Let’s face it: we could all do with saving a little dough. That’s especially true during the holiday season, when the costs pile up as your bank account shrinks. Decorations, gift wrap, the gifts themselves — the holidays can be more than overwhelming to your budget and your brain. Here are some ways to have a brighter Christmas on a budget.

Text by Christen Bustillos

Christmas wreath decor.ating

Deck-orating the Halls

Sometimes simple decorations are cuter and more festive than over-the-top decorations that flood some homes. When it comes to your holiday budget, thrift stores, dollar stores, and hand-me-downs are your friend. They’re cheap — sometimes even free! — and most look just as good as expensive decorations. Pine cones, tree branches, Dollar Store ornaments, and wine bottles with fairy lights make gorgeous (and inexpensive) displays. When you find your fave items, get creative with layering. For instance, layered bottle brush trees become exquisite holidays displays.

Wrapping christmas gift.s

Wrap It Up

Wrapping paper, tissue, boxes, bows, ribbons: wrapping supplies can add up quickly at the cash register. But there are cheap and easy ways to make the wrapping on your presents as beautiful as the gift inside. For example, wrap your gifts in brown kraft paper. Then dress them up with fresh greenery or herbs, painted polka dots, or elegant printed winter scenes. Want to get the kids involved? Hand them a glittery marker, or carve a holiday stamp from a potato (tutorial here!). Believe it or not, even empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls can make a gift look like a million bucks!

Christmas gifts on a table.

T’is the Season for Gifting …

… and for getting discounts. When it comes to Christmas gifts, follow Santa’s advice: always make a list, then check for a better price at least twice! Start by planning out your budget. Then, start the discount hunt. Sign up for store email lists about deals/discounts, or use a cash-back credit card. You can find discount codes at RetailMeNot. Also, you can normally save up to 10-20% more when you sign up for a store’s email list. For more online shopping tricks, check out this article.

Christmas cookies.

Think Outside the Gift Box

Are you good at woodworking? Cooking? Painting? You could create something homemade that won’t break the bank. In fact, baking is an easy gift when on a budget. Check out these 85 (yes, 85) Christmas cookie recipes and you’re sure to agree. And who wouldn’t love to find these adorable Christmas tree cookies under the tree? Not much of a baker? What better gift could there be than a voucher for much-needed help? For example, you could help a friend rearrange furniture, move, rake leaves, or decorate. The possibilities are endless — and free.

Woman shopping thrift shop.

Get a Head Start on Shopping — For Next Year

It might sound crazy, but the best time to shop for Christmas presents may just be right after Christmas. Stores tend to slash prices after the holidays have passed. If you can’t bring yourself to step foot in the mall after Christmas, give yourself a break from shopping — but not too long a break, of course. It’s never too early to be thinking about next year’s gifts. Spring cleaning season’s the perfect time to head to your local thrift store for second-hand gifts.