Frugal Christmas Tips

by heather

I know that the holidays might be a long way off in your mind. But you know how these things go: Halloween is right around the corner. Next you’ll be planning your Thanksgiving dinner. And then? Bam! It’s Christmas. This time of year seems to go by at hyperspeed and everyone, including myself, is always left a little bit breathless when it’s over.

The reason why I’m writing about Christmas now is because of the economy. Many, many people are trying to save money on gifts this year. Usually, however, you can only save money by planning in advance. Creating a plan for your gift giving is the best way to get creative, find bargains, and prevent yourself from going overboard.

There’s another reason I’d like to talk about the holiday season now, and it’s because of the environment. The holidays are a time of wrapping paper, boxes, and shopping. All of this “stuff” wastes tons of resources each year and much of it ends up in the landfill.

How much extra garbage do we produce?

Well, National Geographic reports that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans throw away one million extra tons of garbage each week.

So, I’ll also be giving some tips on how to have a simpler, “greener” holiday season.

Get Crafty

I’m always amazed at how often saving money and saving the environment align themselves. Most of the time they’re one and the same, and it always gives me a thrill!

If you’re looking for ways to save money on holiday gifts, then setting aside some time to make your own gifts can save you a bundle. If you don’t have a lot of spare time, you might want to skip this section and go on the next one.

Green living expert Danny Seo had a wonderful craft project on his blog (which you can check out here). His idea was to scrounge around and find all those cassette tapes you no longer listen to. Then, hot glue them together to make a box. The retro-looking box can be used to hide Kleenex, store paperclips, or even work as a charging station. Check out his post; he put in some great pictures that show the finished project.

This is a great idea because not only does it save money, but it also declutters your house and keeps those cassette tapes out of the landfill. And, he says it literally takes five minutes to put together. I’ll definitely be doing this one myself this year.

Another cheap retro gift idea is to make a Vinyl Record Bowl. If you have a bunch of old records that you don’t listen to anymore, it’s really easy to heat them up and turn them into funky, wavy bowls. Thrifty Fun has complete instructions here. This would make a great gift for someone who is young or really into music.

More Christmas Craft Ideas…

If you’re not into the retro look for gift giving, there are tons of other great ideas you can consider. You could:

  • Bake bread or cookies
  • Make jam
  • Knit hats, gloves, scarves, or Christmas stockings
  • Make a no-sew fleece blanket (any craft store, like Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics can tell you how to do this super easy project; I made one two years ago, and I have zero sewing/craft skills)
  • Put together “Meals In A Jar”. Basically, this is every dry ingredient someone need to make something like chili or bean soup. Include the recipe, along with a list of any fresh ingredients they would need to purchase. Brownie mixes and gourmet pancake mixes also work well for this idea.

If you need some inspiration, then check out Eco-Artware.com. This site has really creative, unique gifts that are all made from recycled materials. It’s a bit pricy, but it’s a great idea bank if you need to jump start your imagination.

Save Money By Giving An Experience

This is also a great way to cut down on consumption. When you give an “experience”, you’re not using resources to make a product, or creating waste.

What kind of experience can you give as a gift? Well, this is a great opportunity to get creative. Here are a few ideas:
  • Tickets to see a concert or play
  • An offer to babysit for an afternoon, run errands, or do yard work in the spring
  • A coupon to cook a homemade dinner for someone
  • If you’re good at organizing, offer to organize someone’s office or living room
  • If you travel a lot for work or if your kids or grandkids live far away, then record yourself reading bedtime stories to them. Most computers have this capability. A great addition would be to find books at library sales, record yourself reading them onto cd, and then send the cd with the books you bought.
  • A photo collage of family pictures that someone can enjoy all year ’round
  • Create a personalized word cloud at Wordle.net. First, think of all the reasons why you love someone. Then, write them out at Wordle, play with the layout and colors, and print it out. Then, all you’ve got to do is find a frame. I’ve done in this in the past and it makes a really touching gift.
Gifts That Keep On Giving
If you would like to give some gifts that can really keep giving throughout the year, then you could think about some of these options:
  • Why not give books that teach how to save money or get out of debt? Anything by David Ramsey, David Bach, or Suze Orman would be a good choice.
  • You could think about making a “green” gift basket. Fill it with eco-friendly cleaning supplies,a reusable travel mug (for coffee), CFL bulbs, a kitchen herb-garden kit, and reusable canvas shopping bag.
  • Magazine subscriptions like Kiplinger’s Personal Finance or National Geographic Green Guide educate readers and really provide long-term value. And, they’re not that expensive.

Have A Eco-Friendly Holiday

The holiday season really is a feast of waste. Shopping bags, take-out food, boxes, plastic wrapping: our consumption goes through the roof this time of year. Just take a look at most people’s garbage bins the week after Christmas. They’re usually stuffed full, often with stuff that could be recycled.

Before we jump into the busy holiday season, keep these tips in mind to have an eco-friendly holiday:

  • Instead of buying tons of wrapping paper (which is expensive, wasteful, and kills trees) why not start saving the Sunday funny pages? This is a playful way to save money and some trees this holiday season. You can jazz it up with glitter, beads, or cut out magazine pictures.
  • Shop at antique stores or flea markets. You never know what you’ll find, but you can bank on it being unique and eco-friendly.
  • If you do hit the mall this year, then take some canvas bags when you go holiday shopping. SNUB it, which means Say No to Unwanted Bags!
  • If you throw a holiday party, then turn the heat down before your guests arrive. All those extra bodies will be more than enough to make up for the cooler temperature.
  • Instead of sending holiday cards, why not call your friends and family instead? You’ll save money on buying cards, time filling all the cards out, and more money on postage. Plus, you’ll have a human connection with the people you love instead of just a note.
  • Recycle your Christmas tree. Most trees get put on the curb after Christmas and then tossed in a landfill, taking up valuable space. Instead, they can be ground up into wood chips and reused on playgrounds. Visit Earth911.org; they have a searchable database at the top of their site that will allow you to search for Christmas tree drop-off locations. Simply type in “Christmas Tree” and your zip code to get a list of local places.

Although the holidays can be a stressful, expensive time, they don’t have to be. If you start now you can have a wonderful, frugal holiday that’s easy on your budget, and the environment.

If any of you have some tips you’d like to share about how to keep costs down and consumption low, I’d love to share them with other readers!

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November 30, 2008 at 3:29 pm
personalized fleece blanket
December 16, 2008 at 8:28 pm

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