Holidays on a Budget: 7 Tips for Gifts, Entertaining and Décor

Here are seven tips to make a holiday without breaking the bank:


1. Control the gift budget by setting aside cash in envelopes or buy gift cards from retailers, and bring them along when gift-shopping. Both systems set a constraint that makes it tough to overspend.  Before purchasing any gift, ask yourself, “Does he/she really need or want this?”

2. Creative budget-friendly gifts can be found at deal sites such as Groupon and online retailers and charitable organizations such as Etsy, 10,000 Villages and Heifer International or World Vision’s donation gift catalogs.

Groupon’s daily deals on Chicagoland eats, treats and businesses for 50% off and more are very gift-able. They also have gift cards, for a guilt-free Groupon splurge.’s smorgasbord of handmade or vintage items covers all shades of cute, cool and affordable. Shop for unique jewelry, art, accessories, and home wares, or peruse the offerings of local artists under the “Shop Local” tab like these artists from Evanston.

10,000 Villages of Evanston offers fair-trade home goods, decor, and accessories hand-made by artisans around the world, like these wire-wrapped variegated glass earring for $8 or this “Java Sunset” rayon scarf for $24.

Gifts like $20 for a flock of chicks at Heifer International will multiply into blessings for poorer families overseas.  Heifer International and World Vision’s donation gift catalogs are full of simple, but life-changing gifts.

3. Is there a talent or skill you can share? Your gift of time could be more valuable than any store item.


4. Host a potluck! Invite friends or family to bring dishes. Try a themed potluck like appetizers, dessert, ethnic foods or even soup. Relax as your friends share the cost and entertaining load with you.

5. Make a list of what is most important for your holiday entertaining.  Then comparison shop for the best grocery deals and layer store sales with coupons. Use recipes that feature food in season since it’s cheaper and tastier.  Many foods used in holiday entertaining (baking products, soups, spices, turkeys, vegetables, etc.) are on sale now.  Check out Jill Cataldo’s coupon blog for deals of the week and couponing tips.


6. Take containers like glass bowls, vases, canning jars, baskets, cake plates, candleholders, and apothecary jars and adapt them to holiday décor with festive fillings. Fill with pine cones, clementines, apples, cinnamon sticks, hard candies, gumballs, chocolate coins, ornaments, tiny toys, bows, beans, gift shred, etc.  Odd-numbered groupings look best.

7. Vintage or glass ball ornaments can be tied to satin or grosgrain ribbons and hung from chandeliers, balustrades, in windows or on the tree.