Jordann over at My Alternate Life wrote about a minimalist Christmas. Hers is out of both necessity (debt repayment) and general minimalist tendencies.

It got me thinking about the impending holidays and traditions therein.

As you may remember, we had a very frugal Christmas last year. This year, money is still tight with the in-laws. It’s not great for us either, since our car gave us the early Christmas gift of $1,500 in repairs.

So we’re definitely doing a redux this year. I want to raise a little, maybe to $30. Anything over $35 and we’re raising last year’s costs by half.

But beyond this tactic, how do you have a frugal holiday?

Obviously, the best way is to set a budget. Not exactly groundbreaking. The thing is it’s still pretty easy to get carried away — especially if you do your shopping early.

I think the best ideas would be to:

1. Keep a detailed list of what you’ve bought. Alternately, you can just separate your purchases by recipient.

When you get tempted to get just one more thing, go peek at your list or swag pile. You’ll quickly realize you’ve already bought plenty.

2. Set an item limit. Instead of just setting a budget — unless your budget is as low as our family’s — also set a maximum number of presents. The more you buy, the more likely that some of those items won’t get used. But if you can only buy three or four items, you’re going to make sure they’re actually what the person wants.

But that’s just the shopping side. Jordann gave some other fun suggestions for frugal holidays.

First up: gingerbread cookies. Me+ molasses is a recipe for disaster, if you’ll pardon the pun. But Betty Crocker has a gingerbread mix that I might look into.

More importantly, I miss making holiday cookies. It was a tradition that Mom and I did each year. Including the yearly swearing at the cookie press. (Seriously, you can never get it to work until you’ve wasted half a canister!)

Some butter cookies and, more importantly, peanut butter blossoms will have me in good holiday cheer. And probably stretchy pants.

Next: cheap holiday decorations.

I’m not going to make any of our decorations by hand, but we do things pretty cheaply anyway.

The tree is a must, in my book. We have a fake one, so no recurring costs and no pine needles to pick up.

Each year, it’s kind of an occasion. I put up all my ornaments — many of which are from my childhood tree. I still have ones from McDonald’s holiday promotions, like the mice from Cinderella. Still pretty adorable and now probably considered retro kitsch.

 Next: Donating/charity.

Jordann goes through her place and donates items not being used. We’re about to do a thorough cleaning of the house, so I’m betting on similar results.

Don’t forget Angel Tree, Toys for Tots and other similar programs. Stores like Kmart will have $5 board games off and on throughout the season. Toy cars also get heavily discounted. And there are plenty of plush animals free (or nearly free) with minimum purchases.

You get to exercise your frugal chops and make a kid happy. What could be better?

And finally,  remember the reason for the season.

All that careful thought and attention you put into buying and wrapping gifts? Done in under an hour. Probably significantly less.

So remember that the holidays are about more than gifts.

Whether that has religious implications or just means spending time with loved ones, it’s the best way to have a wallet-friendly holiday.


 How do you guys deal with the holiday spending bug?

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