smart spending

4 places to slash holiday costs

2.Trimming the trimmings

With holiday decorating, "less is more," says Barbara Kilikevicius, author of "A Mindful Christmas."

"The Christmas tree and some appropriately placed poinsettias and greenery with berries go a long way," Kilikevicius says.

Stroh advises trimming the fresh-tree budget altogether.

"Christmas trees can cost upward of $100," he says. "If you are going away for the holidays and may be able to enjoy the tree for only a short period of time, you could reduce spending by stringing lights on a ficus tree, mantelpiece or other creative location."

Before heading out to buy decorations, "consider using what you already have in creative ways," says Kathy Peterson, a celebrity lifestyle/design expert and host of the weekly national TV series "Town & Country Crafts with Kathy Peterson."

For example, Peterson suggests stuffing strands of twinkle lights into clear glass containers.

"Use your creativity and not your credit," she adds.

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Need a centerpiece? Colleen Sprunk and Lisa Carbanes, founders of the online home entertaining products and services store Social Couture, suggest using baskets, bowls, vases or artwork.

3. Penny-wise parties

Fun holiday gatherings can also be frugal. When Kilikevicius hosted the main-course portion of a neighborhood progressive dinner -- under a limited budget -- she organized a chili bar with three kinds of cheese, five different sauces, three kinds of corn chips and a bowl of sour cream.

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