* Buy wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbons, and bows at the Dollar Tree. Or, if it's cheaper, buy large rolls of brown parcel paper at an office supply store; tied with string or bows, they have a lovely, old fashioned look.
* Make your own gift tags. The easiest way to do this is use scraps of wrapping paper, folded in half. Other ideas include cutting out shapes from last year's Christmas cards, or using inexpensive Dollar Tree card stock.
* Buy less expensive gifts. (More expensive does not equal better!)
* If you choose to buy more expensive gifts, divide the cost among two or more people. For example, one year I paid a portion for my husband's new grill. His parents and grandma pitched in the rest.
* Don't buy new decorations. Do you really need another Christmas tree ornament? If you usually purchase fresh wreaths and garlands, make them yourself or consider buying re-usable (faux) greens.
* If you really want new decorations, buy them at a thirft store. At this time of year, thrift stores are overloaded with Christmas stuff - much of which is either new in the box, or looks new. (Thrift stores are also an excellent source for faux Christmas trees.)
* Make gifts. This isn't always less expensive, but it can be. Besides, knowing that someone put time, effort, and creativity into a gift means a great deal. (Get ideas for homemade gifts here.)
* Give redeemable coupons. The gift of service is an excellent one, indeed. Ideas: lawn mowing, house cleaning, babysitting...
* Think practical when it comes to gifts. This is the way many Americans gave gifts until fairly recent times. Instead of overloading kids with toys, for example, children were given new shoes, clothes, books, other practical items - and perhaps one or two toys.
* Don't send Christmas cards. I know many people think this is a heretical idea, but sending cards is expensive - and, dare I say it, wasteful. Instead, send digital cards...or better yet, digital Christmas letters.
* Buy gifts throughout the year. It's too late to start that now, but once the new year begins, pay attention to sales and go ahead and buy gifts you know your loved ones will love.
* Instead of focusing on stuff, focus on Christ, the "reason for the season." For ideas on how to do this, see the bottom of this post.
* Don't give everybody gifts. It's a nice thought, but often you're just buying stuff they don't need, anyway. For non-family members or extended family, don't give gifts - or give things like food or simple homemade gifts, like gifts in a jar.
* When it comes to food, watch for sales and buy what you need when the price is lowest. For example, many foods associated with Christmas are also eaten around Thanksgiving - and are deeply discounted to get you into the store.
* Do stockings only for the kids and fill them with practical items like new toothbrushes and fun pencils and erasers.
* Don't go shopping without a plan. Know what you want to buy in advance, and always check prices online, too. Don't forget to check eBay, where often you can purchase brand new items for less.
* For young kids, don't worry about spending the same amount on each. Since young children don't really have a sense of what things are worth, you don't have to worry about making their gifts equal, price-wise. (Do be sure to give each of your children the same number of gifts, however. There's no need to tempt them to be jealous.)
* If there will be lots of adults wherever you spend Christmas, do a Secret Santa type gift giving: Each adult draws the name of one person. Each adult gives only one gift.
For a few ideas on focusing on the real meaning of Christmas, check out these posts:
* Advent: Focusing on Him
* Activities to Go with Popular Christmas Books
* Advent Projects for Kids
* A Birthday Cake for Jesus
* Advent Begins!