How To Save Money On Holiday Decorating, Dining & Gifts

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The holidays are an incredibly stressful time, and can often be a huge strain on your budget. Rather than giving up on hosting dinners, exchanging gifts or decorating your home with seasonal spirit, try these simple tricks to save money during the holidays.

How To Save Money On Hosting Dinner Parties

Many people love hosting beautiful and bountiful holiday dinners and parties, but the cost of food, décor and drinks can become a deterrent. From where you buy your food, to who serves it, make sure you're saving every penny you can.

  • Food: You may refuse to cook with anything but fresh, organic vegetables, but flash frozen options are nearly as nutritious, and typically cost much less. Chances are, your guests will never notice the switch, and you'll have spare cash for more food, drinks or décor.
  • Catering: If you plan to hire caterers for your holiday event, skip the corporate, chain companies, and opt for a local caterer. Using them frequently, over time, may lead to better deals, and smaller catering companies can be more accepting of price negotiations.
  • Themes: While you may be accustomed to hosting a large, formal dinner party for the holidays, consider altering the type of event. Switch your party to a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres event, or serve a light brunch to change things up, and reduce costs.
  • Accept Gifts: While guests often ask if they can bring anything to party, hosts turn them down just as frequently. Don't turn away a helping hand. Every extra bottle of wine, appetizer or dessert is more for your guests with less out of your pocket.
  • Stick To A Menu: Stick to serving several themed drinks, rather than providing a full bar for guests. Note the drink selection on invitations to prevent surprises for guests with picky tastes.
  • Go Unknown: Try using produce from a local farmer's market or wine from a lesser-known region to help reduce price without sacrificing taste. Brand names often cause higher prices without an actual increase in quality. The unusual/unknown labels will look exotic, and act as a great conversation starter for food and wine enthusiasts at your party.
  • Start Cooking: Try your hand at making appetizers, hors d'oeuvres and salads, rather than purchasing them from an expensive deli or restaurant.
  • Skip The Pricey Cuts: If you plan to serve steak at your dinner party, consider switching out traditionally pricey cuts like filet mignon ($20/lb.) and New York Strip ($15/lb.) for newly discovered cuts with equal flavor. Created in 2002, the flat iron cut is valued for its tenderness and versatility, though it remains only $6 per pound due to its unknown status. You may need to look a little harder for this cut, but its taste and price are well worth the effort.
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How To Save Money On Holiday Decorating

Home décor can be incredibly expensive, depending what you buy, and where you buy it. The key to saving money on holiday decorating is learning to choose what is worth the cost, and what can be easily imitated or even made yourself.

  • Spend Money On The Basics: Buy plain pine garlands and wreaths from a reputable, albeit sometimes expensive, home décor store. Used as a base, these items will need to last for years, and will be worth the extra cost over a cheaper option. Using inexpensive ornaments and ribbons to decorate them in new styles year after year will make these onetime purchases seem constantly up-to-date.
  • Yule Tide Green Thumb: If you enjoy floral arrangements around your home, the holiday season can get expensive. Roses in particular often jump in price near Christmas. While it may seem funny, consider actually planting some of your favorite winter flowers in your yard, or in pots around your home. They'll be much less expensive to raise yourself than buy individually, and they can easily be snipped and placed into vases when the time comes. If you can't bring yourself to garden, consider picking up very high quality faux plants. If you invest the money once, you'll enjoy the fake flowers for up to a decade. 
  • Pine Fillers: Use plenty of pine boughs, branches and pinecones as vase fillers. They are perfect for the season, and cost far less than filling a vase entirely with flowers.
  • Recycled Pine: Stop by a Christmas tree farm and ask for clippings. These are often thrown or given away, and can be used to make garlands, wreaths and vase fillers for your home.
  • DIY Decor: Making your own holiday décor is easier than you think. Combining sleek and classic elements like pine, cranberries and ribbons can allow you to effortlessly create centerpieces, garlands and candles you've only seen in stores. Just find a design you like in stores, and use these basic yet chic Christmas materials to recreate it at home.

How To Save Money On Holiday Gifts

Once you've spent your money shopping for gifts, wrapping and sending them can be just as costly. Use these tips to help reduce the final cost of your holiday presents.

  • Shipping: Try to ship packages in the smallest possible boxes. The post office often determines its shipping fee based on size, as well as or instead of weight, making smaller packages less expensive to send. Reduce packing materials to only the necessities to help drop your package's weight.
  • Wrapping: Between holidays, birthdays, weddings and various other occasions, you may have gathered a huge collection of wrapping paper styles and colors. Rather than spending as much money on the package as the gift, select one neutral color to use on all your gifts. Black, white, gold or silver are good choices, and can be styled to each specific holiday with colored ribbon and bows. For example, silver wrapping paper can be paired with red ribbons for Christmas, blue ribbons for Hanukah and any variety of colors for birthday or wedding gifts. 

Saving money on your holiday decor, dining and gifts is easier than dramatically slashing your budget (though that would certainly work). Be smart about the things you save money on, and invest in basics that can be used year after year. Borrow decor or dining accessories from willing friends and family, and make sure you don't rack up a bill at the post office that rivals the department store. 

Last Updated: March 16, 2012
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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