Buttoned Up Expert: Twenty Tips for Cutting Costs this Christmas (and Three not to do!)

Stumped by the vast variety of holiday dos and dont’s? Here are the most important tips to keep in mind while planning your holiday celebrations.

Cards, decorations and wrapping

1. Use last year’s decorations and pledge not to buy anything new. Decorate the old-fashioned way with strings or cranberries or popcorn.
2. Send holiday postcards rather than full cards saving on postage as well.
3. Wrap small items in magazine pages or newsprint including the Comics. If you use a nice ribbon, this can work as well as expensive wrapping.


4. Reduce travel costs by planning early. Buy holiday tickets in October if you can, or wait until the very last minute and get tickets at lastminute.com or on Travelocity.
5. Look for last minute deals at Travelocity.com, which has a special section offering up to 70% off. However, be ready to be super-flexible.


6. Hide the credit cards until after the holidays. Credit always makes over-spending easier than pulling those hard-earned fives and twenties out of the wallet.
7. Don’t buy new Christmas music. Plenty of on-line stations play Christmas music for free throughout the holidays and beyond.
8. Make a budget early (think September), shop using catalogues, and stay on top of your spending with no cheating.
9. Consider a gift exchange for large families and groups.
10. Give gift baskets if you’re creative. Things always look better when merchandised correctly. Consider baskets like “Family Pancake Breakfast” or “Movie Night” or “Homemade cookies.” There are tons of “cheaper” ideas here that can be tailored to your recipient.
11. Bunch together purchases with online retailers that offer free shipping with a minimum purchase. Again, this takes planning!
12. Shop import stores like Cost Plus and Pier One Imports for distinctive gifts often at lower prices. These impulse items are perfect for holiday gifts if you bring your budget with you.
13. Shop bargain bins at hardware and book stores – again, bring your budget!
14. Think homemade, like picture books from your photo collection. Or offer to do tasks that are tedious for others but fun for you. Put someone’s address book on the computer for instance and give them a set of stickers for all their friends. Mow a lawn. Frame a picture. Take on tasks that people don’t get around to doing.

Entertaining and restaurants

15. Cut back on restaurants, and if you go shop for bargains, including using entertainment books for 2 for 1 specials.
16. Create a babysitting coop between friends. You’re probably already scheduling playdates. Why not make the next one on a night you want to get out and do some shopping over the holidays or spend a holiday evening with your spouse.
17. BYOB and F – Turn that holiday party into a potluck. Make it a team event. This can go for a full-on bash, all the way down to an intimate dinner for eight or ten.
18. When hosting, borrow what you don’t have. Real friends never mind sharing a little, especially over the holidays.
19. Bake holiday breads – always a hit for other people’s entertaining
20. Bake cookies with a group of friends, as a way to save money on cookie gifts, and eliminate one expensive meal out with friends you want to see over the holidays.


1. Steal office supplies as Christmas gifts. This is just tacky, for you, your employer, and the recipient.
2. Give lots of gift cards – while the idea is nice, and less tacky than a dollar bill, the message is that you don’t know the person well enough to find a real gift. If you can’t find a good present, you’re better off giving a book or a CD that you like and give this as a gift, including the receipt in case they want to take it back. This way you’ve shared something you like and they can still return the merchandise for cash at most stores. Cash cards often get lost and the store or bank pockets the money.
3. Skip Christmas this year – it’s always a temptation, but with a little creativity and extra effort, you can still make the holiday special, especially if you’re surrounded by your family.

For more from Paul Banas, go to GreatDad.com!