10 frugal tips for the ho-ho-holidays

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Who’s the most frugal Santa of them all? You pick!

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We’ve gathered frugal, festive tips from Bankrate readers that are sure to make your season merry and bright! And when you’re finished reading them, help one finalist jingle all the way … to the bank! The story that receives the most “likes” at Bankrate’s Facebook page will receive a $200 Amazon.com gift card.

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Frugal family photos in kid-designed frames

With a color printer and a nice family photo, we make copies and give our family the gift they want — framed pictures! I buy unfinished frames at the arts and crafts store for $1 apiece and let the kids decorate them with puff paints, gems and other fun decorator items. Grandparents LOVE receiving the handmade frames with updated pictures of the kids. Like they always say, “We don’t need anything.” … Pictures are always welcome! Price per gift: about $1.50!


San Carlos, Calif.

Give beautiful gifts while keeping the green in your pocket

Most frugality sites shun gift wrapping as an unnecessary expense, and give suggestions like recycling store bags or newspapers to wrap gifts. Bah, humbug!

I love a beautifully wrapped gift, and have a reputation for them that belies how little I really spend on it. I limit my color palette for Christmas to red, green and gold, so that everything I do buy mixes and matches, and I only buy wrap, ribbons and tags at 75 percent off or more.

If you wait until closer to New Year’s, whatever is left will be 75 percent to 90 percent off at drug stores and the fabric stores, which are a surprisingly good place to find these items and have beautiful ribbons that make for a much more elegant package than premade bows from the discount stores. I’m kind of picky and still manage to add several items to my stash each year, and can wrap extravagantly with no guilt!

The boxes from your office that file folders and envelopes come in also make great gift boxes — they fold flat for storage, and you can wrap just the lid and save the box for reuse if it’s used for an item staying in your immediate family.


Springfield, Mo.

‘Bean’ thinking of you

I make a big pot of black bean, corn and turkey chili and use Mason jars with beautiful and festive ribbons to bring to co-workers for a quick lunch, snack or dinner during the holidays.


Stockbridge, Ga. 

Gift basket o’ plenty

Instead of buying gifts for each individual person, I give a gift basket to each family. I include something for everyone — flavored coffees and teas, microwave popcorn, cookies, gum, etc. I shop at the bulk stores, so I get a good price and a wide selection. I also throw in gift cards that I have received and know I won’t use. I pick up baskets throughout the year at garage sales and thrift stores, and I encourage recycling of the baskets by promising to include their favorite items next year.


Belleville, Mich.

It’s all in the ‘present’ation

My teenage son only wanted cash for Christmas last year, so to make it more interesting, I took five $10 bills and wrapped them individually in tiny boxes. It was a huge hit! Everytime he’d open another one, everyone would laugh. My daughter pouted because she got $55 in gift cards instead. This year, she’ll get the packages; 10 $5 bills this time!


Fargo, N.D.

Your presence is a gift

We treat each daughter’s family to a membership at a museum, aquarium, zoo or other place where they can use the money to buy an annual membership and go more than once as a family to enjoy throughout the year and only pay for the gas to get there.


Salem, Ore.

Dreaming of a color-coded Christmas

I color-code each person, then all the gifts are by color or pattern or tags. Having five kids, three sons-in-law and eight grandkids is a challenge. That way they are easier to distribute at the family reunion, and I end up with all the reusable bags or boxes for next year. Of course, all gifts are bought at post-Christmas sales and throughout the year at clearances.


Arden, N.C.

Cards from the heart

My 97-year-old grandmother, Minnie, makes her own Christmas cards to send. She saves the Christmas cards that others send her and then reuses them the next year by cutting them up and gluing them onto new blank cards. She mixes and matches the designs and pictures and then handwrites an appropriate verse for each recipient. We all love to receive her special handmade cards at Christmas. It doesn’t cost her much. It keeps her mind and hands busy.


College Station, Texas

Christmas in June

I shop for children’s toys and clothes at thrift stores and garage sales during the summer. Often I find new or like-new items at bargain prices and put them away for Christmas.


Moscow, Idaho

Let your fingers do the shopping

I subscribe online to sites that give me points for clicking into their ads. This year I have earned three $50 gift certificates to the Gap and one $25 to a restaurant for a total of $175!! Also, I start selling (online) any unwanted items that I have around the house (I would never re-gift anything) from January to November. This year I recovered almost $2,000 to spend on the grandchildren! When it comes to the food … I clip every possible coupon online and in the newspaper — the savings are endless!

Every year one of our local markets has a deal two weeks before Thanksgiving … spend $100 (which isn’t hard to do!) and get up to a 20-pound turkey free. Hey, when you have four children and 10 grandchildren, you’ll look for any bargain!

Have a wonderful holiday season!


Salem, N.H.

More frugal holiday tips

Now that you’ve read all of the frugal holiday tips, be sure to vote for your favorite at Facebook.com/Bankrate — and come back on Dec. 17 to see who won! See official contest rules.

Happy holidays from Bankrate.com!