My Frugal & Festive Holiday Tips

December is my month.

I was born the week before Christmas. I got married two days before the day I was born. I had my first baby eight days after the end of Christmas month. And my third baby was born one day before the day I was married and three days before the day I was born.

Got all that?

It's a busy month for THAT family. And my hubby? He doesn't have a chance. He starts fretting about gifts in the summer. But he always comes thru (i.e. kitty door).

When I think of Christmas I think of Jesus. There's that, of course.

I also think of presents. The giving and the getting. Call me carnal.

But in these economic times, I want to be as frugal as possible. Join me every Tuesday in the month of December for my ideas on creating handmade gifts for friends and family.

Here are my tips for a frugal, but festive holiday:
  • Start as early as possible. I don't think you can prepare too far in advance. My favorite time to Christmas shop is after Christmas. Yes, you read that right! I set aside a little money and shop the deeply discounted Christmas decor after the holidays. It's such a thrill to find things 75-90% off and to rediscover your deals 12 months later! Christmas toys are also generally marked down to at least half off after the holidays and I shop for upcoming birthdays for the New Year. I just rediscovered these adorable nutcracker stocking holders that I got for $1.49!

  • Shop smart: Target reduces their holiday decor 50% the day after a major holiday. 5-7 days later, the remaining merchandise is reduced to 75% off. Around January 2nd or 3rd, all leftover Christmas items are marked down to 90% off! I call the store and ask. {Please note: if you live in my area, I have been known to get aggressive with a shopping cart}.

  • Shop used: Garage sales and thrift stores are a great place to find Christmas decor. Since decor is only used once a year, you can find some great treasures! (I started a nesting Santa collection from thrift and garage sales!)

  • Go artificial! I love for my home to smell good during the holidays. But since the kitchen isn't my forte and since we use an artificial tree, I depend heavily on yummy smelling candles to do the job. Yankee candle is my favorite, but they are costly. TJMax, Marshalls and Ross stores, carry the Yankee brand at just a fraction of the price. And if you don't have one of those stores, here's a recipe for some pretty amazing stuff I like to simmer on my back burner.

  • Shop for the unexpected on the clearance aisles. Most stores have them and I keep a cabinet in my house full of discounted items for birthday parties, stocking stuffers, and treats. It's so great to pull out a small gift when something comes up unexpected or my month is longer than my money.

  • Shop nature: We live in a wooded area with tall pine trees. Our family loves to collect pine cones, red berries and even branches. I display them in vases, on the mantel and throughout the house. Here are some fun pine cone projects.

  • Be creative! Make gifts for family and friends (check back on Tuesdays in December for easy, frugal projects!) But here' s one, if you just can't wait: Love to cook? Create your own recipe book. Love photo gifts? Here are some great ideas!

  • Shop your house for decor. Use candlesticks and plates as a cake platter to display a special ornament. Re-purpose glass vases to hold pine cones. Fill a glass bowl full of shiny ornament balls.

  • Write down a gift budget. I do this every year, usually in the fall. I write down everything I've already bought (like toys from the clearance aisle or books I bought in July) and I set a budget per person. We also do a certain number of gifts for our kids and since they are still pretty young, I try to make that number even. Here's a printable holiday budget form.

  • Get it together! Partner with family members for BIG gifts or draw names for extended family members. Buy a family gift: one gift for the whole family: membership to the zoo, family movie pack, skating night for four.

  • Think about it: Suggest having your extended family gatherings after Christmas (the week between Christmas and New Year's) and benefit from the last minute shopping.

  • Practical stocking stuffers can still be fun-character socks and underwear, fun toothbrushes, hair clips/bows, Chapstick, be creative and fill it with things they will actually use after Christmas morning!

  • Go sentimental...I love giving sentimental, heart-felt gifts like a Blurb book to grandparents, a family tree with collected photos or silhouettes of your children. I think handmade gifts are appreciated and you can save so much money!

  • Don't go overboard or into debt on any of it! Kids usually end up with too many toys and we have to un-decorate whatever we put up. Keep it simple. Use what you have. And remember, the best message we can teach our kids is that it's really about Jesus and others.
Grab my cute button and I'll see you back every Tuesday in December!


a Tonggu Momma said...

Wait a minute... doesn't Santa bring the stocking stuffers?

For some reason I am feeling strangely worried and a tad betrayed.

Threeundertwo said...

I'm well into my Christmas planning/making/shopping. This year I've asked everyone what homemade things they would want - and I got very touching and interesting answers.

I'm a big day-after shopper too. Especially wrapping paper, which I think is ridiculously overpriced. I just pack it away with the Christmas things and it's all ready the next year.

Roffi said...

great ideas for finding christmas gifts

Jenny said...

I have been known to take a trip to Target everyday for a week waiting for the magical 90% off clearance. Two years ago we bought a $299 tree for $29. Gotta love it!

JanMary said...

I have two daughters with December brithdays and parties to organise.

I usually try to plan well ahead, and have most major purchases made by the beginning of December. However, not all my relatives are so organised.Certian ones I KNOW will ring me mid-December, ask what my daughters want for birthdays AND Christmas, then ask me to buy it and they will send me the money.

So instead of avoiding the shops in the mad weeks just before Christmas I end up in the midst of it doing OTHER PEOPLES' shopping!

AArrrghhh! Do I hear a Bah Humbug?

