- slide 1 of 3
Save with Food and Decorations
Still worrying about the holidays?
Having the perfect Christmas doesn’t have to be about the size or the number of the gifts underneath the tree. Choosing to have a wonderful Christmas is just a matter of a little planning and remembering what the people you love really want for the holidays: you. Still, it’s not unusual to feel driven to try to make Christmas special with things, so here are the best ways to save money at Christmas and still provide a perfect holiday for the people you love.
- slide 2 of 3
Say It With Food
Make a list of all the foods, appetizers, main dishes, and of course, cookies, that say, “Merry Christmas” to your family. For younger children, the thrill of helping to make the fudge and frost the cookies may be a wonderful new Christmas memory. For adults and older children, declare the holidays a stress-free food zone where people can eat what they like without worrying about calories or fat content.
While you’re making the goodies for your own family, make extra and give holiday goodies to friends, neighbors, and family. Make extras to take to a local homeless shelter or to a nearby nursing home. Giving to those in need, especially giving food, helps make your own holidays brighter.
Because food and gifts are at the center of so many holiday traditions, it only makes sense to combine the two and make food the gift you give to everyone on your list. Even necessities can become luxuries when money is tight, and luxuries become even more special to those who love to cook.
Everyone has to eat! Here are some gift ideas to tempt everyone on your list, without taking a big bite out of your budget:
- A grocery store gift card is a practical gift that can ease the strain on someone's budget.
- If you have a special talent for making something delicious in your kitchen -- breads, soups, casseroles, cakes, cookies -- turn that into your gift to someone you know who loves it too.
- Create your own Twelve Days of Christmas gift by making someone a delicious food gift and attach a tag that says you'll deliver one every month for the next year -- truly a gift that keeps on giving!
- Looking for "a little something" for neighbors, co-workers, or classmates? Mix up a big batch of snack mix with pretzels, popcorn, nuts, dried fruits and colorful holiday candies to be divided into individual bags.
- Dinner in a basket is another great way to give a practical food gift, with a touch of creativity or indulgence. Choose a menu, write up the recipes and fill the basket with the ingredients, keeping in mind the storage requirements of any perishable items.
- Give the gourmet chef on your list something useful they’re sure to appreciate -- ingredients like sea salt, olive or nut oils, fine baking chocolate, handmade pasta, and special cheeses are will make them smile.
- Know someone who is on the go and has to grab quick meals out -- how about a gift card or two for their favorite fast food or sit down restaurant?
- Little kids love to cook and moms of little kids need some time to themselves. Give both of them a gift of an afternoon cooking class for the little ones at your house. Mom gets a free afternoon and you get one-on-one time with a little friend.And best of all, you get to return your little kitchen helper at the end of the day, along with a nice dinner for mom.
- Many elderly and disabled people have meals prepared for them and delivered daily, but it's not always what they want to eat, and they end up eating it alone. Ask about foods they miss the most and make it for them. Just once -- or once a month -- deliver a special treat to a shut-in and take time to sit down and share it with them.
- Don't know of any gifts you can afford to give this year? Offer an invitation to a simple dinner at your house, and a chance to spend a little time together, in comfortable surroundings.
- slide 3 of 3
Cheap & Easy Decorations
Christmas has to be beautiful, and that includes the gift wrappings. However, gift wrap is probably the biggest rip-off of Christmas. If you didn’t stock up at the after Christmas sales last year, here are some tips for fun and cheap wrappings.
The obvious ideas are to skip the fancy paper and get an end-roll of newspaper print that you can usually get for free from any newspaper printer. Use it in its plain off-white form and make everything look “country” by using heavy rug yarn to tie the packages.
Buy Christmas prints in July, when they are really cheap! If you use fabric as gift-wrap, you can use it over and over again, or it can be part of the gift for someone who loves to sew.
Sometimes the less obvious ideas are the most fun, but require some advance planning. We all want to recycle, and there are some cute ways to incorporate recycling under the tree. Wrap everything in cereal boxes that you’ve saved or make drums out of oatmeal containers and coffee cans and then stuff them with presents.
Wrap your gifts in newspapers, tie them up with a string and use your favorite cookie cutters as stencils to decorate the package with Christmas cheer. Or, print holiday designs off the internet and let the children color them for holiday decorations and wrapping paper.
For decorations around the house, don’t forget to string popcorn and bring in cuttings from the ivy growing up the side of the chimney or someone’s holly bush. Trim your outside trees and use the fresh-cut pine to decorate the fireplace mantle.