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How to Have a Frugal Holiday Without Looking Like a Scrooge

Scrooge is reminded of better times from his past. With many Americans still struggling financially, there is a push -again- this year to spend less on gifts, decorations, and all the trappings of the Holiday season. But it’s easy to hesitate, particularly if you’ve seen a friend or a relative do something that borders on tacky, irreverent, or just plain cheap. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to save on the holidays without compromising any of the things that make it special.

Use Traditional Decorations
This works especially well if you like to have a theme to your Christmas decorating. It doesn’t cost much to string some popcorn, hang candy canes on your tree, make a wreath out of branches you pick up at the park, and set up some strategically decorative pine cones.

If you’re particularly crafty, you can take it even further. Make some patchwork stockings, set up a gingerbread house or two,  and even make your own wrapping paper out of butcher paper and paint. Be creative, and you won’t have to worry about looking cheesy.  Here are some ideas from the CBS team in Los Angeles.

Contribute to a Group Gift
If you like buying nice gifts but can’t afford it this year, rally a group to get nice gifts for the people you know. This is a great way to continue offering high-quality gifts without breaking the bank.

Another option here is to purchase a gift card toward a nice present if you can’t buy the whole thing yourself. While your recipient may not get everything his or her heart desires, they’ll know that you care, that you see what they would really want or need, and want to be a part of purchasing it for them.

Keep it Simple
If you don’t have the money for a lot of nice decorations, just buy a few. It doesn’t take much to make a home Christmas-y, so a couple of strategic pieces can go a long way. And you can add to your decorations every year, until eventually you have the Christmas spread you’ve always wanted.

Shop Around for Sales or DIY
Many stores give discounts as you get closer to Christmas day.  So you don’t have to spend all the money in early December when everything is at full cost.  Also, shopping around is the best way to lower your expenses.   For instance, when doing holiday greeting cards, look at cheaper options like Costco, instead of the fancier The Picture People.  Embark on a DIY picture session this year, instead of handing over the dough to the Santa at the mall.  Online is your friend this holiday season.

Bake Gifts
Flour, butter, sugar and eggs: your 4 basic ingredients to get some good cookies, sweet bread, or cakes going.  You don’t have to play Martha Stewart, but a simple budnt cake wrapped nicely goes a long way to show your spirit this year.

How have you managed to keep a reasonable Holiday budget without feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge? or mean like the Grinch? Share your tips with fellow readers in the comments.

Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley.

REMINDER: Lending Club’s 2010 holiday promotion is under way.  Get a gift card with up to $3,000 for holiday shopping.  Hurry, this promotion ends soon.

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