Extravagant expense: Three gifts each for your two kids, a big gift for your partner, five smaller gifts for extended family, six gifts for your kids' teachers and coaches, plus extra frills such as cards, fancy wrapping paper, bows and yards of ribbon…
Decadent discount: Prepare a candlelit dinner for your partner instead of buying a gift (savings: $75). Buy your kids just two gifts each (savings: $100). Draw names among your extended family and buy only one gift with an agreed-upon price limit (savings: $80). Give $45 to a charity and send out cards letting teachers and coaches know
donations were made in their names (savings: $75). Dispense with the extra frills; instead, reuse gift bags and boxes, then have your kids decorate kraft paper (savings: $50).
Cassie Howard, a mom in Mississauga, Ont., who runs the frugal-living website mrsjanuary.com (mrsjanuary.com), trimmed her spending from $2,000 to $500. Her best tip for saving on gifts? "Cash in reward points." Last year she redeemed her Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum points for two cameras and two digital photo frames.
If you can't bear the thought of a tree with only a sprinkling of gifts underneath, buy some inexpensive items, like secondhand books, and wrap them up. "This works well with younger kids who don't know the price of anything," says Toronto parenting expert Alyson Schafer. "For them, the fun is in the unwrapping."
Saving money on decorating
Extravagant expense: A ten-foot-tall Christmas tree, elaborate ornaments, ropes of lights, a roof loaded with yuletide creatures and a lawn littered with plastic reindeer and Santas…
Decadent discount: Consider a strategically placed poinsettia or a fresh garland on your front door (price: as little as $5). And do you need to buy a real Christmas tree every year? Howard bought a $200 artificial one for half price on Boxing Day and figures she'll save $300 on trees over the next decade. Schafer suggests using free natural decor – pinecones and boughs. "Take a winter pilgrimage to hunt and scavenge, and make it a family outing."
Saving money on entertaining
Extravagant expense: A turkey, a batch of side dishes, picky canapés, a steady flow of wine and eggnog…
Decadent discount: A feast for 10 could run you up to $200 each year. Instead, you could: host a communal potluck, rotate the big meal among family members, ask guests to bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer, or throw a holiday breakfast or brunch, sans alcohol.
Or just keep it simple. "Have a tobogganing party with a big pot of chili afterward," suggests Schafer. "No one is going to expect you to have salmon fillet back at the house if you've been sledding all afternoon."
Here are more awesome tips for how to celebrate Christmas on a budget.
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This story was originally titled "Season's Savings" in the December 2011 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!