How 17 Real Moms Are Saving Real Money This Holiday Season

Ah, the holidays—the parties, the good cheer, the Christmas morning glee as your children tear open their gifts. It’s so magical and heartwarming, but let’s be real here: all this merrymaking can get expensive. Sure, you might be one of those people who just loves, loves, loves to give, but your wallet might not have gotten the memo. Still, I have family and friends who make the most clever homemade gifts and find just the right thing and throw fun holiday parties, all on limited means. So, I asked several budget-savvy moms and bloggers how they plan to stretch a dollar and save money this holiday season. Their answers are brilliant…and you might even have some money left over to treat yourself.

1) Make snow globes: My older daughter is really into crafting, so last year we made Christmas snow globes to give to the grandparents. It’s actually really easy. First, you glue ceramic or plastic figurines and ornaments onto the inner lid of a mason jar. Next, you fill the jar with water, glitter, and a little bit of glycerin to thicken the liquid. Then, seal it up tight. You can really get creative, and our parents loved it!  Jena Warren, An Affair to Remember

2) Host a potluck Christmas party: If you want to throw a party for friends and family, there’s really no need to make it some big fancy affair. Most people just want to relax and have a few cocktails…and ultimately end up buzzed enough that they don’t even taste the food! I like to host a potluck where we provide the entree and a specialty cocktail (usually involving low-priced liquor, cranberry juice, and seltzer), and ask guests to bring an appetizer, salad, side dish, dessert, or bottle of wine.  Allie M., Raleigh, NC

3) Gift homemade caramels: My girls and I have been making these Martha Stewart Caramels for a while now. We wrap each one individually in wax paper and then I have the kids decorate small boxes (like from tea bags) with glitter glue and sequins. They make a great gift for teachers and friends.  Amy B., Sudbury, MA

4) Create framed masterpieces: I’ll take some of my son’s best artwork from the year and put them in frames for the grandparents. You can get nice looking Ribba frames from IKEA that cost less than $10 apiece. And even if your kid is no great artist, Grandma and Grandpa will inevitably think he’s the next Picasso.  Marisa S., Los Angeles

5) Shop Cyber Monday sales. I love a good deal as much as anyone, but those people who stampede the malls on Black Friday are clinically insane! And silly. I make my shopping list before Thanksgiving so that I can wake up at the crack of dawn on Cyber Monday and shop the amazing sales from the comfort of my bed…in my pajamas.  Melissa T., Pinecrest, FL

6) Bake cheaper treats: In general, simple cookie recipes that are variations on sugar or oatmeal are much less expensive than those that use nuts, chocolate, coconut, condensed milk, and dried fruits. Rolled sugar cookies cut into holiday shapes and decorated with homemade butter frosting are less than $2 a batch.  Stephanie Nelson, Coupon Mom

7) Stock up for next year: After the holidays, I always buy out all of the holiday wrapping and Scotch tape on super sale. My kids could go through a roll of tape a day with all of the projects they do, so it’s great to load up. And I have gift wrap for the following Christmas. There’s also always a solid-colored roll or two in there that we can use for birthdays and other celebrations.  Sarah N., Boston

8) Get deals on holiday cards: Keep an eye out for free and low-cost photo card deals. (They’ve actually already started this week.) Have a family photo ready to go so you can jump on them ASAP. You’ll pay 1/3 to 1/2 of what you’d pay in December.  Gina Lincicum, Moneywise Moms

9) Sign up for sales: I’ve been subscribing to Zulily for years now. It’s a great site that sends you daily deals on toys, clothes, and gifts. Most of their stuff is specifically for kids, so I really start paying attention in the fall when I can find great stocking stuffers, cold-weather clothes, and fun holiday decor on sale. — Jenny B., Los Angeles

10) Come up with a gift-giving system: I read this thing on a blog about how to buy for your kids. It said something like, “One thing you want. One thing you need. One thing you wear. One thing you read.” I love this idea because it really simplifies the gift-giving craziness, and your children get both the essentials and fun stuff.”  Hillary T., Eastchester, NY

11) Make beautiful music: A really fun, inexpensive idea is to give burned CDs of Christmas songs to family and friends, packaged really nicely, the cases decorated by your kids.  Kazia Cumbler, Mama Needs a Drink

12) Give DIY gifts: I save glass jars throughout the year and then use them to package homemade gifts for teachers, class instructors, and neighbors. In the past, I’ve made hot cocoa mix or bath scrubs, which cost virtually nothing to put together.  Beth G., Hawthorne, CA

13) Get organized: The first week of November, I make my who-gets-what gift list and then do all of my shopping online over the next month. Then, I set aside one Saturday, usually the first weekend in December, to hit the mall and buy whatever I couldn’t find online. I always save money because there’s no impulse-buying or last-minute scrambling, and I don’t stray from the list!  May B., Atlanta

14) Think ahead. After Christmas, I’ll take advantage of all of the incredible sales and buy clothes and shoes for my kids in several bigger sizes. They won’t fit into any of it for months, but I can save like 50% doing that, knowing I’ll need those items later.  Carolyn L., Los Angeles

15) Cruise the discount stores: I always scour the sale bins and racks at places like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Nordstrom Rack. You can find great, name brand stuff for cheap, and no one cares where you bought it.  Karishma M., Richmond, VA

16) Combine and conquer: Instead of buying individual gifts for my nieces and nephews, I’ve combined my money to give one meaningful present. For instance, one family with four kids is getting a ping pong table. It’s a gift with impact, but it works out at about $25 a child, which is less than I would have spent on an individual present.” — Maxabella, Maxabella Loves

17) Give “free” gifts to your kids. Your kids will love fun experiences even more than they love toys. We give coupon-type gifts, like one is “a free day” where they can miss a day of school (one kid at a time) and do something special. Another is a certificate for something fun, like eating dinner under the kitchen table. It doesn’t cost anything, and the kids totally look forward to cashing in their certificates.  Ariela P., Los Angeles

image: Getty

This post was sponsored by Hidden Valley.

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