Frugal Tips & Tricks · Fun & Entertainment

10 Fun Holiday Ideas to Save Money & Spread Cheer!

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Have I already mentioned a million times that I love holidays? Well I do, but they can get expensive if you’re not careful. If you’re on a shoestring budget like I am check out my 10 Fun Holiday Ideas to Save Money & Spread Cheer:

  • Buy gifts online: I know all the stores look extra pretty this time of year but I promise you that if you shop in stores instead of online you will spend more money on gifts. It’s not just the fact that you can get the same thing for less money online it’s that stores are set up to inspire impulse purchases. Companies spend major money employing marketing and psychology experts specifically to advise them about how to set up their stores during the holidays.
  • Buy gifts thoughtfully: While it’s nice to see a mountain of presents in a storybook most people would much prefer one or two gifts they really want rather than a ton of stuff that they’ll eventually give away or get rid of. Remember, it’s ok to ask someone what they want, but when they tell you believe them! Employing this quality over quantity approach will not only make your gift recipients happier it will also lower your holiday spending.
  • Baked goods go a long way: If you need a cheap but thoughtful gift for co-workers, casual friends, or someone who is hosting a party baked goods in a festive tin are never out of place! These days a lot of people don’t know how to cook or bake at all so even simple cookies are quickly devoured with glee.
  • Just say no to browsing: Browsing in stores is never a great idea but doing it during the holidays is a recipe for disaster! The sentimentality of the season can trick your otherwise savvy brain into spending money on junky holiday stuff that you don’t need. I even go so far as to avoid doing much shopping during the season, period. I’m already done with my holiday shopping, which I did online during all the weekend sales, and the only shopping I’ll do for the rest of the month is going to the produce store and grocery store.
  • Check out at least 2 seasonal events in your town: Unless you live in a super tiny town your city probably has lots of fun holiday events that are cheap or free. Make an effort to go to at least 2 events that you’ve never been to before and invite friends along to make it a cheap group outing! This season the fella and I are going to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and all the displays on 5th Avenue (he’s never been before!) and later we’re going to see this insanely huge model train display.
  • Indulge in some gourmand-worthy goods once a week: The fella and I are serious about our budget and that includes grocery shopping, but during the holidays (i.e. December) I like to indulge a little. For me that means buying pricier items like lamb, heavy cream (for decadent sauces), and fun snacks from the European imports store down the street. It’s a nice way to mark the season and make the holidays feel special so if your thing is fancy cheese, craft beer, or chocolate make a point to buy at least one nice item a week to enjoy.
  • Do a themed movie or tv marathon: The fella and I started this silly tradition a few years ago and we really look forward to it. The day we open our Christmas gifts we play all of our favorite shows’ holiday episodes. Each year we add to the list with our new favorites so it gets longer and longer!
  • Embrace the power of pū-pū platter: I was born in Hawaii and while my family lived there they became enamored with the concept of a pū-pū platter. A pū-pū platter is a Hawaiian meets American Chinese meets Polynesian invention that’s basically a smattering of pan-Asian appetizers and typically includes lots of seafood.  Our family tradition growing up was to eat a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern version of a pū-pū platter every Christmas Eve rather than a large heavy meal. I love the idea of having an easy picking meal before the main event and I encourage everyone to try it at least once! This year I’m planning on going back to the roots of the pū-pū platter and serving delicious spare ribs, egg rolls, tempura, poke, sushi, and dumplings!
  • Freeze your extras: Between entertaining guests, going out of town, and serving larger than average meals there’s the opportunity for lots of waste during the holidays. Remember that you can freeze almost anything! I have a food saver and it’s one of those things that I put off buying for years but now can’t believe I ever did without.
  • Scoop up the post-holiday extras: Since we’re newly married I’m longing to really deck out our home with decorations. We’re just starting out so our tree is a little bare and we don’t have a lot of holiday stuff yet. I could spend a couple hundred dollars and get everything I want now, but instead I’m using the retail markup to my advantage. I worked retail for years and I know how this stuff works. Before the holidays store employees spend a ton of time putting stuff in storage and moving things around to make room for holiday stuff. The second Christmas is over it’s a race against time to get rid of everything that’s taking up valuable floor space. The later you go the lower the prices so if you’re like me and you want to snag some cute stuff for a fraction of the cost go shopping (or shop online) between December 26th-29th. The prices at this point will probably be cheaper in stores than online since real estate matters more for brick and mortar stores than online shops.

Share your frugal holiday tips and fun ideas and traditions in the comments! I’d love to hear them!

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