Celebrate the joys of the holiday season on a budget—without feeling like Scrooge.

Celebrating the holiday season on a limited budget can occasionally feel like working for Mr. Scrooge! But take heart: the true joys of the season are there to be enjoyed no matter what your budget.


Decorate on a budget

Use the decorations you have, but in new ways. A large glass bowl filled with glass ball ornaments—all the same colour or mix them up—is a trendy look this year. Group similar ornaments to create displays. Place nutcracker ornaments in one area, Santas in another.

Bread dough ornaments: mix 2 parts flour, 1 part water, and 1 part salt into a dough. Colour with food colouring if desired. Roll out with cookie cutters or use like clay to shape into ornaments. Pierce with a hole for hanger (if hanging) before baking. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. Cool and paint or use permanent markers to decorate. A coating of acrylic shellac will preserve colour.

Spray pine cones, whole walnuts and branches with gold or silver spray paint and scatter them around your house for a touch of shine.

For an inexpensive and stunning centrpiece (caution: will only last a few hours): Line a large plastic or metal bowl with cedar or other evergreen branches and a ring of cranberries around the bottom. Carefully fill 1/3 full of water; place smaller bowl inside and fill with stones or other freezable weights until water is almost at lip of large bowl. Freeze overnight. Remove from freezer and remove first small bowl and then larger, using warm water to warm bowls if necessary. Place ice bowl on tea-towel lined platter (platter must have a lip) and fill with fruit.

Boil cinnamon sticks with cloves on the stove to give your home that holiday scent—purchase spices for this purpose from discount stores.

Wrap it up

Start with inexpensive brown butcher's paper, paper bags, newsprint, tissue paper from purchases, or even newspaper. Use stencils (available at dollar stores) and poster paints to decorate the surface.

Or for a more sophisticated look, use brown paper and then glue the front of an old Christmas card, or layer different-sized Christmas cutouts (from the same stencils, or go freehand) onto the middle of the gift.

Rubber stamps are also in again and sometimes can be found at dollar stores—but beware: these can also be a premium item you think will save you money, but will actually cost you more than inexpensive wrapping from a dollar or discount store.

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Jennifer Gruden