities, cars….budgeting for gifts just makes sense. Start with a list of people you need to get gifts for. To keep it reasonable, limit it to those closest to you (sure the mailman is nice, but not nice enough to go in debt for!) Then set a spending limit for each gift.

Use Discounted Gift Cards
You can purchase discounted gift cards for hundreds of retailers including the Apple Store, Sears, Home Depot, and others. Discounts are usually 5%-30% off the face value of the card. Check out GiftCards.com and Cardpool.com.

Find Discount Codes
Before you buy anything online make one quick stop at RetailMeNot.com and FreeShipping.org to find all the available discounts for your store. This can save you BIG time and it only takes a minute!

Work Your Social Media
Before you start shopping, start following your favorite retailers on Twitter and Facebook. Many companies offer discounts exclusively to their Twitter followers and Facebook friends. A quick search of their recent posts may reveal money-saving discounts.

Use The Envelope System (see previous blog post HERE.)
Leave your credit cards and debit cards at home. Allocate an amount of money for each gift, and put that money in separate envelopes marked with the recipients’ names. When it’s gone, you’re done.

Consider A Group Gift
When exchanging presents with a large group of people (like at work), even “token” gifts can add up. Try a “white elephant” exchange, a secret Santa strategy, or going in with co-workers on a gift for the boss.

It’s Not About You
When shopping for gifts, it’s always tempting to throw in a few things you find for yourself in the process. Make this season about others, not you — and remember that the items you want will be less expensive during the after-season sales.

Just Say No to Store Credit Card Offers
It never fails, when you go to make your purchases, the cashier will try and offer you a bonus 10 to 15% off if you sign up for their credit cards. You’ll end up spending more than you would have without the discount AND now you’ll be paying INTEREST! Just say no.

Give Time Instead of Gifts
Offering your time instead of a gift, that will most likely be forgotten, is much more memorable (not to mention meaningful) and much less expensive. A night of babysitting for a new mom or girl’s night out with a friend you rarely see is so much more appealing than a scented candle or a bottle of perfume.


christmas cards

Sending Christmas cards is a nice gesture (and one I personally hate to see go away!) but the cost can add up in a hurry. Here are a few suggestions for making it more affordable.

Don’t Send Cards
As much as it pains me to say that….if Christmas cards are more of an obligation than something you feel strongly about…it doesn’t make sense to keep doing it.

Trim Your List
A less drastic approach could be to take a look at your list and trim it to just the people you are still in contact with AND that you won’t actually be seeing over the holidays. That could cut down a list considerably!

Send Christmas Post Cards
They require less postage than Christmas cards.

Make Your Own Cards
Store-bought cards can be pricey, get the kids involved and make some old fashioned homemade cards with construction paper and lots of glue and glitter! OR….there are tons of cute and FREE printables online. Google it.

Send E-Cards
Take your mailing list to the web and wish your friends and family a Merry Christmas for free. Try Pingg.com or OpenMe.com.

Pick Up The Phone (Or Laptop)
Call or Skype your loved ones instead of writing. No card to buy, no postage to purchase…just time for conversation and getting reacquainted.

Buy Your Cards on Clearance (for next year!)
Take advantage of deep discounts at After Christmas sales. Then next year you will be set!


Shop Second-Hand
One man’s trash is another’s man’s treasure!  Thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales are a great source for affordable Christmas decorations.

Make Your Own Decorations
Spend some time on Pinterest, and you’ll soon have more ideas for homemade Christmas decorations than you can possibly make! To minimize crafting costs, look for projects that are made with recycled materials or supplies that you already have in your craft stash. And don’t forget to use those great craft store coupons!

Reinvent What You Already Have
Tired of all of your jewel-toned holiday decorations, try painting them white; or coat them in Mod Podge and roll them in Epsom Salt. Once again, a few minutes on Pinterest and you’ll find plenty of inspiration!

Decorate with Things from Nature
Take a walk around your yard, and see what you can find to decorate your home for free. Pine boughs, holly branches, pine cones and magnolia leaves all make beautiful Christmas decorations.

Hit The Dollar Store
At just one dollar each…you are sure to find decorations at the dollar store that allow room in the budget for customizing with some additional craft supplies.

Take Advantage of FREE Holiday Printables
Do a quick Google search for “Christmas printables” and you’ll find a plethora of free advent calendars, garland, place cards, ornaments, frameable artwork and more.

