Simpler decorations can save you over holidays

Save money this holiday season by trying some unexpected tactics:

  • Ask family members if they have ornaments or other decorations around that they aren't using, says Carmen Natschke, who runs a blog called The Decorating Diva. And if you do still find you need to buy something, make sure to check back closets and attics first in case you already have it.
  • Skip the expensive open house or dinner party and host a classic Christmas cartoon party instead, says Kris Melcher author of "Chick Living: Frugal and Fabulous." Invite guests to decorate cookies while "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" play on the TV.
  • Go simple for the decorations. Stock up on dollar-store ornaments and display them in glass bowls. Collect pine cones from outside and let them dry. Spray paint silver or gold and pile in jars or vases. Or use them as place-card holders for a dinner party.
  • For a thoughtful and inexpensive gift for someone you know well, such as a sibling, take a stroll down memory lane, says Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, a thrifty-living expert known as "The Frugal Duchess." Track down the recipient's favorite childhood book on eBay or at a local store.
  • Do not be afraid of "re-gifting" a present that you don't want or need, says etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.

Do the kids need a reality check this year?

If you're trying to figure out how you'll afford everything your kids want this holiday season, consider whether a jolt of disappointment Christmas morning might be the best thing for them.

A bad economy may be good for our kids, according to psychologist Aaron Cooper, an expert on child and family relations with The Family Institute at Northwestern University, who believes spoiling children can cripple their ability to cope with life. He attributes depression, anxiety and worry to the "I just want them to be happy" mentality.

"We shield youngsters from so much adversity trying to keep them happy that we deprive them of the practice they need navigating rough waters," Cooper said. "There's no other way to develop resilience except by facing adversity. It's a paradox that the first benefit of holiday belt-tightening is the valuable practice kids will have coping with disappointment."

Cooper suggests that parents acknowledge honestly the family's reduced resources, and encourage their children to share their gifts with each other.

"It's an opportunity to connect more around the holidays, instead of everyone in separate corners with their latest toy or gadget," he said.

— The Associated Press

But follow some rules: Make sure the recycled gift is in good condition and in its original box. Be certain the person getting the gift is in a different social circle than the person who originally gave it to you. Double-check that you've removed any evidence — such as a gift card — from the original gift. Know when to retire the real clunkers — old fruitcake, a tired bottle of cologne or an out-of-style sweater.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.