Economical ideas for Christmas

Have you started thinking about the holidays? What are your favorite ways to keep costs down while enjoying the spirit of the season? This year, in this economy, it makes sense to begin planning early, especially if you want to try some do-it-yourself projects.

Before sharing ideas for saving money during the holidays, let's enjoy my favorite video first, it's so funny that can split your sides with laughter:

1. Do a group project

Assemble a family history; for example, try to writes a chapter of your family history each year, covering topics like favorite holidays, the house you grew up in, and how people met their spouses. The gift costs nothing but time, and carries more value than commercial gifts.

2. Give homemade gifts.

Homemade gifts are fun to produce, and are generally more valued by the recipient.

A good friend once gave me a hand-assembled collection of gourmet salts, complete with written description of each. Rather than a gift card, I'd much rather receive a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

3. Consider giving time:

If you have friends with children, give them a night (or afternoon) of free babysitting so that they can have a special getaway without the cost of a sitter.

4. Giving experiences rather than more stuff

This doesn't always end up being the cheapest route, but it does keep our house from being cluttered up with extraneous stuff.

Here is a lady's real experience: "my husband had always wanted to try blowing glass. An art glass studio opened up a few blocks from our house, and last year at Christmastime they held workshops where you could blow your own glass ornament. I gifted him two sequential half-hour workshops, at $25 apiece — once so he could ‘get the hang of it', and the second so he could better use his new skills. (He's that kind of guy.) He came home with two beautiful ornaments he made himself, and he absolutely raved about how much fun he'd had. I saw essentially identical blown-glass ornaments at the local art gallery for about $20 apiece. For a $10 premium, I fulfilled his long held wish and gave him a really awesome memory. Now that's a bargain!"

5. Giving your ‘favorite things' as gifts.

Find items you love and use everyday, and then share these with others. By giving favorite things, the focus is on sharing things you like rather than how much you spent. For example, my ‘favorite thing' gift this year is a Zyliss pizza cutter. It is an unbelievably useful kitchen gadget! We use it to cut up everything, not just pizza. It costs less than $10!"

Most of all, remember that the holidays are time for gathering with family and friends. Giving is secondary. Spending money doesn't even make the list.