Host A Christmas Decoration Swap
Invite your friends and neighbors over for this fun way to trade what you don’t want for what you do.

Shop the After-Christmas Sales
An easy way to save 50, 75 or even 90% off of the regular retail price. A no-brainer.


If you are feeling burdened or overwhelmed by the expense of hosting Christmas dinner, keep these simple tips in mind:

Keep It Simple
The point of Christmas get-togethers is spending time with family or friends. Those closest to you will be just as happy with a few delicious appetizers as a fancy entree.

Delegate Dishes
A Christmas potluck gives the guests a chance to show off their favorite holiday dishes while saving you money on the food budget.

Lighten Up!
A tree-trimming party, a game night, a Christmas movie marathon, a sledding party, or a cookie exchange are all fun party ideas that your guests will probably enjoy much more than they would at a formal dinner party.

Early Bird Shopping
Do your Christmas food shopping early. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, pick up non-perishable items. This helps spread the cost out over a few weeks, and prevents potential fist fights over the last box of stuffing! :-)

Store Promotions
Finally, the biggest way to save on meat for a holiday meal is to take advantage of special store promotions. Many stores will match ham or turkey prices, and some stores that run gas savings programs will even give increased gas discounts.

By following these savings tips you’ll worry less about the cost of your holiday entertaining and concentrate on the thing that really matters: making Christmas memories.

Family Christmas

I’ll leave you with some “food for thought” from financial guru Dave Ramsey that I thought was as entertaining as it is brilliant. :-)

7 Ways to Go Broke This Season

Try to keep up with the Joneses.

That’s just not a good idea. The Joneses are broke. They have a lot of bills, ridiculous car payments and tricked-up mortgages. But at least they look good! Have you seen Mrs. Jones’ hair? Wow! That’s fancy! But despite the good hair, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You don’t need her hair, and you don’t want their debt following you.

Mistake Batman for food.

Come again? You need food. You need shelter. You need clothing. Your son doesn’t need the $100 remote-control Batmobile. Would that be awesome? Of course! But you don’t need it. Keep your priorities in focus during Christmas. Do what you can, and don’t spend more than you have—even if it’s an awesome Batmobile.

Give presents to everyone in your family.

Most of us simply can’t afford to give a $20 gift card to every brother, sister, aunt, uncle and cousin in the family tree. But we do it anyway. A lot of times, it’s out of some vague sense of guilt or obligation. Instead of giving something to everyone, you can have a family drawing where people draw names out of hat. Then, you’re only responsible for the person whose name you have drawn.

Plus, if it’s been a trend over the past few years to just exchange gift cards that everyone picks up at the last minute at the end-of-aisle kiosks, is it really meaningful and worth the effort?

Let the stores determine your plan.

The mall will suck you in and spit you out like a bad piece of fruitcake. Going to the mall without some type of plan of attack is like going to a donut factory without expecting to gain weight. If you don’t go in with a purpose, all the shiny, bright plastic stuff will draw you in like a moth to a flame. Make a plan and stick to it.

Cover every inch of your house and yard in lights.

There’s nothing wrong with a little festivity. Who doesn’t love seeing a house wrapped in lights on a cold December evening? But if your power bill triples during the Christmas season, and if you can’t seem to avoid buying 12 new inflatables for your yard every Christmas, then you might want to tone it down a bit.

Treat yourself to something nice … or two or three nice things.

You’d be surprised at how many people, while out gift shopping for others over the holidays, decide to buy something for themselves! Say what? This is why the previous point is so important—don’t go shopping without a plan! The mall will mock you if you attempt to enter its gates without a determined gaze and the willpower of a vegetarian in a steakhouse.

Travel long distances.

Nothing will make you go broke faster than trying to buy plane tickets for a family of five. And that’s just the cost of getting to where you want to go. On top of that, you’ve got lodging, food, a rental car—and, oh, don’t forget the presents! Again, it’s okay to travel. But don’t prioritize going to see the grandparents over providing for your family at Christmas—especially if you have kids. The grandparents are retired. Let them come see you.

You don’t have to buy into the commercial hype that says you must go shopping and come home with a dozen shopping bags and $1,000 in debt. That’s not smart. Or merry. Or festive. Or jolly. It’s just an all-around bad idea.

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  • Totally agree with Cindy……………………Let’s keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS……………………..Merry Christmas to you and yours……………………………………….

