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Simple Living



 Frugal Christmas and Holiday Tips



Christmas Cards

Here are several ways to save money on Christmas cards.


Edit your list. Do you really have to send cards to so many people?


Send a Christmas email instead of a card. You can make a family letter and attach it to the email.


Send cards left over from prior years. See if you have anyone that will swap cards with you.

Thrift Store Shopping

Pick up inexpensive cards at thrift stores or make your own.
Cut off the back of cards to make Christmas postcards to save on postage.


Recycle cards you receive from others either as decorations for your home, or use them to make postcards.


Use your phone instead of sending a card.


Christmas Notes

Here is a creative use for smaller leftover pieces of Christmas wrapping paper. Make envelopes. Pull apart an envelope for your template. Cut the pieces out of your wrapping paper, and use a glue stick to put the pieces back together. Use a computer address label for the front. Save them for next year, and use them with Christmas

Christmas Letters

If you composed a Christmas letter of family events with your cards this year, keep a copy of it in a journal. Make them part of your family history.


Establish Christmas Traditions

Family traditions are what make families unique.  Do something special each and every year.  Some families do service or secret Santa presents. Some take winter vacations. Others having baking traditions, go caroling, or spend a lot of time decorating their houses. Find something you enjoy, and make memories.


Here's another simple ornament to make yourself. Just buy some pretty ribbon and some bells that jingle from a craft or thrift store. Make pretty bows out of the ribbon, and attach the bells. Hang them on the tree, or the front door. If you don't have bells on your wreath on the front door, think about adding them. It adds a lot of festivity to your home the minute you walk in.


The artwork in some calendars is nothing short of spectacular. At the end of the year many stores are practically giving away calendars. Take advantage of these sales. Frame these pictures and either put them in your home, or give them as gifts.


Here's another idea to get ready for Christmas. Bake some cookies and punch a hole in them. Put them in the freezer. The night before Christmas, take them out and string them. Hang
them on the mantel or elsewhere. They will defrost by morning, further delighting your children.

Large Decorations

The closer you get to December 25th, the more sales you will find on large Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, many of them will be gone by then. However, keep your eyes open. You may be able to purchase some items you never thought you would be able to afford.


Here is a fun craft project that makes good use of recycled Christmas cards, and has a wonderful country look. Using just the picture part of your Christmas cards, arrange them to fit in a picture frame using a quilting design. you can make your design simple, such as squares, or make shapes like stars.  Also, If you want to leave a picture up, but you would like to make it look more  like Christmas, make a copy of the music and/or words of one of your favorite Christmas carols. Have the paper blown up the size of your picture frame. Place it on top of the picture already in the frame and top with a bow.


Another good thing to buy if you find them on sale are large Christmas tablecloths. You can use them for their intended use, as tablecloths, or you can use them to wrap very large Christmas presents. Christmas tablecloths are great to give as presents, as you don't need to worry about table sizes, as the cloths can be displayed in many ways.


When it comes to frugal decorating, versatility is your biggest friend. If you want to hang a wreath on your front door, consider buying a plain grapevine wreath. You can decorate it by hanging little toys on it, and with ribbon and other embellishments. Most of these can be tied to the wreath, or tucked under the branches. Then, when the season is over, you can remove the decorations and save them for next year, and then use the wreath for another Holiday. Also,  here's the best idea I ever heard of for recycling a hula hoop. Use it as the frame for a Christmas Wreath. If you want a very large, impressive wreath to display on the outside of your home, the size is perfect.

Baking Substitutes

Here are some sugar substitutions that may help you with your holiday baking this year. The following may be substituted for 1 Cup of Sugar:
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups molasses
2 cups corn syrup
3/4 cups honey
1 1/2 cups maple syrup

Note: You will need to reduce the liquid in the recipe to compensate for the liquid in the molasses, corn syrup, honey and syrup.

Christmas Oranges

If you haven't done it before, think about making some Christmas oranges. Not only are they pretty, but they smell great. They are very easy to make. There are several ways to do them, but this is the easiest and most economical. Using an awl or other pointed instrument, poke holes around the oranges, about 1/4 inch deep. Push cloves into the holes. Place the oranges in a bowl, and sprinkle them with a mixture of ground cinnamon and cloves. Display them in a bowl on a table where you can smell them, and surround them with Christmas greenery.

Cookie Exchange

If you want to have a big selection of Christmas cookies either for your family or a party this year, think about having a Cookie Exchange Party. Invite a bunch of people, and have them all bring 5 dozen cookies. Split them up between all the guests, and everyone will all go home with a great assortment of cookies. This costs less than if you would have baked all the different ones yourself.


