The Cost-Cutter’s Guide to Holiday Shopping

Although it doesn’t feel right to be miserly during the festive season, you don’t have to spend lots of money to have fun.

The Cost-Cutter's Guide to Holiday Shopping

Get the whole family involved in the preparations and approach the holidays as a family activity. You’ll enrich your time together, as well as saving money and adding a personal touch to your gifts, decorations and cards.

The holiday spirit

The holidays are great fun and exchanging gifts is a large part of it, but many people would agree it has become far too commercial.

Purchasing power

Smart Christmas shopping means buying presents you think a person will like when you spot them, and when the price is right. Look for gifts throughout the year. Holiday trips, craft and country fairs, gift shops at museums and botanical gardens, auctions and flea markets are all excellent sources of one-of-a-kind presents. Earmark a drawer or the back of a closet as designated gift storage. Then, when Christmas-or birthdays and other special occasions-approach, you can reach in and produce the ideal present for anyone on your list.

Making memories

For a unique Christmas present make a scrapbook or collage. Use photographs, decorative papers and other memorabilia. Ask friends, family members and colleagues to contribute a written memory of an event or conversation shared with the recipient to include in the present. Or make a personalized calendar featuring 12 photographs that show a special moment in the person’s life. The recipient can then enjoy your gift all year long.

Choose a charity

Why not suggest to the adults in your family that each donates to a charity of his or her choice. You can then open an envelope around the tree, read aloud the literature describing the charitable aims, and the children learn something at the same time. And don’t forget that tax deduction, which effectively lowers the cost of the “gift.”

Pick a person

The pressure to come with ideas and spend your hard-earned money often takes the fun out of Christmas. Why not limit the gifts for the adults by choosing names out of a hat and only buying for one or two members of a large family. That way you can spend a bit more and get something really special.

Make a homemade gift

Nothing says it better than when you take the time to make the gift yourself. Homemade preserves and baked goods such as fudge, decorated cookies or a gingerbread house are always appreciated.

Personalized gift wrap

With wrapping paper costing $1 a sheet or more, decorating your own gift wrap is a rewarding project, as well as a creative way to add a personal touch to a present. Using thin brown parcel paper or another type of paper with the equivalent thickness, paint with acrylic paint and sponge, potato print, stencil, fingerpaint or draw designs to create one-of-a-kind wrapping paper. Fabric also makes an excellent wrap, especially for awkward shapes, and can be bought for as little at $2 per metre in fabric store sales, end of lines or remnant bins. Tie with satin ribbons.

Shop after Christmas

Cards are reduced by up to 70% from Boxing Day till the new year, so shop for next year’s cards then and tuck them away until you need them.

Spend less on decorations

If you are willing to be adventurous and stay away from the traditional stores, you can save a small fortune on decorations-leaving you more to spend on presents. Scour sales advertised in local papers throughout the year, especially from September onward.

Dollar stores

Dollar stores are packed with inexpensive festive offerings for almost all your holiday decorating needs.

Garage sales

In the warmer weather, think ahead to the holiday season when checking out garage sales. Look for seasonal tablecloths, candleholders, strings of lights, ornaments, and artificial trees.

Fabric and craft shops

Watch for sales, usually just before and after Christmas, as well as end-of-line or old-stock bins. You should be able to pick up glitter glue, fabric remnants (a piece of red cloth to cover a small side table, a piece of velvet to embellish a cushion, or a holly print fabric to wrap up a present), shiny ribbon and shaped scissors. You may also find decorations at 50%-70% off the full price.

Use your charity cards

Many charities send out packets of cards around Christmas, hoping to prompt a donation. Make use of them. Even a modest charitable donation will be welcomed by most of these organizations and you’ll feel good about doing it.

Create cards for free

Some of the cards you receive are just too beautiful to throw away. Using last year’s cards, cut off designs and motifs, and glue them onto card blanks either as a central feature or a pattern. Embellish the cards with glitter or embossed lettering. Or make gift tags by cutting the central motifs from cards, punching a hole at one edge and tying on a ribbon.

Transform old cards for decorations

For attractive paper garlands, cut the front of old cards into strips and make interlocking chains to hang on a tree, edge a mantelpiece or brighten a staircase. For unique napkin rings, cut 5 cm (2 in.) strips from the cards, form them into a circle and glue or staple the ends together.

Email greetings

The cost of postage continues to rise and can really add up if you send out a lot of cards. Why not bypass the postal service altogether and create cards on your computer to send by email. Many websites offer ready-designed cards you can send free to family and friends at just the click of a button. They can print them if they wish to keep with the season’s collection.