Have a (Mostly) Free Christmas

by Emily Guy Birken

Do you wake up on January 1st every year with a hangover?

No, not that kind. I mean a spending hangover. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American anticipates spending about $700 for all the associated costs of Christmas, including gifts, decorations and postage.

If you have planned for the $700 in your personal budget, then this is no big deal. But if you’re like most people, you’ll put Christmas on plastic and deal with the repercussions in January. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t start 2012 off with a credit card bill you don’t know how to pay. Here are some creative ways to reduce your Christmas spending to nothing (or thereabouts):

Retail Gifts for Free

How to have a free ChristmasIf you want to take the traditional retail route for gifts, you can still score some for free. Become a paid survey taker and earn cash, gifts or gift cards you can either give or use for your Christmas shopping. Be wary, however, as there are many scam survey sites out there. Check out questionable survey sites with www.surveypolice.com.

Homemade Gifts

If you’re willing to make homemade gifts, there are literally thousands of ways to make something special without spending money. And homemade doesn’t mean chintzy, either. The best homemade gifts show an appreciation for what the recipient likes and cares about. Some ideas:

  • Gather together recipes from all the best cooks in the family along with some favorite snapshots from throughout the years and bind them all together for a 2011 family cookbook. You can either do the printing and binding on your own or take it down to the local copy shop to make enough copies for everyone.
  • Make a gift basket full of home-baked goodies and fruit. You can personalize it with a framed photograph of yourself and the recipient at the center of the basket.
  • If you’re nimble with a needle, create a gadget cover for your favorite techie’s iPad, cell phone or mp3 player.

The sky is the limit when you decide to make your own gifts, and your recipients will really appreciate the extra time and effort you put into them.


This may seem like a social no-no, but regifting items you don’t use is a great way to make sure your stuff is used and loved. Never wear that watch? Give it to your dad or uncle. Regret the purchase of that too-youthful blouse? Wrap it up for your college-aged niece.

Of course, regifting only works if you have a good handle on the tastes of your recipients. Otherwise, it’s just shifting clutter from one house to another.

Decorating and Wrapping Paper

Hallmark may come out with adorable Christmas tree ornaments and wrapping paper each year, but there’s no need to spend money on them. Make your own instead! The kids will love making traditional strings of popcorn and cranberries to dress your tree, as well as paper chains and other easy-to-make decorations. The bonus is that your tree will look like no one else’s.

As for wrapping paper, it’s both bad for the environment and expensive to buy new rolls each year. Instead, wrap your gifts with brown paper from grocery bags or white butcher paper and decorate it with drawings, stickers, stamps or ribbons. You can still make a beautiful gift presentation without spending money on giftwrap.

Annual Christmas Letter

This year, why not send a free e-card to everyone on your list? It solves the problem of postage on your end and what to do with all those cards on the recipient’s end. A win-win.

Contrary to popular belief, spending money is not necessary to be full of Christmas spirit. Get into the joy of family time, sharing and giving without taking a hit on your finances.

Photo credit: alancleaver_2000

Published or updated January 14, 2012.
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

Since I started blogging, I receive invitations from product launches, advocacy programs, fashion shows, and even special movie screenings. I love it! I also received special gifts and gift certificates from companies and organizations, some of which we do not use, which we do plan to give as gifts to friends and relatives who will be coming over the holidays.


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