Looking forward to Tuesdays in December!

One More Equals Four said...

Great ideas! I also shop the after Christmas sales but it is mostly for birthdays because our after christmas is like your December. My baby's B'day is Dec. 29, My FIL is Jan. 1, daughter Jan. 23, husband Jan. 27 and MIL Jan. 30. It is rough right after the holidays! Great ideas and I will try to be back for Tuesdays!

Amber (Bringing Good Home) said...


I do some of these already - but I really LOVE the idea of gathering pine tree branches and cones and decorating your house with them. We don't have any by our house, but there's a few around town in some public places, we could easily gather up what's on the ground. The kids would love it! They'd also love to gather up handfuls of acorns or pecans for a bowlful decoration - I'm thinking: soaking them in some kind of cinnamon oil mixture to scent them - YUMMY! :)

K and/or K said...

One thing I like to do to make sure things don't go overbaord is buy myself a VISA gift card with my entire Christmas budget on it. That way I don't have a ton of transactions coming out of my bank account. And once it's gone, I'm done!

Muthering Heights said...

GREAT series! I too, am obsessed with Christmas, so I will be eating your tips UP each Tuesday!

Monica said...

With the economy this year, frugality is definitely necessary. We don't have a budget for gifts this year. I'm hoping that will change at the last minute. If not, we are fortunate to have an understanding family.

Valarie said...

Oh this is going to be so fun :)

I have already started making gifts and I need more ideas. :)

Jamie @ Purposeful Pursuit said...

Great ideas! I look forward to reading more.

Lori said...

I can't wait for Tuesdays! And this was a good reminder to find all those random things I've been buying throughout the year...

Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Forgot one! You can trade Christmas decorations with a friend and neighbor. There are things that I just can't part with, but don't use from year to year. I can trade decorations with a neighbor and have a whole new source of decorations for the holidays. Hopefully she has better taste than me ....

everyday mom said...

Great ideas. We put away a little every fortnight out of our pay and put it away for christmas then we stick to that budget.If you have an Aldis they have some great toy sales this time of year, limited choice of toys but wonderful prices!!!

Happy Mommy said...

I love to decorate for Christmas! I love making cookies and ornaments and all that jazz! Winter is also very wonderful!

Amanda said...

shhhhh!! dont tell everyone our Target secrets!!! :-) hee hee- I just went there today to scope out what I want to get AFTER Christmas!

misty said...

and this is why i keep coming back to your blog - you always have such GREAT ideas & tips. thanks! i'm already half way done with my chirstmas shopping & spent less than $100 - super excited about that! (so is my husband!!!)

Natalie said...

oh i do the same thing. i love to hit the after christmas sales at the beginning of jan to see what i can get for the next year!!!

we have a crazy busy month too. my nephew's birthday is the 12th, my husbands is the 20th and then my birthday is the 25th. then our anniversary is jan 6th.

Blessings From Above said...

Great tips!!! Thanks for sharing.

Laurie - Decorating Fanatic said...

Oh Yay! Can't wait for December now, hurry up Thanksgiving!;) You've got some great ideas all ready. I know sometimes the true meaning of Christmas gets lost with the frenzy of unwrapping gifts. My kids go to a Christian school and have to earn money (i.e. extra chores) to buy gifts for a family in need. They get it... but some don't and it's hard when their peers only connect it with the latest toys. But I will be here on Tuesday in December ready to start crafting! :) ~ Laurie

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Lots of great ideas! Can't wait to see what you come up with on those Tuesdays. And that is a really cute button!

RefreshMom said...

Shhhh....don't give the rest of the world my Target secret! I've been Fishing for those Deals for a long time! (And along with their Christmas decor, they mark down all those cute gifts that come in the seasonal department but aren't really seasonal gifts.)

I have to say though, I'm really glad to have my toy stash from previous years toy clearance. It's really nice to head into this season (starting Halloweek week with Boo's birthday and Hubs and my mom this month) with the majority of kiddo gifts already purchased.

deb said...

YOu've listed some great ideas here! I love handmade gifts and now with my two little ones here I'm already putting together some scrapbooks.

Julie said...

I am sooo happy I found you! Within minutes of reading how to do the silhouettes I have already taken the kids pictures!!You would not believe the craziness I went through last year trying to shine a light onto the wall and trace their silhouette onto a piece of paper while I expected my 4 Boys to stand still!!! The stupid things we do!!!!
I am new to all this blog stuff so can you help me....I put your button on my blog but know i am wondering how this works - if you have time to respond I would appreciate it?? Is it a sharing thing or is it just something that you post

Betty said...

Hi, there! I love your post! Very informative! A lot of suggestions to choose from! Thank you for reading and linking to it! I am going to return the favor and add your blog to my Shopping/Gifts Directory.

If you'd like to write about gifts and become one of our Guest Contributors, we'd love to have you! Have a Happy Day!

L said...

Great ideas! Have you ever used "Blurb"? Checking with different companies because I want to create one of these for a gift. I had never heard of this one.


Groovewoman ♫ said...

FABULOUS IDEAS!! I can't wait to come back in December for the weekly posts. EXCITED!!

Jinx said...

I always set a budget...with plenty of room because I always go over a bit!

I think the stocking stuffers are my favorite to plan. (We even get tiny things for the cats!)

And with inexpensive twinkle lights, a little goes a long way in the "festive decorating" department!

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