Christmas on the Cheap

5 Ways to Cut Back on Holiday Spending

American consumers expect to shell out, on average, about $750 for gifts, decor, and other holiday items this year, according to a National Retail Federation survey. But is all that spending the true essence of the holiday season? More often it's the family time, rather than the trappings, that yields long-lasting memories. Here are five ways to experience Christmas on the cheap.

1. Rethink Gift Giving.

Perhaps the most obvious impediment to cutting costs at Christmas is the gift giving that lies at its core. But must all those presents come from a mall? Making and giving homemade gifts is one way to celebrate Christmas on the cheap. An abundance of DIY gift ideas awaits on the web; at Cheapism we found inspiration on Pinterest for Christmas. Necessary supplies range from household items to craft-store fare and typically cost little. Best of all, many loved ones may prefer such gifts over store-bought alternatives.

Another cost-cutting tip: Limit the number of Christmas gifts your family exchanges. You might set it up so that each family member gives and receives only one gift. Draw names randomly or work your way down a list year after year.

2. Embrace E-Cards.

Rather than waste money on paper cards and stamps, send out e-cards. Free online options include Punchbowl and Egreetings. Our guide to cheap holiday cards features inexpensive e-cards available through Paperless Post and Hallmark. Make the creation of a festive e-card a family affair by inviting kids to help choose the design.

3. Spend Time, Not Money.

In our hectic world, time spent with family can be a rare and precious gift. Now is the time to resurrect old holiday traditions and establish new ones. A Babble contributor suggests numerous ways to observe Christmas on the cheap: by going caroling, baking a favorite treat, or watching a classic holiday flick. Instead of spending time and money on wrapping paper that will only be torn to shreds, send the family on a Christmas scavenger hunt. Or challenge everyone to wear the tackiest Christmas sweater they can find and vote for a "winner."

4. Go Sightseeing Instead of Shopping.

Celebrate Christmas on the cheap by seeking out the largest trees and most flamboyant holiday lights in your neck of the woods. A massive toy-store train display will mesmerize children far more than any single set you could buy for under the tree. Consult local media for free events and attractions in your town.

5. Give the Gift of Giving Back.

Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or house of worship. What better way to celebrate Christmas on the cheap and instill in your children the spirit of the season? You're sure to find ample opportunities online. You can also teach children the joys of giving to those in need by collecting items such as clothing, books, and food. Let this be a reminder to stockpile items and donate throughout the year, not just during the holiday deluge.

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