The commercialization of the season causes many parents to start sweating. Enjoy the spirit of the season as a family without busting your budget.

don't break the bank during the holidays

Remember the real reason for the season

Your kids may love Christmas merely for the pile of gifts they’re anticipating under the tree… but perhaps they need a reminder about the true spirit of the season. Throughout the coming weeks, re-educate your children about the meaning of Christmas.

Have an old-fashioned Christmas >>

Outside of discussing the significance of the season, it’s OK tell your children the truth about needing to cut back this Christmas. This is a great way to introduce the lessons of the value of money and the importance of creating and sticking to a budget. Challenge all of your family members to create homemade gifts or find special, meaningful gifts that don’t have to cost a fortune.

Spearhead creative gift exchanges

Instead of exchanging gifts with everyone in your office, your family, your moms’ group and on your block, why not organize some gift exchanges or food swaps? Better yet, consider scrapping gift giving for doing some good for others.

For example, a white elephant gift exchange is always fun at your work holiday party and it’s fairly easy to organize a gift exchange with your extended family — just make sure everyone participating gives three ideas for what they’d like to receive.

How to host a gift exchange >>

Before the holidays are in full motion, when you meet with your moms’ group, brainstorm how you can all make one another’s holidays easier by doing a food swap (kind of like a cookie exchange, without limiting yourself to baked goods). Talk about the “rules” before you meet for the exchange. Each member of the group brings enough of her specialty for everyone in the group. The item should be about equal value (for example, it’s not fair for one mom to make cookies and another to make pate). And the food item should be something that can last for a little while (at least a few days) such as a dip or a casserole that can be frozen and cooked closer to the holiday.

Talk to your neighbors about joining some funds ($10 or $20 each) and donating it to a good cause or get together and volunteer at a food bank this season.

Host a potluck Christmas dinner

Instead of footing the entire bill for your holiday feast this year, ask your guests to pitch in. Ask each guest or family to bring one dish (organize this beforehand so you don’t end up with three bowls of mashed potatoes and no stuffing!). You can be responsible for the holiday ham, turkey or whatever main dish denotes the Christmas holiday for you and yours.

10 Fabulous frugal holiday party ideas >>

Take advantage of after-Thanksgiving sales to get pumpkin puree, turkey and stuffing mix at a discounted price.

More on budget-friendly holidays

Decorating Diva: Holiday decorating on a budget
Unconventional holiday shopping tips for parents on a budget
How to curb overspending during the holidays


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Comments on "Christmas on a shoestring budget"

Katie December 10, 2012 | 10:32 AM

I think keeping Christmas small is a good idea. If you don't have the funds to go all out, then don't. Even if you do, maybe consider donating some money to a local charity or giving gifts to children in need.

Lauralee Hensley December 09, 2012 | 6:00 PM

I remember my parents giving my siblings and myself only one toy present each. Then one game that the whole family could play together. Then our other presents were things we needed like shoes, socks, underwear. Then my mom didn't go overboard on cooking tons of goodies. She cooked a traditional holiday meal and we had holiday cookies and at Christmas a Christmas cake. She did make my Dad a fruitcake just for him, asa holiday gift from her to him. It was a recipe a nice Italian woman gave her that actually used Campbell's Tomato Soup in the recipe. I don't think us kids minded that my Dad got the cake to himself, because we didn't like fruit cake. We sang Happy Birthday to Jesus as a family on Christmas. If Christmas fell on a Sunday we went to Church before opening our gifts. When we got older we could gave presents to other siblings, but drew names and had a limit on how much we could spend. Our grandma always sent us a little money gift at Christmas, usually a dollar or sometimes five dollars. That's the only non-immediate family or friends we got gifts outside the family from. We usually bought Grandma a subscription to one or more magazines as her gift, or we made her things like embroidered pillowcases. We kept it small when I was growing up, so it was easy when I got married to do the same thing. Money issues always seemed to crop up a bit before Christmas too, so it was a good thing that I knew to keep it simple.

Lauren December 07, 2012 | 2:09 PM

We're doing a pot luck Christmas dinner this year and we couldn't be more excited. We're not on a super tight budget, but it's a million times less stressful.

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