Let’s talk turkey. You can easily shell out thousands of bucks this holiday season on fancy presents, lavish dinners, and festive activities. Or, you can soak up every bit of the celebration while sticking to your budget. Just borrow one of these frugal-but-festive tips from real savers across the country.
1. GET CRAFTY FOR A DOLLAR.
“The dollar store has so much holiday stuff, including decorations and stocking stuffers. But there’s also some great craft supplies, especially if you get creative. I love making DIY ornaments for the grandparents.” —Molly Polins, Chicago, Illinois
2. MAKE IT A POTLUCK.
“I love hosting a big holiday dinner, but it can easily cost me $200 or more to get all of the groceries. Last year, I invited friends for a potluck instead. They seemed to love it, and I could focus on making a few of my favorite dishes instead of buying everything I couldn’t make from scratch. I probably spent $75 total.” —Rachel Cohen, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
3. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME.
“Studies show that volunteering makes you happier and healthier—and I believe it. Definitely it’s become a tradition I look forward to. Last year I made door decorations for a Ronald McDonald House, where families stay when their kids are in the hospital. It sounds cheesy, but giving back reminds me that the season is really about sharing warmth and love. We all need that to get through the winter.” —Nicole Wells, Ann Arbor, Michigan
4. OGLE THE LIGHTS.
“Not all holiday activities have to cost a lot—or even a cent! One of my family’s favorite traditions is we pile the kids into the car in their jammies and drive around to look at Christmas lights, sipping hot chocolate from a thermos.” —Amanda Collins Simkin, Mount Prospect, Illinois
5. SET UP A DIY GIFT EXCHANGE.
“For the last five years, my group of friends has exchanged gifts by drawing names from a hat. We decided it has to be a homemade gift, and that challenge makes it both more fun and more frugal. One year I knit a scarf, one year I baked these killer cornflake-and-coffee cookies, one year I put together a photo book. Another little bonus of this set-up: We get together as a group to draw names and then again to swap gifts, so it’s like two little parties instead of one.” —Laura Liss, Sacramento, California
6. MAKE IT A MORNING MEAL.
“Hosting a dinner can be pricey. Even an evening shindig with appetizers and cocktails can add up. But breakfast is pretty cheap: Bagels, donuts, a giant quiche for everyone to share. Mimosas are scrumptious without being a big splurge. And while most people have a million invites for holiday parties later in the day, mornings tend to be pretty open. Who doesn’t love a good brunch party?” —Ellen Stura, Boulder, Colorado
7. WRAP YOUR HEART OUT.
“For kids, unwrapping gifts is nearly as fun as whatever present is inside. So I grab a lot of presents from the Target dollar bins and wrap things separately. They’re so excited to see all of that wrapping paper!” —Amber Kozawick, Chicago, Illinois