If you’re looking for ideas about handmade gifts and how-to tips to stencil plain brown paper with which to wrap your gifts, you are in the wrong place. I’m not crafty in the least. What I am, however, is pretty frugal when it comes to holiday spending. To those of you who ARE crafty and make pretty, but inexpensive wrappings and decorations, you have my undying admiration. I longingly browse beautiful pictures of simple, but elegant wrapping, and I wish I was that person. I’m not. I just go pull out my store-bought wrapping paper and get to work.
These are some ways I save money at the holidays. It’s also how I keep my sanity and maintain simplicity during the holidays. Some of my ideas are borderline tacky, but I’m okay with that. You are free to disparage my ideas all you want in the comments section, and I won’t be offended. This is for all the people who do not have Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest-perfect holidays – I am your tribe.
Wrapping paper: I love the Earth, I really do. We recycle a crap-ton of stuff. Holiday wrapping paper is not always one of them. Wrapping paper with foil or glitter is not recyclable. Therefore, we do our best to shop the after-Christmas sales to stock up on half-price paper that does not include foil or glitter. I make an exception to my general “do not stock up on stuff, where are you going to store all that crap” rule. The best part is that I do not do the after-Christmas shopping — my husband, Greg, does. He loves the challenge. For him it is his caveman DNA coming out, leading him on a great hunt. But instead of tracking a Wooly Mammoth, he’s finding awesome deals on Christmas paper and lights.
This wrapping paper immediately goes in with our decorating storage bins, banished to the attic for a full year before it sees the light of day and fulfills its Christmas promise. The point is, the paper is functional. I don’t care if it is a design I love. People are going to tear it to shreds, so cheaper is better.
Wrapping gifts: A disclaimer is in order: I actually know how to wrap gifts really nicely. My first job in high school was in a department store’s gift-wrapping department. I know all the tricks to hide the tape and make lovely bows. But ain’t nobody got time for that, or at least I don’t. So instead, I power-wrap my gifts. After all, it’s the thought that counts, not the wrap job.
Gift tags: I also make my gift tags out of the wrapping paper. I fold a scrap of paper in half, trim it nicely, write the to/from, and boom! Done. And no bows. Unless I happen to run low on paper and my daughter is out with me to get more, then she’ll almost assuredly talk me into a bag of stick-on bows. In those years my packages look extra festive. I won’t win awards for my presentation. But I do try to make up for it by giving only really thoughtful, practical gifts.
Reuse gift bags: Gift bags are sort of a mystery to me. I can completely understand the reason people choose them, since it’s quick and simple to throw some tissue paper in the bag and go. But gift bags are expensive. It can add $3.00-5.00 to the cost of a gift. So, unless I find a killer deal on bags, I only use them when I RE-use them. When someone gives me a gift in a gift bag, it is like a two-fer. I immediately know I can turn around and use the bag again to make a gift look lovely for someone else.
Use a list! I cannot emphasize how important this is. The holidays in stores are like maneuvering through a minefield with temptations at every turn. Undoubtedly, you’ll see some pretty awesome ideas for gifts for so-and-so, and what’s-her-name. Before you know it, you’ve turned a shopping outing for three gifts into a cart full of gifts that seem great, but are not what you need. Plan ahead and decide exactly what you are going to buy, or at least exactly for whom you are buying. I am not immune to the “let’s just go have a look and see what inspiration I can glean for a gift for this fine person.” It happens. Let’s just make that an exception instead of the rule.
Make gifts: What can an uncrafty-gal like me hope to accomplish by making gifts? Well, I’ll tell you. Sometimes inspiration hits me, and we have a huge amount of fun making gifts for the extended family. Most often this takes the form of baking. We make wonderful-tasting but woefully awful-looking decorated sugar cookies throughout the holidays. My daughter, Rowan, is nine now, and our skills improve each year. But they won’t win any awards. That’s fine, but they sure taste great! My Nana’s family recipes for Christmas cookies are also big winners. My favorite recipe can be found here <recipe>. It’s super cheap and easy to make in large quantities. It also tastes so good I call it “Christmas Crack.”
In addition to baking, one year, Rowan and I made candles. We bought a kit to make twelve tins of soy wax candles. They turned out great, and now we have the equipment to make more in the future. The price per candle worked out to be a deal, and it was great fun to do.
So, there you have six ideas to save some money during the holidays. Martha Stewart won’t be calling to feature you in her magazine, but you will have time and money left over to put your feet up to enjoy some eggnog.
Share your money-saving holiday ideas for the uncrafty below! I promise not to laugh – most likely I’ll be too busy taking notes.