Ask the Readers: Share Your Favorite Frugal Holiday Tradition

By Will Chen on 13 December 2010 (Updated 21 December 2010) 37 comments
Photo: Jeff Turner

Editor's note: Congrats to Angela, @oshkoshbgosh123, and Dale for winning this week's Ask the Readers!

The commercialization of the holidays can be overwhelming. But you don't have to spend big bucks to spend meaningful time with your family.

Do you have a favorite frugal holiday tradition? It can be something you're already doing, or an idea you always wanted to try out. Perhaps you use the same plastic tree every year, or go caroling instead of shopping around Christmas season. 

Share your ideas and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

How to Enter:

  • Post your answer in the comments below,
  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, then "Like" the update mentioning this giveaway (you can comment, as well — but you don't have to for entry.)
  • Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, December 20th at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced after December 20th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)
  • Only those who have "Liked" both our Facebook page and the contest update will be entered.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Sue

My favorite "newish" tradition is not putting up a tree. We have an older house with ten foot ceilings ad always got a very tall (read expensive) real tree like my husband had when he was growing up. Two years ago I was stressing about getting the tree, moving the furniture, etc. All of a sudden I realized no one, not me, not my husband, not our college age kids, really cared whether we had a tree or not. So we didn't get one. It was like a burden had been lifted. I still have a little tabletop tree decorated with pottery figures, which I already had, and a few other minor decorations. Last year I freecycled my lights and ornaments.

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

bake some holiday cookies, make up a thermos of hot chocolate, and then pack those and the family up to drive around our local neighborhood checking out all the lit-up houses & decorations. MUCH cheaper, less traffic and more variety than going to the next city over where it costs $20.00 per carload to get into the park and see the holiday light displays.

Guest's picture

It's not terribly exciting, but my family for years on Christmas Eve has watched a VHS copy of "It's a Wonderful Life" taped off of TV and had potato soup. Hard to get much cheaper than that :)

Guest's picture
Sue

We bought a nice artificial Christmas tree 25 years ago because my young son had severe allergies. The tree is still lovely, still gracing our house at Christmas, due to a little extra care unpacking and packing.

Guest's picture
Knvles

Instead of eating out, we make our own meal at home – and then grab dessert in a pastry shop somewhere.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just using a fake tree that I was given that I don't need to remember to water is how I stay frugal.

Guest's picture
rq

Nothing better than a pick up game of hockey on the frozen pond with relatives on Christmas Day.

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Lynda

we go as a family to drive around the famous christmas lights hotspots. ok it's not frugal in terms of gas, but it sure is entertaining and makes such a happy family time!

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ajh

Wrapping my Christmas presents with paper grocery bags and colorful yarn that I already have from knitting projects. It always looks lovely and simple and costs me nothing!

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guest

My favorite holiday tradition is to stay warm indoors sipping hot chocolate while watching movie marathons!

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Jennifer

Every year my daughter and I assemble our artificial Christmas tree and decorate it with all the homemade ornaments she has made for me over the years. Our favorites are the little Christmas tree shaped cinnamon applesauce ornaments we made together when she was 5 years old. She's 16 now and they still smell great!

Guest's picture
Amanda

I make homemade candles for close friends and family and try to do something different each year -- like in the shape of a star (mold) or covered in red mint candies (festive!). People now reguarly give me their leftover wax (not ear) and empty containers with their personal requests. It's a fun project I look forward to each year -- and hope people aren't just humoring me.

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Kristy OT

I wrap my presents in brown kraft paper and red-and-white twine. I make fancy-looking gift tags out of cardstock (still working through a pack I bought 2 years ago). The presents end up looking very rustic-chic, and I spend next to nothing on wrapping supplies.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

One friend and I always have a "freegan" gift exchange. Our gifts have to cost nothing. This is really fun, as I have friends who give me books or items that she might like. It started the year that her husband was unemployed and it was a way to still share our love but keep it inexpensive. It's continued for five years and we love the challenge. This year she gets a DVD that I've watched and enjoyed, but won't watch again, a scarf from JCrew that's just not the right color combo for me, a great couple of paperbacks I'm done with and some homemade granola. Ok, the granola is not "free", but she loves it.

Guest's picture
Cynthia

Since we live in the country and have alot of cedar trees around we cut one down and use it for our Christmas tree. It's free and since they grow fast and can be a nuisance around here it's frugal and green.

Guest's picture
Michelle

For years, my Mother in Law had a tradition of doing lovely Christmas stockings. We each had one with our name on it & she would put small meaningful tokens in them.
As time went on and money got tighter, she started opeing up her drawers to find gifts for the stockings. You never knew WHAT you would get. It became VERY entertaining. Free stuff from businesses, old stuff.... a real variety. Sadly, she has passed on, but my husband and I have continued the tradition. All year long, we collect many free or "re purposed" items for the stockings. Our adult kids have a great time, joking about the wierd, yet great stocking stuffers they get.

Guest's picture
Jane

favorite new tradition this year - finally making gifts!:) ornaments and cookies and candy for everyone!

but other than that, rewatching the same, favorite, already-owned christmas movies every year is my favorite.

