Take a walk in the woods -- bring your garden clippers -- and harvest some stalks of red twig dogwood, cedar or fir. Use them to make an arrangement in a pot or urn by the front door and for garlands inside or around doors, windows, over the mantle and up the banister.
2. Upgrade your lights
Retire that old string of incandescent Christmas lights and invest in some LEDs. True, they cost more up front -- about twice the price -- but they live longer, burn cooler and use about 98 per cent less electricity, costing you less in the long run. Go online in your area and look for stores or government agencies offering trade-ins, rebates, discounts or coupons for surrendered incandescents. And timing is everything: Remember to turn the lights off during the day when they can't really be seen anyway. Attaching a timer is a no-fail solution.
3. Save on ornaments
New ornaments can cost a fortune. Look for secondhand ornaments in thrift shops, at garage sales and at school or church Christmas craft sales. Another way to save is to shop for ornaments in January, then tuck them away for next year.
Another idea? Make edible cookie ornaments. They're inexpensive to make, delicious and a great activity for the family. While you're at it, string cranberries and popcorn for a tree garland. It costs pennies and it's the kind of thing a family can do in front of a favourite holiday flick or two. But make lots of popcorn -- there will be unauthorized snacking.
4. Get creative with the tree skirt
Don't be duped into spending too much on something just because it's labelled a "tree skirt." If you can use it to hide the tree stand -- whether it's a two-dollar piece of burlap or a fluffy white baby blanket you scored at Value Village -- it's a tree skirt. Visit a fabric shop or tailor -- they may have off-cuts to give away or sell for a few cents.
Page 1 of 2 - Read page two to learn how to save on dishes, stockings and more
5. Use edible table decor
Take a gorgeous serving bowl and fill it with clementines and pomegranates. Stud oranges with cloves and pile on a pretty tray. And for each plate, bake and place sugar cookies decorated with your guests' names. Even better, make savoury cookies so folks can nibble while they wait for the bird to make its entrance.
6. Don't match your dishes
Don't have enough china, silverware or stemware for the great hoards set to arrive? Secondhand and thrift-shop finds can be beautiful and inexpensive and, if the individual pieces are well chosen, the finished look will be hip and eclectic. Start poking around early for the best selection and choices.
7. Use stockings for stockings
In the old days, folks used to hang their sock either at the end of their beds or from the mantle over the fireplace. Smart kids borrowed one of dad's big socks -- plenty of room for goodies. Genius kids made a play for Mom's pantyhose. In other words, there's no need to spend on ornamental Christmas stockings. But if your heart is set on it, visit secondhand and thrift shops -- they always have tons to choose from and they rarely cost more than a buck or two. And that beats the $45 stockings in department stores. Just think of all the money you'll have left over to spend on what you put inside the sock.
8. It's a wrap
Brand-new Christmas wrapping paper is not only expensive (about $3 a roll at Canadian Tire), it's usually made from virgin wood -- not very green at all. But there is a solution: Get creative. Wrap gifts in the weekend funny pages, ask your butcher for some butcher paper or buy some plain parchment paper. Cut up the attractive paper gift bags in the back of your closet and turn them into wrapping paper; even brown paper grocery bags tied up with raffia are lovely. A pretty tea towel wrapped around a box of chocolates is gift and wrapping in one.
Christmas should not be about waste and blowing the budget on fancy, overpriced paper. OK, a little excess is expected, but save your cash for the really satisfying stuff -- giving and spending time with the ones you love. After that, everything else falls away.
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