Creative gift wrap
Recycle gift wrap and gift bags. If gift wrap is wrinkled, iron it. For gifts within the family, I’ve used The Wall Street Journal financial pages—the black and white print looks great with a red or green bow. I’ve used the Sunday funny papers—a gold bow works well. A friend of mine did all of her gifts with brown paper bags and red and green bows. They looked great sitting under her homespun Christmas tree.
Think small when entertaining
The smaller your gathering, the less food you will need to buy. Don’t feel you have to outdo every other hostess this time of year. Neither attempt to repay a whole year’s social obligations in a single holiday event. A dinner party of six or eight can be just as enjoyable than a party of thirty or forty, sometimes more so because it doesn’t require as much energy and the group is more cohesive. A dinner menu is often less time consuming and less expensive to prepare than a buffet of finger foods.
Some guests actually feel guilty if they don’t bring something, so plan a meal or buffet where everyone brings a contribution. Not only does this save money, but it is the best time saver there is.
Popular brunch foods such as egg dishes and coffeecakes cost considerably less than dinner menus and it just may be the right time spot for get togethers—a time not usually taken up with other commitments and elaborate fare is usually not expected.
Prune your greeting card list
Miss Manners advises dropping from your list anyone of whom you have no mental picture. An out of date picture is okay, but if you cannot conjure up a face, then you needn’t send greetings even if they send you one! I pruned my list by asking myself why I was sending Christmas cards. With some I had to admit, I was sending cards to them because they sent one to me so I eliminated those. With others, I was sending Christmas cards because I wanted to stay in touch. I decided I could do that on their birthdays when I had time to write a personal letter to include with the card. This saved me time at Christmas and reduced a large one-time postage bill as it was a stamp here and a stamp there.
Give fewer gifts
If you have ever ended your family’s Christmas gift exchange with a room full of gift room and a heart full of stress, perhaps it is time to talk with family members and decide to give each other fewer, more thoughtful gifts at Christmas. One wise family decided when their children were small to give three gifts to each other—three because that is the number that baby Jesus received from the Wise Men, and they have stayed with that through the years.
Give coupons with promise
Give a gift of time and friendship by promising to baby-sit, clean house, wallpaper a room, plant a garden, or provide some other needed service. Make an attractive coupon that the recipient can “redeem” sometime during the coming year. Another woman gave her husband his favorite cake with a note, “You’ll get one of these every month.” For years she had been promising to bake him a cake “some day.” He was thrilled to know that “some day” had arrived!
Give less expensive gifts
Instead of continually raising the bar each year on gift exchanges, lower it. The challenge can be part of the fun. I know a group of women who have been meeting for lunch and a gift exchange for years. They buy each other $1.00 gifts and have a fun and creative time doing it. For parties, give white elephant gifts. For more on this idea, see the Green party idea under Four Party Ideas.
Give gifts that don’t cost money
Could you put together a scrapbook of memories for your friends, children or parents? I collected quotes from one son’s letters and put them in a book as a gift. One mother wrote a letter written on Christmas stationery in which she revealed her personal feelings, thoughts, and hopes for each of her children.