Guest's picture
Sandy

We used to have a party of Christmas Eve with lots of food. It was very expensive and a lot of people didn't eat. We decided instead to make cookies and sweets and deliver them to the fire stations. We thank each station's firemen and firewomen for remaining there and keeping every one safe on Christmas Eve when we know they would rather be with their families. It doesn't cost much to make cookies and it shows our kids to give rather than receive.

Guest's picture
Stefanie

My partner and I put a price limit on our holiday presents to one another ($25), which forces us to be creative with our money-spending. We like to shop craft sales and artists sales and used bookstores and stay local or earn free rewards through Swagbucks and other online survey places. My partner is a knitter, so I usually get something gorgeous and handmade from her as well. It makes the holiday buying/ creating more about finding fun things that we know we'd like, rather than just buying for the hell of it.

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Laura D

My husband is teaching me how to make my own garland and wreaths from actual fir branches. His mom always used to do this, but I was intimidated by it before we got married. We were just out this morning gathering pretty branches to tuck into our decor!

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Maria S

We try to avoid getting the big expensive christmas tree and either get a little one we can re-plant or just decorating our ficus.

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Ashley

We have an Advent "tree" made out of wood, with little ornaments--one for each day leading up to Christmas. My grandfather made it, it's been in the family for years, and it's always fun to see which ornament we get to "hang" every night.

Guest's picture
Kelly

i came form a divorced family and the holidays was always a really hectic time for us flying between LA and northern Idaho. My mom would never have time to make a nice Christmas dinner so instead she would always make us turkey tacos. This is something i share with my family now, it saves a ton on Christmas dinner, but more importantly we get to share quality time with each other.

Guest's picture
Angela

I try to limit who I buy for. Most people in my family can get by just fine. Last year I started a tradition of giving to charity instead of giving gifts to certain people.

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AB

Every summer, I hit yard sales looking for a really unique (and cheap) holiday decoration to bring some new style to my home. I am pretty proud of this year's find - a handmade piece of pottery for $1 that I adorned with fresh rosemary and red string. You can see a picture here:

http://tobaccorow.blogspot.com/2010/12/wednesdays-christmas-decorating-i...

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Joe

Great idea Jennifer!

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Jan B

My family watches A Christmas story together every Christmas Eve.

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Alicia C.

We make our own Christmas tree! I buy green wrapping paper after the holidays for next year. When the time comes to "put up the tree" I pull out my wrapping paper and cut a giant tree shape from it. We hang it on the wall, I poke white tree lights through the back of the paper, and then we all paint on ornaments. And I always have leftover paper to wrap presents. There have been years (before my littlest guy came along) when I've used brown paper from packages to paint a nice fireplace, complete with mantle, for stockings, too. I started the paper tree thing back when my 12 y.o. son was a toddler to keep him from toppling the tree and breaking ornaments. I haven't had a "real" tree since! Tha also means no ornaments to put away and store!

Guest's picture
Carolee

Frugal Holiday Tradition: On Christmas night, after an exhausting day of present opening, talking eating drinking, etc, we stay in for a relaxing evening with low-key togetherness. We all congregate in the den by the fireplace, make gourmet flavored coffee drinks, crack whole nuts (using antique nut cracker sets!) and watch holiday movies.

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KelR1

My husband and I don't give each other Christmas gifts. We haven't for years. We prefer to save that money and (hopefully!) put it toward a vacation during the next year.

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Guest

This year, I was stressing about buying some close girlfriends x-mas gifts this year. Then, I decided to make them 'spa'-style gift baskets with all the items coming from the dollar store. My friends loved the baskets! Doing this showed me that you can give a great gift, no matter what the cost, as long as you prepare the gift with love and the best intentions. I think next year, I will give each friend a tin of some of my favorite cookies and include the recipes for them as well.

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Guest

A tradition we started several years' ago was to buy a small, 'Charlie Brown' style Christmas tree instead of the larger, 5ft+ type of tree. The smaller tree is placed on a step stool with a tree skirt, and it really looks so nice. It's less expensive than the regular-size tree, easier to get in and out of our home, and easier to decorate as well. I won't go back to a larger Christmas tree.

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L. Michelle

Though my daughter is now a teen, we still hop in our warm car with treats (candy cane, hot chocolate, popcorn, etc.) for a tour through neighborhoods at night that we know have tons of Christmas lights and decorations. It's an inexpensive, peaceful tradition.

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gina

We DVR all of our favorite Christmas movies and then watch them every night leading up to Christmas

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gerryp84

I take every bit of leftovers I can get my hands on and eat for free for almost a week!

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lisa

We give practical gifts that we found on clearance and put them in a paper bag from the supermarket, staple the top shut and write a name on it. We call it a "grab bag" and everyone seems to enjoy it.

We do have trees around the neighborhood, that drop pine cones. I have collected them and used them to decorate with. I put them in bowls, string them as garland, etc...My mom used them, along with tree branches that she cut from her property, to make wreaths.

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Hannah

Instead of making a huge Christmas dinner with turkey, ham, and all the trimmings, I made chicken enchiladas one year and my family loved them so much, I make them every year. So much cheaper and easier to make.