You will get the most for your money if you buy the biggest turkey you can reasonably fit into your oven. Turkeys are sold by weight. Bone weight is less than the meat on the bird. Buy a large turkey, and freeze what you don't eat for leftovers to achieve the greatest savings.  Also If you have a freezer, be sure and take advantage of the Holiday sales on Turkeys. Many stores offer free turkeys with a minimum purchase of $50. This is also a good time to stock up on other items on sale, such as canned pumpkin and cranberries.


Having trouble coming up with a gift for someone who has everything? Check out the Christmas Bazaars. You can find wonderful, handmade unique items at very reasonable prices.

Gift Activities

If money is tight for Christmas, and you are not going to be able to have a lot of presents for your children, consider making each one more special by having a scavenger hunt for them. Make the activity just as fun as receiving the presents. One idea is to leave little notes with candy or other small treats, around your house to lead to the presents. This Christmas may become one of your most memorable.

Gift Baskets

Gift baskets work for children too. Just alter them a little. Don't use a basket, which they won't appreciate. Use a sealable container, preferably easy to clean. Fill it with crayons, coloring books, erasable markers, stickers, puzzles, story books, and whatever else you can find. These are good things to buy during the year when you find them on sale. All children seem delighted with a brand new box of crayons.

Gift Jars

Hopefully you've saved your empty mayonnaise jars, or slightly damaged canning jars this year. Now is the time to recycle them. Fill them with candies or baked items, decorate the lids with ribbons or bows, and give them as gifts to friends and neighbors.

Gifts for the Unexpected

You never know who is going to unexpectedly turn up on your doorstep with a present in hand. Most of us keep a few small presents wrapped and ready. Here is one idea I read which is really cute. Put some batteries in a small box. Wrap it nicely, and then attach a card to read "Gift NOT Included". If no one like that shows up at your door, just use the batteries yourself. You can keep the box ready for next year. Also, plants are a very universal gift.


It can be very difficult trying to find gifts for parents. Most have what they need. However, only you can give them one thing almost all parents want- sentimental presents from their children. Take pictures of your family, or make copies of your favorite ones. Mount them on a board and laminate them. You can do individual pictures, or make a collages. Attach small magnets to the back of the smaller ones so they can put them on their refrigerators.

Recycling Gifts

If someone gave you a gift this year that you just can't use, do not be afraid to recycle it. Attach a note to the gift, so you remember who it was from, and then give it as a gift to someone who might be able to use it. Even if it is a small gift, you can add it to a gift basket. Some find this tacky...but why keep something you can't use when it could benefit someone else?


If you have the room, save the boxes that come with the toys given to your children at Christmas. When they tire of them, or outgrow them, it is much easier, if desired, to sell them on Ebay when you have the original box.

Cereal Boxes

Be sure and save your cereal boxes for gift wrapping. You can use them instead of purchased boxes. They give "structure" to your gifts, and make them easier to wrap and more attractive.

Gift Tags

Ever noticed how pretty Kleenex boxes are? They make great gift tags. Pull the box apart, and cut squares or rectangles from the cardboard. Use pinking shears or decorative scissors if you have them. Fold over the cardboard, and write on the inside. Punch a hole in the corner and attach a piece of ribbon.  If you buy some cardstock, you can also print up beautiful gift tags from several Internet sites.

Tin Containers

Another thing in abundance at thrift stores during the Holidays are empty Christmas tins. Pick up a few of the nicer ones. If you want to deliver some cookies or candy to a friend or neighbor, these make a great containers. You can put paper towels on the bottom or a piece of Christmas fabric. If you want to leave something on a doorstep, the lid will protect what is in the container.

Wrapping Paper

When you are out in the stores, be sure and check out their supply of wrapping paper, even if you don't plan on buying it. See who has the largest supply of solid color, or generic looking papers that can be used for other occasions the rest of the year. Then, when the sales hit after Christmas, you will know where to go to stock up. You may want to go to the store with the best supply, as these multi-purpose wrapping papers are quickly sold when they are heavily discounted.

Wrapping Presents

When possible, give presents in sturdy gift bags. Just put your gift inside with a little tissue paper or shredded gift wrap. This is most appropriate for adults. Children prefer wrapped presents. While you may not reap the benefits, the bag is a gift itself, as it may be recycled by the person you give it to, thus saving them time and money. It is better for the environment, and maybe others will do the same for you.

Other ways to save on wrapping paper:
Use the comics from the Sunday paper.
Use old calendars to wrap small presents.
Use plain butcher block brown paper and raffia.
Use your children's artwork
Use tissue paper.

Recycling Wrapping Paper

If your family is like mine, you can't get them to carefully remove the paper from their Christmas presents.  However, you can still recycle the paper. Pick it up afterwards and run it through a shredder or cut it into strips. It makes a good filler for Christmas baskets. You can also try ironing it if you have a large piece.