  • I like this list exceot for the suggestion that “the grandparents are retired, let them do the traveling”. I am a grandparent and I am still working and so is my husband. We are on a budget like everyone else. And a lot of retired grandparents are on a fixed income. And if grandparents have more than one child, does that mean they have to make several trips? Dave Ramsey really threw grandparents under the bus with that suggestion.

    • I agree with you completely . Being retired and surviving are a huge challenge . Plus our health is not all great either, so travel is very difficult . I think you did throw grandparents under the bus on this one . Other than that I have enjoyed reading your articles .

      • One day that person will be old too.We as grandparents are on a tight social security budget,and have meds to buy and insurances to pay.So it’s not always easy to jump in the car and go,I think the family should come to the grandparents ,we used to have all kinds of goodies to eat .

  • Let’s remember the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of Jesus Who came to earth for us mankind so that we can join His Kingdom.
    Thank you for your great tips, Jillee. Wonderful blogs and tips.
    A very special Christmas to you and yours.

  • Just wanted to let you know that there seems to be something wrong with your website. It continuously scrolls, the wrong direction as we are trying to read it. Love your site, use your tips all the time!

  • These are great ideas, and I’m especially with you on not sending Xmas cards! One year I sent out over 100! Now I only send out 1 or 2, and I send messages or call others on the phone. I think I’ve saved an entire forest doing that!

  • Over the years we’ve really cut down on Christmas presents. Years ago when we were struggling financially we switched to picking names and doing stockings. The last two years, we still draw names and we do colors. Let me explain we draw names and then we put colors in a hat and whatever color you draw that person gets gifts that color. I have my daughter this year and had to buy all ORANGE things. It’s fun and challenging. You can spend what you feel comfortable with. No worries. No one feels slighted if the other person gets more. But one exception, the grandkids get one extra special gift from us being their grandma and grandpa. Also, I make a homemade Christmas ornament for everyone each year. As far as food, it’s very low key. We do potluck and my kids decided on subs this year!!! Can’t wait for the colored tissue paper to fly!!!!

  • Oops .This sent before I was ready. It’s a great money saver.Now that everyone is married we just get for that sibling and their spouse. Some years weve all contributed to a big present,for.my parents.

  • Great ideas. I’ve been using the envelope system for years to put money aside for certain items. Learned this system from my mom. We also save and reuse boxes for gifts., One thing we started when we were kids and still do, some every year we just have one sibling we give a present too. Our family is huge and it

  • While I admire every topic you address and all of the beautiful suggestions you bring to OGT readers, please let it be known that the “holidays” can bring back horrible & painful memories, even though we deserve the socio-economic background that we have right now. I plead with you, not everyone wants it glowy, “family”- oriented.
    I worked fearlessly to have a hurt-free life, bully-free for myself; I Love my husband and I Love my puppy.
    Please, with your words & encouragement, help others to feel free, too!
    We do not all have access to ribbons & sparkles, actually I do now, however I did not at one time and it hurt when I lived off of sparing yogurt and could barely buy myself a winter hat (forget about a coat, boots & gloves/mitts), please know that some of your fans have only 10 cents to spend on each gift.

    • Sorry Tammy that you seem to have had more than a few rough patches along the way. A husband and a puppy are two great pluses though. Many of the things suggested would not even take a dime. Giving of yourself, your time, sharing with others that are also hitting tough times (and people!) will help you and others feel better. The holidays do not have to be about glitter and excess! May yours have dashes of kindness and the beginning of more things that matter to YOU. Seasons greetings.

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  • I put my Christmas cards on my china cabinet, sort of wedge them between the glass and frame.

    I do have a money/time saver for sending Christmas cards too. I buy mine after Christmas (usually 75% off) and then fill them out before I pack up my decorations. I put them in a zip bag (so they don’t smell like the basement) and put them in one of my decoration totes. We decorate thanksgiving weekend so then my cards are on time and its one thing I don’t have to think about. With the forever stamps you may save money on them too if you pack them up with your cards!

  • As usual, I am running behind on getting my Cristma cards done. And the money is tight, too. This gift from OfficeMax would be incredble! Thanks for offering it!

  • I created an Excel spread sheet a few years ago that allows me to track what I buy and where I buy it from for our family, my husband’s family, my family, and any extras (like teachers, bus drivers, etc) that we buy for. I put in how much I spent on each gift and the spread sheet keeps a running total for me. It really helps me to know what I bought and how much I have spent, plus I can go back to the previous years and see what changes have happened.

