I’m Dreaming of a Frugal Christmas

With the economy is a state of flux and unemployment on the rise, it’s hard to remember the extravagant Christmases of yesteryear.  You’re probably not jumping at the idea of maxing out your credit cards to produce your own Christmas narrative this year.  Well, actually you don’t have to spend a small fortune to create a Christmas to remember.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so let that be your theme this Christmas: we need to save money.  Saving money, after all, is the best Christmas gift you can give yourself.  Here’s some tips on how to minimize your spending and maximize your giving.

Use eBay

Ebay is a guilty pleasure for any frugal shopper.  Ebay is an online auction site that allows people to buy and sell items.  It’s super popular, and very easy to use.  With eBay, you can luck up on great deals for cheap.  If you don’t mind buying slightly used items, this is the go-to place.  One problem with eBay is that you may get outbid at the last moment– hate it when that happens!  Although it’s simple to use, it’s recommended that you take a while to figure out what you’re doing first.  Try comparison shopping.  Know what the best prices are, and don’t bid within the first 10 minutes of getting an account.  A great tip– shop at night, and shop by “time ending soonest”.  You’ll usually less face less competition then.

Use FreeCycle

For the uninitiated, FreeCycle is an online organization that has local chapters all over the country, and the world.  All the items on FreeCycle are, you guessed it, free.  What’s the catch?  Really, there is none.  Once you subscribe, you get accessed to all the offers and wanted classifieds.  You can request the offered items, or post your own wanted items.  It is them up to the discretion of the person with the item to give to you or to someone else.  FreeCycle is addictive, and you’ll feel like it’s Christmas morning every time someone picks you to receive the item.  A slight inconvenience with FreeCycle is that you can’t see the item before picking it up usually, so you may end up with something absolutely hideous.  Also, there’s no way to ensure that you’ll get the items you want, so don’t count on FreeCycle to provide all of your gifts.

Celebrate Christmas One Day Late (Oops!)

This has to be my favorite thing to do ever.  What is not clear to me is why people don’t just celebrate on 12/26.  Instead of buying thrice-marked up items in the month leading up to Christmas, why not just buy the day after Christmas, when all items are slashed down?  Retailers don’t want to loose all their profit in refunding items, so they cut prices for the inevitable day after Christmas return.  I’ve always found this is the best time of the year to shop.  Another benefit, there’s no line!  Everyone’s at the return counter.  So, this Christmas, just celebrate the next day, or the day after.  You’ll probably be able to get even more gifts, and I can assure you that perfect toy you’ve been looking for will have been returned.


Craigslist is a local resource that’s available all over the world.  Among other things, it’s an online classifieds community that allows you to see what’s for sell in your area.  This is a fantastic alternative to eBay, because you get instant gratification, and no shipping costs.  All it takes is contacting the seller, and going to pick up the item.  Craigslist has a pretty big inventory of constantly changing items, and if you don’t see an item you want, you can always request it.  This is a definite go-to for low priced items, and a site you should definitely consider before paying full-priced somewhere else.

Create Your Own Gifts on the Cheap

This task demands your creativity.  If you must give gifts on Christmas (and not wait until the day after), then consider making your own gifts, or putting together budget-friendly baskets.  You can create a movie goers basket with a free DVDs (purchased from a discount DVD seller, or eBay, or others), popcorn and movie theater candies for a friend who loves watching movies. You can create a board games basket filled with games purchased from the dollar store (you’ll be surprised what you can buy at the dollar store).  If baskets aren’t your thing, consider baking cookies or cakes.  Confections are always welcomed gifts. Put your baked goods in Christmas-themed tins to finish off of the appearance.

Let Them Eat Cake!

Speaking of cake, throw a dinner party and highlight your cooking skills.  Invite close friends and inform them that instead of buying them Christmas gifts, you’re giving them a Christmas party.  Although the price of planning a party may seem extravagant, think of how much money you’re saving when you add up all the gift prices you would have spent on individual friends.  Make a budget, and stick to it.  Take lots of pictures at your party, and send those photos in an inexpensive photo album to all your friends in attendance.  

Decorate on a Budget

It costs a lot to decorate for Christmas, but it doesn’t have to.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that you make tree garland from popcorn (although it’s not a bad idea).  Try the dollar store for cheap components, like wrapping paper and bows.  You can gift wrap your paintings around your house to look like Christmas presents.   You can also hang ornaments from the ceiling with ribbons, creating an abstract Christmas, like the ones you see in fancy department stores.   

Think Ahead for Next Year

Take the week after Christmas to buy items for next Christmas.   I can’t recommend buying gifts for next Christmas, because who can possibly wait that long to give gifts?!  This is the best time to buy all items Christmas: artificial trees, decorations, ornaments, lights, garland and greeting cards.  If you want until January 1st, you’ll find all these items deeply discounted.  

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