Recycling Wrapping Paper Tubes

Be sure and recycle your empty Christmas paper rolls- unless you have small children who love to use them to sword fight. They are great for wrapping many items to keep them organized. Some people wrap all their tablecloths around these rolls so they don't wrinkle.


Here's a fun idea to add some last minute sparkle to your tree. Hang foil wrapped chocolate kisses. Make a loop to hang them with by running a needle and thread through the very top point of the candy. Make about a 2-inch loop and then tie it off. Recycle after Christmas. You can also use colorful red and white peppermint candy, along with your candy canes.

Fabric Covered Bulbs

Be on the lookout for fabric covered Christmas tree bulbs when you go to the thrift store. Even if you don't have the time this year, these are a great buy. There are so many ways to decorate them. Put them away until you have the time to embellish them. Not only will they beautify your own tree, but they make great, unique presents.

Personalized Ornaments

Children love personalized Christmas decorations. My grandchildren always like to look at the ornaments my kids made when they were small that are nothing more than a round piece of felt with their pictures attached. When children are old enough to read, they also love to see their names on items.  There are many ways to put their names on Christmas ornaments.

Write on a cloth ornament with a felt tip marker.
Take the lid from a tin can and punch out the letters.
Write on a ribbon and tie it on an ornament
Push beads into a Styrofoam ball.


Want to add some sparkle to your tree? Buy a can of metallic, gold or silver spray paint. Then go to your local thrift store and look for small toys. Spray them with the metallic paint, and then hang them on your tree with a ribbon. If the toys are very small, group them together.


If you have access to pine cones, they make wonderful Christmas decorations.  Spray them with metallic paint , just paint the ends white, or attach cotton balls to them to look like snow.


Store small ornaments in empty egg containers and they won't break.

Tarnish Remover

If you have copper and brass decorations that you bring out for the holidays, here is a homemade recipe to remove the tarnish: Use the juice of a lemon with a bit of salt. Be sure and wipe completely dry. Remember that you fingers have oil in them. Try not to touch them and they will stay shiny longer.

Giving to Others

Be sure and use the holidays to teach your children to be compassionate. If you have a large pantry, let them each pick items to deliver to a food bank. If you don't have the food at home, or think it would be more meaningful, give them each a few dollars and take them to the store and let them pick out the items of their choice. Not only will you be helping other people, but you will be developing warm and loving natures in your children.


Candy freezes well. Those heavily discounted red wrapped Hershey Kisses will taste just as good, and be just as festive for Valentine's Day.


If you are thinking of making gift bags, or have any other fabric crafts in mind, you will find Christmas print fabric at clearance prices.

Light Bulbs

If you have small children, chances are you use small nightlight plugged into the walls of either their rooms or the hallways. These small bulbs can be expensive. However, they are also the same size used in many Christmas decorations. Check the Christmas clearance. Stock up on these bulbs now, when they are marked down to save money.


Buy small Christmas Ornaments. They make such great gifts- for teachers, neighbors and friends, as well as part of a Christmas ornament package for those getting married who have need of Christmas decorations.

Party Favors

There are always toys on clearance after Christmas. Look for small items. If you are planning on having a birthday party during the coming year, you can use these for small party favors.

Wrapping Paper

Go for the solid colors, that can be used on other occasions.

Artificial Trees

There are a lot of benefits in having an artificial Christmas tree. They look real, are less of a fire hazard, do not drop pine needles all over your carpet, and once purchased, are more economical in the long run. If you need the smell of pine, there are lots of other ways to bring it into your home.


If you are on a limited budget, but want to make your Christmas tree look as nice as possible this year, put what money you have into lights. You can make a lot of inexpensive homemade ornaments to decorate your tree. Save your money for the lights. You can have a beautiful tree with nothing but lights, especially at night.

Outside Lights

Most people like to decorate the outside their home with Christmas lights, even if they don't buy any other decorations. Try and think "outside the box" when it comes to hanging up your lights. After you do your eaves, think about stringing them on items you already have, such as tomato stakes cages. Wire is fairly inexpensive, and can be bent into shapes like stars or letters. Be creative, be different, and save money in the process.

Live Trees

If you live in an area where Pine, Spruce, or Fir trees thrive, think about buying a live tree this year. It may cost more money, but if you take care of it while it is in your home, you can plant it outside in your yard at the end of the Holiday Season. Fresh Christmas trees are not cheap. Be sure and use all of your tree. When you trim your tree, save the branches you cut off. You can tie them together to make a swag. Lay them out horizontally, and them tie them together in the middle with string, wire or floral tape. Then cover the tape with ribbon, add some bows or other ornaments, and they are ready to be place inside or outside your home.


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