How To “Make Under” Your Christmas

Are you sick and tired of all the hustle and bustle of the holidays? Do you want to just stop all the craziness and go back to keeping it simple?

Try these ideas for a “make under” Christmas so you can slow down and save money. Have an effortless and down-to-earth celebration this year without saying “Bah Humbug”.

1. Simplify Dinner: Instead of a fancy, expensive,  over-the-top dinner that takes you days to prepare, consider having a potluck with the family. If every family member brings a simple dish to share, you have just reduced your cost AND your workload without having any real effect on either the happiness of the occasion or the quality of the food.

2. Simplify Presents: The easiest way to make gift-giving streamlined if you have a huge family full of aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews is to draw names at Thanksgiving (or assign them through email). Each person buys a nicer gift for that one family member.

3. Simplify the Party: Don’t go through the expense and trouble this year of a formal party. Your friends most likely have tons of holiday functions to attend. They’ll need to get dressed up, find a sitter and stress about being late for all of them. If you’re doing a party, keep it ultra-casual. Invite all your friends over, with their kids, on, say, a Thursday night. Have everyone wear jeans and do something different like ordering pizza. For about $100, you can probably buy enough pizza and soda to feed all of your friends and their kids with less stress, very little clean up and a lot of holiday cheer.

4. Simplify Cards: Ok, I will admit it.  I am guilty of mailing Christmas cards late…if at all.  Stamps and cards can really add to an already stretched budget. For many moms, just the thought of having to address and comment in all those cards can be distressing. Why not send e-cards this year? Or, if that is just too informal for your family, don’t send cards for Christmas at all. Wait until after Christmas and buy up some festive, but generic, and start a new tradition of mailing out New Year’s cards in January. Less rush. Less cost. Less stress. And something different for family and friends to look forward to.

5. Simplify Decor: Keep decorations minimal. Don’t drag out box upon box of ornaments and spend days covering every square inch of your house in holiday cheer. Create a nice display on your mantle or put a beautiful wreath on your door. Decorate the tree with the kids, perhaps making your own garland or ornaments. That’s it.  Best part? There’s less to clean up too.

6.Simplify Cookies: Did you know that the average person in the USA gains about 5 pounds over the holiday season? Consider saving yourself the after-Christmas diet in January and don’t make any cookies this year. You’re sure to get a few cookies from other parties and moms anyway.

Ways to Save Money on Gifts:

What other ideas do you have on ways to create a memorable “Make Under” Family Christmas this year?

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10 Ways to Do Christmas on the “Cheap”

Christmas is that time of year when all moms get rushed and have a tendency to overspend, oftentimes without even realizing it.  Want to avoid that surprise credit card bill come January?

Stick to your budget!

In fact, you can make shopping easier by purchasing gift cards for nearly everyone on your shopping list. When you use gift cards, it’s easier to keep to your budget and, if you decide to buy $10 gift cards for all those extras on your holiday list, you can manage an inexpensive and stress-free holiday season. Of course, not every recipient lends itself to a small denomination gift card, but for the ones that do,  these places can be excellent choices.

1. Best Buy: Have a gamer or tech lover on your list? They’ll love a Best Buy gift card. Ok, ten bucks won’t buy too much but it does help defray the cost of whatever it is they really would like.  Plus, it gives them the excuse to go in and browse!

2. Starbucks: When in doubt, coffee wins. Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t like Starbucks? A frugal shopper can get at least three cups of joe out of one itty bitty gift card. And you’ll feel good knowing you’ve brightened their morning THREE times.

3. iTunes: Have a teen or young adult that you are shopping for? Chances are they have an iPods or similar product. Your gift will be enjoyed for years to come as they download their favorite songs.  Maybe they will remember your generosity every time they hear their choices.

4. Blockbuster: Yes, Virginia, there are still Blockbusters.  Many people have been lured away from old fashioned “video” rentals by Netflix and Redbox, but for most people, Blockbuster is still a local option. You can make a gift basket with a couple packs of  microwave popcorn and sodas with your gift card.  Oh, and check out the prices for Blockbuster gift cards at your local grocery store.  Sometimes its cheaper.

5. Cold Stone Creamery: Want something that will bring a smile to their face? Cold Stone is a treat among ice cream parlors, allowing patrons to basically create their own blends.  Keep a look out for coupons to include to make that gift card stretch even further!

6. Barnes & Noble: This is my fall back gift of choice, especially to my father.  If you have a book lover (or even a music lover or coffee lover) you can’t go wrong with Barnes & Noble. The best part is not actually spending the money, but spending the time wandering the store trying to pick something out!

7. Phone Card: With the rise in popularity of Net10 and TracFones, its pretty easy these days to buy a refill card.  Yeah, it’s not the most personal gift, but if you ask my tweenage daughter, it’s at the top of her list!

8. SkinIt: Have a tech lover? Most techies love cool accessories for their gear. And at, they can get what they want. Skinit offers 1,000’s of different “skins” for laptops and other mobile devices. These are basicallly giant, re-positionable stickers. The  smallest denomination for a gift card is $14.99 but when you weigh in the cool factor, it’s probably worth that extra 5 bucks.

9. Movies: This can be a great way to gift (on the cheap) nieces and nephews in your family.  Movie theaters offer gift cards for tickets and snacks.  If they go to a matinee, they might just have enough for a ticket and a shared popcorn!

