No money for Christmas gifts? Try these instead


You can spend nothing on the holidays and not be called a Grinch. Try these 12 creative, joyful and frugal ideas over the next 12 days.

1. Redeem gift card balances

You stuffed them in drawers, buried them in emails, and took up space in your wallet. Take your gift cards – partially used and fully loaded – and use them to meet your holiday needs.

2. Offer it again

OK, so definitely nothing from the personal hygiene department, but basically anything that still has a tag is fair game for re-gifting. Just think about how you do it. Don’t give the same back to the person who gave it to you, and if you’re giving a gift card, make sure the value isn’t something goofy like $17.56. Make sure it’s rounded to an even number.

3. Decorate yourself

My mother-in-law is the queen. She is super creative and does all her decorations at home. So rather than buying new decorations, see what you have in your storage bins first, then craft it. This is an especially fun thing to do if you have young children. My toddler is obsessed with making ornaments out of tongue depressors – the sticks doctors use to check your sore throat. We have dozens of them at home. Isn’t that a sign of the times we live in?

4. Make Secret Santa a trading game

Secret Santa is where you just get a gift for one person rather than everyone. Now imagine you and everyone else making this gift something you already own, like a cast iron skillet you don’t use. Make it something that can be traded; you can trade and steal people who participate in the trade.

5. Sell things you don’t need

Raise some money by cleaning up the clutter in your house and selling what you don’t need. I recently sold a work-from-home compilation – monitor, ergonomic keyboard, mouse, and webcam – for $250. It also works the other way around. You can also buy amazing second-hand gifts. My son is getting hockey gear from Santa this year and it’s being used. He won’t see the difference.

6. Libations taste better when they’re on sale

Look for alcohol deals and coupons, including buy one get one free. Also, use the last drops and drops from bottles you have in the house before buying more.

7. Make your declarations

Have you been sitting on a back or two? Now is the time to get your refund or exchange the item for something or someone on your vacation list. If you’re past the return policy date, see if you can still get store credit.

8. Redeem your points

Last week I counted the value of my loyalty points and they are worth $251. What are yours worth? It’s the perfect time to use your points against anything you need this season. BTW, it’s OK to use some of these points on yourself, especially if it’s for self-care – this season can be quite hectic. So grab that bubble bath or beard oil and relax between your Zoom calls and social distancing chants.

9. No List, No Start

Don’t leave your house without a list. This will instantly put money back in your pocket because you won’t be buying on impulse. And a fun little pro tip on impulse buying. When the mood strikes this season, grab your phone, access your mobile banking app, transfer $10 from your checking account to your savings account. That urge to buy reindeer ears for your dog will be gone the moment you log off.

10. Discount shop for your groceries

You can cut your holiday grocery bill by 20-30% by shopping at a discount grocer. It can also be done at local markets where you buy what is in season and from local producers. Always make a meal plan first, then get your ingredients. Matching of prices and use of coupons. If you’re hosting a few people, make it a potluck so you don’t have to bear the full cost of the meals.

11. Do stockings and no gifts

During lean times, it is sometimes impossible to buy gifts. Why not bet on stockings filled with homemade items — hello shortbread cookies and mason jar snow globes! My brother made me the most beautiful bookends a few years ago and they are works of art. Even if you fill the stockings with low priced items, they will still be a fraction of the price rather than trying to buy freebies for everyone.

12. Bring your vacation experiences home

Do things a little closer to home that cost nothing – cook, craft, skate, walk, sled, and even go to holiday markets during off-peak hours when admission is free.

Even if you choose just a handful of these ideas, you’ll save money over the holidays and set yourself up for a prosperous 2022.


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