  • Jillee LOVE your post here! Great ideas to cut costs. I also enjoy the comments, I replied to some.
    I just have to send the cards and so enjoy getting and displaying them. I have taped them all along the entry way to living room and on the side of bannister. I am using Pinterest idea and hole punching them together to display the photo cards from years passed, won’t that be fun memories.

    A tip I would like to post (on behalf of my Mom, who reminds me of this every year) RE-USE/RECYCLE- gift boxes, bows, wrapping paper and yep even name tags. However, it’s hard to find name tags that aren’t sticky. The large boxes she saves the wrap from it removes the tape, folds it or rolls on empty roll and there ya go paper for next year, yes for a smaller box. I have been to parties, Christmas events and seen people throw away boxes, gift bags and beautiful bows. Shudder. I reuse bags, boxes, and don’t wrap the ones with the pretty designs on the lids. Another idea is wrap the box lid and re-use it from year to year.

    Oh, my 4-H club members made the craft with the jars( which were all recycled-found the tip about getting wax out from almost used candles and canning jars) with the epsom salt. Simple, yet something for all ages some are keeping, some are giving as a gift.
    THANKS again glad I am a follower of your blog.

    • Love the idea of using a hole punch on my cards to save them every year. I normally put a rubber band around the current year’s cards. Love your idea of the hole punch. Thanks much…

  • Do u know if anyone is having trouble with the giveaway link? I can click on all your other post and no probs but when I go to that link, it freezes up every time. I followed you on FB and went back to try to leave comment, but I can’t get thru…??

  • If you have an entry hall closet or a solid front door, get ribbon 2″ wide, some packing tape and make yourself a tree on the door with 5 strips of ribbon – all 5 ribbons come together in the center top, put the center of the tree on first, then the outside strips, then the last 2 are easy to place and they are relatively even. Staple your cards to the ribbon…cheap decorations and if you don’t overlap the cards too much, it is easy for anyone to read the cards while they are hanging there.

  • Jillee,
    Hello, in regards to where to put your Christnas cards. For me and my family as far back as I can recall; we will tape them to the door frames around the kitchen, living room, dining room etc.
    Just a small piece of tape in the corner of one the cards and hand along the frame. I would only go down though maybe to you knee you just above, you dont want guest to have to bend over to have to look at your beautiful cards.
    This way all of your Christmas cards can be displayed and no one will be left out!
    I love your posts, and wish you and your family a very wonderful and Merry Christmas!!!

  • My experience with Christmas and the Cards that I find interesting is this.
    Years ago, when I was in college full time (with end of semester exams/papers etc.) working 3 jobs, raising 2 teen boys (extremely active in the performing arts), running a house, taking care of my husband with newly diagnosed serious health issues (we have since learned to manage) I found myself in bind with holiday time–can’t imagine why. Money wasn’t great either- but we had our needs taken care of, plus a little. Anyway the holiday became a burden, had to clean the house, bring out the decorations from the attic (put away empty boxes), decorate, plan the menu, buy the gifts—all for one day and clean it all up & put it all away before my next semester started. So here’s what I did. Did all the gift shopping Black Friday early AM hours, came home wrapped everything. Went to the dollar store & bought decorations for the tree etc., bought a live tree & decorated with the family, everyone was home. Whittled the food list down to an easy turkey dinner, made each persons favorite side dish & made chocolate chip cookies our exclusive dessert. Had no time to address cards so that was nixed. I did everything but the food prep on Black Friday daytime (my biggest chunk of free time, I worked retail that year 6pm to midnight). The next couple of weeks I cleaned my house a little everyday. After the holiday, the food was gone, and the tree along with all the holiday decorations were thrown out, tree still decorated, even the tree stand. GASP, SCANDAL, OUTRAGE. Right to the curb–it was really funny to hear cars stop at my house remove ornaments and drive away. As for the Christmas cards- practically all the people I sent cards to in the past years ( about 40 people) nixed us from their list the following year. Close family members admired my juggling the holiday, & chutzpah. I was hardly frazzled and best of all–I enjoyed the numerous holiday presentations of our boys. The bonus, the few days between after the holiday and the next semester, I actually relaxed. These days- the closest family members get a card mailed. They have said that they really feel special to get a card from us. We laugh about it now.
    This year I am making cards to mail to those closest.