10. Amazon: If you’re looking to buy me a gift, send codes. And delivery is versatile.  You can email a gift, mail it, or even share it via Facebook.  Gotta love simplicity.

Hopefully, these gift card ideas will help you stay in budget this Christmas season!

Ways to Save Money on Gifts:

What are your favorite places to purchase gift cards?

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How To Spend Less and Give More This Christmas

There’s nothing wrong with a gift-of-the-month club but there are better ways for us moms to enjoy Christmas for less.

In fact, many families will get more satisfaction out of buying a special toy for the Toys for Tots campaign  than they ever do from overspending on gifts.

Here are a few suggestions on how to return Christmas to a season of simple giving and simple pleasures.

1. Serve Up Dinner:  This is the most obvious choice and, probably the first one that comes to most people’s minds when thinking about how to give of themselves over the holiday season. Plan to take time to volunteer as a family at a local shelter. Whether you help to prep the meal the day before or head over on Christmas Day, the shelter team and dinner guests greatly appreciate your time. Unfortunately, for many it may be their only hot meal this holiday season. The experience will make your family be thankful for their dinner even more and it didn’t cost you a dime.

2. Use a Wish List: Many people do not realize that charities have a “Wish List”. This is perfect for those who want to have a frugal Christmas but still love to shop. Instead of spending money on extravagant gifts for loved ones, ask your favorite animal shelter or children’s hospital what they want. Set a spending limit and hit the mall. In fact, sometimes actual presents mean more this time of year than cash donations.

3. Make a Loan: If you have never heard of, you need to check it out. The concept is extraordinary; you loan a small amount of money to a family in a third world country to help them become self-sufficient. The desired microloans are varied, from a family in Mali who need money to buy seeds and fertilizer to a widow in Tajikistan who needs to buy more products to sell for a profit at the local market. It can be a meaningful gift to know that a loan of as little as $25 can be life-changing for someone else. And, the best part? When they pay the money back, you can loan it again.

4. Donate: Many people give a cash donation to their favorite charity this time of year but, in order to give more and spend less, you need to put a little more thought into it.  Why not opt out of buying gifts for family and friends and donate a small amount to each of their favorite charities this Christmas?  You will spend less and they will love you for it. In fact, it shows you care enough about them to know what causes they believe in.

5. Commit: Volunteering your time and donating money in lieu of family gifts is great but charities need help year round.  Give yourself a present and commit to volunteering throughout the year. Maybe you could start a new family tradition; have everyone go around the table and talk about their favorite charity. Each of you can announce why you chose it and what you are committed to doing for them in the coming year.

Hopefully, this gives you some great tips on how to give more meaningful gifts from the heart while still spending less and doing Christmas on the cheap.

Ways to Save Money on Gifts:

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Myths About Frugal Christmas

What holds most moms back from wanting to set the goal of having a frugal Christmas?

What are moms most worried about when they think about this idea? Most of us moms like to save money in other aspects of our lives, but, somehow the idea of saving money at Christmas gives even the most frugal moms pause.

Let’s address some common myths about a frugal Christmas and the reasons why you should totally ignore them.

1. Mom is Cheap
Inexpensive doesn’t really need to be a bad thing. In fact, you may find that many friends and family members might actually even be a little relieved. In this economy, they may have been trying to spend less and save more, too! The critical point here is to make sure you’re not hitting the dollar store with your shopping list in hand. Don’t try to buy a bunch of cheap junk to use as gifts. Instead, get the best deals you can within your budget and buy nice items no matter the price-range. No matter if you reduced your budget to $20 a person or $5, buy one nice item in that range.

2. Mom Feels Guilty
Many moms feel this way but they really shouldn’t. Christmas isn’t about who can spend the most money or who decides to buy the most extravagant gifts. Really, it’s not.  Plus, you’ll feel fantastic come January when your credit card bill arrives and you don’t dread the thought of opening it. Just imagine how much money you could make if you could bottle that incredible feeling of satisfaction you get when you know you don’t have an outstanding credit card balance.

3. Everyone’ll think Mom is ridiculous for cutting back at Christmas.
The truth is that friends and family (and most other people you know) will probably admire your strength. As a matter of fact, each and every one of them at some point in time probably had the same frugal ideas, but got sidetracked and never followed through with their goal. In reality, most will be impressed by your fortitude.  And, who knows, perhaps they might even jump on the inexpensive holidays bandwagon next year.

4. Mom can’t buy anything nice for cheap.
Believe it or not, but limited budgets tend to inspire some of the most creative, appreciated and memorable presents. For example, if you take a family photo each year, you can put one in a frame for the grandparents. It makes for a very inexpensive gift that most grandparents would cherish far more than a new tie or sweater. Likewise, a handmade gift from your child is worth much more to a mom than any blue box from Tiffany.

5. The family won’t enjoy Christmas as much if Mom doesn’t spend a ton of money on gifts.
Well, it’s like your mother always said, “You never know until you try.” It can take dozens of repetitions before an action becomes a habit. Once you see the results, saving money and not going overboard at Christmas will stick faster than most.

Whatever your hang-ups, beliefs or fears about simplifying Christmas are, they are likely unfounded. Tell yourself that you need to make the commitment to have an inexpensive holiday this season. Try it just once. You never know; you may like it.

Ways to Save on Christmas Gifts:

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