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Money-Saving Holiday Survival Guide

How Do You Stay on a Budget During the Holidays?

Real Simple readers offer small-budget Christmas-gift ideas and other insights on cheap holidays.

book with picture of christmas treeFrancesco

Our family sets an overall budget, then we break it down into how much to spend on extended family, decor, food, and one another. We get cash for that amount and that amount only. As a motivator to stay under budget, any money left over goes toward a fabulous New Year’s party.
Korinne Armour
Prairie Village, Kansas
I remember that Christmas was a holy day long before it was a holiday.
Joann Speers
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I spread my gift giving throughout the year. I share my garden and flowers in the summer and fall and baked goods in the cooler weather; I open my home to others all year just to connect. These things seem to be more important to my friends and family than gifts with a bow.
Barb Brogan
Greenwood, South Carolina
We opt for a family present. One year it was a basket filled with specialty items from the state we live in. On another occasion, it was a Frantz Family Favorites basket, for which my husband and I and all our children chose one thing that was a favorite at the moment. It had everything from jalapeño potato chips to lip balm to college car stickers. This year I have some old family photos that I will copy and put in a frame or a scrapbook. I’m sure it will get us laughing and bring back good memories.
Stephanie Frantz
Chesapeake, Virginia
By realizing that what I buy for one day of the year is not as important as what I do the other 364 days.
Nancy Fawcett
Canfield, Ohio
The 2nd-Annual Big Show-Off Talent Show will, once again, replace gifts. Everyone participates. Last year family members were treated to a play, a rendition of “Santa Baby,” an art class, a dramatic poetry reading, magic tricks, and jokes. My husband and I chose to perform with a pair of raw Purdue chickens, singing and dancing to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” while the whole family joined in. Our memories will last much longer than gifts.
Leah Cupino
Charlottesville, Virginia
Last year I bought everyone books. I chose one on photography for my brother, one about feng shui for my sister-in-law, copies of Jeff Kinney’s series Diary of a Wimpy Kid for my children, and a coffee-table book on the Washington Redskins for my father. It saved me money, wrapping paper (I just used beautiful ribbon), and time. It was such a success that I plan on giving books again this Christmas.
Liza Malinis
Virginia Beach, Virginia

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