  • We have always had this giant wreath that has clothes pins darting out from all angles that easily grab onto the cards, but the wreath became so crowded by the end of the season you really couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the cards. The newest and easiet way to display all the cards and not take up too much space at all is to hang a long ribbon from one end of one wall to the other. Now you could have it hang across aroom, but that could get messy. By having a simple decorative ribbon (you could even section it off and do it on different walls or scatter them) you can enjoy all the gorgeous family pictures and beautiful cards. For the new style photo cards you could use a spray painted clothes pin to hang them from the ribbon. The typical folded cards can hang right over the ribbon with out anything holding them in place.

  • I hang my Christmas cards each year the same way and in the same place. I punch or poke a hole in the upper corner of the fold in the card….lace bright ribbon through the holes and tie a small knot,like one may tie a knot for beading a necklace…….With a small thumb tack I hang the row of cards on the side of my room doors.They hang nice if they are knotted at the corners.As people pass by them they flutter a bit [Ilike that]. I use the same tack hole every year so no great amount of marring anything. An extra bonus is each year’s cards are all together which makes it super nice to store and save.The ones I save are usually tied on one ribbon and the ones I am not planning on saving are tied with another ribbon.

  • I display my christmas cards on a venetian blind. It’s a window that we keep the venetian blinds closed and its located by our entrance. It looks pretty neat.

  • We diplay our cards as a homemade centerpiece for our table and each card adds another touch. Just take a paper towel roll, trim it down, glue on felt to the outside, string yarn though both ends all around the roll and you got room for dozens of cards!! I’ve also seen it done with pringles cans!

  • As always, Jillee, you hit the nail on the head and it’s all about Christmas wisdom this time. Thank you for giving us common sense ideas to make our Christmas affordable and fun! Dave Ramsey is always right on too! Thanks for sharing!

  • So I definitely just addressed all my cards and decorated them with stickers and stamps (with help from my 4-year-old) right before I read this. (I’m a little behind on reading this blog!) But I’m guessing I can just order the cards and use them next year when I win, right?? Anyway, the way I am displaying cards this year is with a garland that I made on the cheap ( $1 for the garland, about $2 for ribbon $1 for tiny bells-LOVE Dollar Tree!, and clothes pins and paint I already had on hand) above our patio door entrance. The cards are hanging from the painted clothes pins. It’s simple and I’ll be able to use it next year.

  • YAY! I haven’t done my Christmas cards yet AND I am very bothered with HOW to display my cards! We hang up a ribbon around a doorway and paperclip the cards around the door. I would rather just put them in my cute snowman wooden bin!

  • I take our Christmas cards and put a paper punch in the upper left hand corner and a decorative string or ribbon through them and then add them as a garland around the Christmas tree! You can keep adding as you get more, and by puttng the paper punch in the upper left hand corner people can look at the cards while they are on your tree. After Christmas I reuse the cards by cutting off the fronts of the cards (if they are non-photo cards) and then use them to cut into gift tags for presents for Christmas the next year! Free and easy!

  • I think we probably do things slightly differently in Ireland, we do not sent cards that had a photo of ourselves on it but we do sand Christmas cards to friends. My family for the last 4 years have had a secret tradition of judging the cards to find the one we all agree is the nicest and most meaningful at the end of the Christmas Season. We sit round the table with them all and go through them each person takes it in turn to discard one but each pearson can also veto that decision when we get down to three (there are 3 of us) we try to figure out the one we like the best then remove the back half and write on the back of the front half that they have won our christmas card competition and to have a lovely year. Only the people who have won the competition know of it’s existance, but it is a good way of looking through the cards and remembering each person who took the time to write to us.

  • We built a log house that we live in, and one of the support logs that separate living, dining and kitchen is where I staple our cards with a regular stapler around all 4 sides. Easy to pull out after Christmas too and because it’s log there are no holes to see. Staples are also good for regular shee rock since the staples themselves are smaller than pin points. I ‘ve hung all types of things this way for years. Gail

  • I have tried many things over the years, and never displayed cards the same way twice — until now! This year I borrowed an idea off Pinterest. I took holiday ribbon, and tied it around a couple kitchen cabinet doors. When cards and family pictures come in, I simple paper clip them to the ribbon. The kids love to look at cousins and to see who has sent us a card (they are fascinated that people still use snail mail!).

