Every year, the pre-Christmas buying frenzy seems to start earlier and earlier. No longer do the Christmas trees go up in stores and shopping centers on December 1 — these days, they’re likely to make an appearance before Halloween. And with that extended Christmas buying season comes greater temptation to buy, buy, buy — which is, of course, exactly why stores put up that tinsel so early!
It’s estimated that Americans collectively spend billions every single year during Christmas, on presents, food, holidays, decorations and more. And it doesn’t take an economist to work out that that figure is, well, completely crazy. Here’s what you can do to cut down on spending this year.
1. Set a Spending Limit for All Gifts
We all have so much, and really, Christmas should be about the loveliness of being together, not the opportunity to stack up as many gifts as possible. Set a limit for everyone you’re buying for, and stick to it. Get creative with your limit — maybe you could add a handmade gift, like baked goods or a framed photograph of the two of you, to “round out” the gift.
2. Bring a Thing
When it comes to entertaining, there’s plenty of money to be saved, says Alexis Teasdale, founder of The Festive Co. “I know it’s sometimes hard to ask, but guests really do like to bring something so let them!” she says. If you’re hosting, say yes when people ask what they can bring (you know they’ll ask).
“Ask then to bring a fruit salad, or sandwiches for the kids, cheese, and crackers. It all adds up and it will take off some of the pressure — both in terms of money and your effort and time,” she adds.
3. Keep it Simple
With food, remember that all anyone really wants is a slice of ham and a serving of pavlova. It’s easy to get carried away with fancy ingredients and complicated recipes, but Christmas food can actually be pretty simple: buy the best ham you can afford and serve it with chutneys, fresh bread, and cheese. A glass of bubbles and you’re set.
4. Let Food Be the Star
Speaking of food, Teasdale says, it can do the hard work of making the table look great, too. “Christmas food always looks so fancy,” she says, “so let it be the star of the show on its own trestle table. Seriously, all you need is a tablecloth!”
5. Opt for Inexpensive Decorations
If you do want to up the ante, you can go for something beautiful but inexpensive, like candles. “Buy a big pack, and pop them in glasses or old vases down the middle of the table,” says Teasdale. And get creative: if you have old Christmas music sheets or hymn books from school lying around, photocopy or print them and use as placemats. You could also use these as wrapping paper and gift tags.
6. Cheap Gift Wrapping
Speaking of packaging, nobody needs to spend a fortune on Christmas-themed gift wrap. Buy a cheap roll of kraft paper and let your kids (borrow some, if you don’t have your own) create their own artworks on them for wrapping. Cute and cheap: just the way we like it.
7. Buy Champagne in Bulk
Champagne is a must at Christmas, but take advantage of drinks specials at grocery stores: most of the time, you can get six bottles at a 25 percent discount. Discount retailers might even offer a greater saving.
8. Use Points
If you have credit card points, try to save them for Christmas — either for groceries or gifts. Cash them in for gift cards and go shopping “for free.” Sort of. Black Friday and Cyber Monday Weekend is the best time to buy all of your presents, says Angus.
9. Reuse and Recycle
This sounds obvious, but: try not to buy anything new. Chances are, you already have a Christmas tree and all the trimmings. You probably own a wreath. The temptation to buy will always be there, but you don’t have to give in to it.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.