  • What we do to avoid some of the holiday insanity and save a bundle of money during this season is to just do stockings for our kids (since they’ve been old enough to not believe in the “big man”). Then, when we get our tax refund check, each child gets a pretty sizable chunk of change to spend on the things that they really want or need. By doing this, we can afford to get for the few other people we actually buy for but we also aren’t broke when we need the money for increased utilities, etc. and they still wind up with something great when we do have the “extra” cash.

    Stockings have always been our favorite part of the gift opening anyway. We have certain standard items that show up every year (pez, silly putty, …) but then focus on fun, useful items that are more personal as well. Our stockings are rarely that…they usually end up much larger and are presented in crafty personalized containers that are functional once the items have been opened (storage containers, buckets, etc.), but every single item is wrapped so the enjoyment is still there. It’s been a win-win situation for us and our kids!!!

  • Lovely ideas! Thanks! We just tape ours to the wall in the shape of a tree! We trim the pictures after and keep them in a collage all year long! Great way to keep your friends in prayer all year long!

  • Just a warning about purchasing gift cards from certain websites. If the reseller is selling gift cards that were previously purchased from a different store, and for some reason the cards weren’t correctly activated at the time of purchase, most companies will not accept the receipt from the second reseller as proof of purchase when you’re trying to get the card activated or replaced. Also, some of these places are clearing houses for cards purchased using stolen credit cards, which means the gift cards are deactivated or canceled once the credit card holder contacts their bank and the bank contacts the stores the gift cards belong to–and these cards are never activated or replaced. I recommend purchasing only from authorized resellers, and ALWAYS save the receipt until the cards are redeemed or used.

  • For display holiday cards, I used this lovely idea from Pintrest. Get some clothes pins. Spray pain them green. Get a wire hanger and put the pins on it. Add the card. hang wherever.

  • Great ideas! We like to make homemade gifts (especially for my 4-year-old to give), we only give gifts to immediate family, and I always but my Christmas cards on clearance the year before – no way am I paying $8 for a box of cards!!!

  • You always have the best ideas ♥ Frugal seems to be the new thing. Thank goodness, cuz in the last few years I found a whole new meaning for it. I make all my Christmas gifts. Yes, it drives me crazy at times trying to figure out what the recipient would like and be useful. Sometimes you receive gifts that just aren’t you. This I hit a complete brick wall for my kids. Then I thought of soda. Due to financial situations we’ve cut soda as well as other not needed items from our shopping list. So with that in mind I went to the dollar store and picked them up each one 3 liter bottle for a buck. I know it will be something they will enjoy immensely…unfortunatly they love them some soda.

    As for the Christmas cards, thats one tradition I hate to give up. It’s gotten a lot shorter as the years have passed, but still send out to those who do it also. I used to tape them to the coat closet door in the form a a Christmas Tree. Then I happened upon the cutest Snowmen (I collect snowen) covered oval Christmas basket at a garage sale. The cards fit in there perfectly. At any time you can grab the basket sit down and reread the cards. I do this when I feel down and need my spirit lifted.

  • A “Christmas Club” is also a great way to semi-painlessly save for your taxes.

    We are forgoing a large in the house tree this year as the 2 year old who lives here seems unable to understand that the tree and the bright and shiny things on the tree need to STAY on the tree! We are using a small decorative metal tree with a few non-breakables on it set up off the floor on a trunk. We will see how this works! We also live in a very small house so space is a problem–in years past we have gotten a live tree cut to fit on top of our lovely trunk and used a quilt as a skirt—this can save you on tree costs as a tree that might be nice at the top but be bare on the base can be had cheaper. Knowing your “Tree Guy” helps here too!

    We save on a lot of stuff by not getting crazy with what we buy–no big screen anything here!!!—and I buy all year at thrift and church stores and on line.

    My 6 year old grand daughter and I made a lovely wreath out of holly branches from the yard—we found one whole berry!–and we wired those to a “grass” ring–who knew those were so MESSY!!!!! — with a roll of green wire; added a string of battery operated funky sattelite looking flashing LED lights–hey she loved ’em!—looks very festive and as long as I keep the plastic on the “grass wreath” base we can make a new one every year and decorate as we like. Cost–about $3 for the base and about $5 for the battery operated lights.

    We have never gone in for the gift to the mail person–even tho every year we have gotten CARDS practically DEMANDING a “tip”. I have always thought this was–vulgar. Now this year we have a NEW postal person who has actually done a LOT for us as far as bringing most packages to the door rain or snow –in icy NY weather she wears Yak Traks to get a grip!!!–and she also gets out of her truck at an elderly relatives and takes the mail to the door—the former guy was required to do this but refused. Soooo–we are going to give her–something! Haven’t decided yet what, Cookies or? Thoughts?

    Our first graders teacher just sent home a note about how the CLASS was not going to do a gift exchange amongst the KIDS–rather parents were asked to bring in a GIFT FOR THE CLASS ROOM and a list of modest things was included—and the teacher mentioned that most of these things could be had at the dollar store. And–no gifts for the teacher! Since we have known this teacher for the past 25 years—she taught MY kids and now our GRAND KIDS–we will find some way to give her something out of school hours but we will be taking a bunch of stuff for the class room. I would much rather spend money on the kids than on some “gift” that will be tossed aside in a day!!!

    Our local supermarket chain (Price Chopper) is having a Gift Card Promo where you buy a gift card for say a restaurant and you get DOUBLE savings on your Rewards card for their GAS promo. Not a big gift card fan but—if you are going to shop at lets say Lowes–go buy the card; get the gas discount; and trot off and use the card to buy what you were going to get ANYWAY.

    Now if I can only remember to mail out the August wedding photos WITH the Christmas mail!!!!!!!

  • Jillee, I wanted to share how I display our Christmas cards that we receive in the mail. The entry to our living room and dining room is bordered with wide cherry wood molding and i always start on one side (of the inside) in about the middle-top (the last few years we receive significantly less[economy,etc.])and work my way down and start on the other side as they come in. We enjoy seeing which card we got first and next at our house!

  • I put my cards up, with a small piece of double sided tape on the back, on my coat closet door in the front room. This year I’m going to hang fancy ribbons vertically that are taped to the top flat edge of the door, let them dangle down & tape my cards to them.

    I’m not interested in the give away…just wanted to add my idea.

  • Another tip and I will use Walmart as an example but any local store would most likely work. When you can throughout the year, purchase a $10 or $25 Walmart gift cards and save them to use when the Christmas season arrives. You know you will be buying your gifts and your holiday food at Walmart so when the season arrives, you have a stockpile of gift cards ready for use. You do have to be careful because some stores deduct a percentage each month you do not use the gift card (scam) Walmart doesn’t do this so be sure to check the policy of the store.

  • I put my cards on the wall around the kitchen serve-through. A little scotch tape will hold them without marring the paint, and I get a colorful decoration that makes me smile with memories of all the wonderful people in my life!

  • I have a wooden Christmas box that sits on my coffee table. It is the perfect size for the amount of cards we receive, and my children enjoy looking at the cards over and over. This year, I am implementing something new. Since we seem to get a lot of photo cards, I am punching a hole in the corner of each one and clipping them together with a ring so they can sit out on the coffee table for everyone to enjoy!

  • I have a cute ( and cheap!) decorating idea….not mine, but it has been so long I wouldn’t know who to give credit to! Take a mason jar ( small mouth) and fill it with whatever seasonal decoration strikes your fancy ( this could be peppermints, curling ribbon, small ornaments, potpourri, black and white photos…whatever will fit. Then place a small glass votive cup holder ( available for very little money at Joann and Michaels) , filled with a votive, in the mouth of the mason jar. ( This will fit snugly in the top).If you want you can tie some ribbon or raffia around the neck…so cute!
    As for the other suggestions: I agree that you can do things for way cheaper. Personally I love to shop the January sales and get a head start on next year’s presents. I do keep a good list so I remember what I already have. When you shop the whole year through you can always find good sales and bargains.
    I would hate to not receive Christmas cards so will pay the extra to send those to everyone. A piece of mail can mean so much! I like to save money where I can and the “splurge” on the things I feel are important like Christmas cards. But I get so many cards for free in the mail ( well, in exchange for a donation to a charity-also a good cause!) and they are beautiful, so a joy to write and send.
    Each year I make my kids a gift, just from me. Sometimes it’s something involved but other times it’s something they needed anyway, like curtains or a pillowcase for their bedroom.
    Stockings are filled with needed things such as socks, combs, facial cleanser, as well as some not needed but “good for the soul” things, such as chocolates and a gift card ( bought as a fundraiser for school!).
    Finally, I love to bake and that is a pretty inexpensive way to give a present to a teacher, the mailcarrier, or a neighbor. Wrap it up pretty with a homemade gift tag and you are giving something that means a whole lot, and it hasn’t cost you an arm and a leg, simply your time and some thought.

    • Great post thanks for the cute idea, have tons of mason jars. I love the school fund raiser, gift cards. I feel the same about the cards. I had gotten away from baking for gifts, but budget is tighter and we are doing it this year.

  • I like all your suggestions, great article! The only thing I would say is you mention to make a list of all the people you NEED to get gifts for. I think that should be WANT!

    I believe we’re taught that we NEED to give gifts at Christmas (can you say consumerism?!) and that if you don’t give gifts there is something wrong with you! I do participate in gift giving utilizing many, if not all the points you bring up in your article! However, I just wanted to mention that I think Christmas never should be all about gifts and buying/making the right/best/most expensive/perfect gift. I like to think that if I give a person a gift at Christmas its as a special “thank you for being in my life/there for me this year” gift as opposed to buying/making someone something because its Christmas and thats what you HAVE to do!

    That’s what birthdays are for afterall…! Haha j/k

  • We have a doorway in our house from the kitchen to the living room and we tape the cards around the top and sides of the doorway. Many years the doorway is totally covered and we have to start a new line of cards above the ones on the door frame.

  • I’m old fashioned….I like others to be able to SEE and READ my cards…therefore I tape then with invisible tape to a wall, archway or doorway! I have done this for many years…my children used to love to read all of the cards….they still do! (when they come home for Christmas)

    • We do the same thing with our cards! That’s what my mom always did with them and I always thought it was really neat. My mother-in-law does something similar as well.

      • Ditto Pamela & Jennifer!!! I go to my mom’s and catch up on the photo cards, letters and notes that others have sent them. i display mine as well. yarn draped along my bannister like a garland is where my cards will be this year and always display the photo cards on the side of bannister as well. the thought of not sending cards…just can’t do it, even if it costs for stamps and paper(if I make my own photo/letter)

  • Set up a Christmas Club at your bank. Estimate/decide how much you plan to spend on EVERYTHING for Christmas and divide it by pay periods. The money comes out automatically and you are penalized (the nerve) if you withdrawal it early which is a deterrent to taking it out. I have done this for YEARS and it is so freeing knowing that I have earmarked it only for Christmas.
    Sometimes, I don’t spend as much as I allowed and have extra left over!
    Some banks let you do this for vacations too.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Great idea! I save a portion from each paycheck to plan ahead, but I had no idea there is a system you can use at the bank to save your holiday cash. I’m sure it can be done for other things you want to save for, such as a vacation, a new car, etc.

  • We don’t do credit cards! But when they are there asking if you want sign up for a discount, tell them you aren’t going to sign up BUT still want the discount. What can it hurt to ask? And I’ve gotten extra discounts at Belk, Old Navy, and Kolh’s just from asking! Every penny counts!

    • Dang April, that’s great for you. Every time I ask, I get the sad puppy dog face from the cashier who says, “No, I’m sorry, that discount is ONLY for our credit card customers.” Grrrrr (we don’t do credit cards either)

      • Something I do at Kohl’s every time there is a credit card discount. Instead of paying cash I use their credit card and get the discount; then before the cashier says “thank you & have a great day” I say I would like to pay my credit card bill (you can pay right at the register–no new line). I pay the amount I just charged. I have had people behind me say– ” that’s what I want too”.

  • I am making all of the gifts I’m giving out this year. It is making me a little crazy, but most of the ideas were inspired by things I saw on your blog, Jillee, so thanks for the great ideas! I think all my girls are gonna love their oatmeal shower bags and bath bombs. :)

  • A couple of years ago after getting snipered by another Christmas, I bought a Christmas tin with a lid on clearance. I looked at what a reasonable budget was and divided it by 52, we get paid weekly here. I take that cash and put it in the can every single week. A really low-tech Christmas club!

    I do use a credit card for on-line purchases, but I keep a running tally so I don’t go overboard. I also try to have a plan before I shop which isn’t too much of a problem as I dislike shopping immensely and hate wandering around stores.

  • Such great timely suggestions and advice for all of us at this time of year when it is so easy to get “caught up in the moment”. I do believe the best advice it to plan ahead & set limits before hand – if at all possible. Have a great day & God Bless You!

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