This year’s holiday season can be special for you and your family regardless of your budget.
Here are some fun tips for creating new holiday traditions while saving money.
1. Make your cards from recycled materials. Cards can be made from paper grocery bags, cereal boxes, used file folders and even last year’s holiday cards. Feature your family’s artwork and use recycled wrapping paper or paper from catalogs and magazines for backgrounds. A great resource for making cards from recycled materials is Creative Correspondence by Michael and Judy Jacobs, available at some bookstores or on Amazon.com.
2. Have fun together and create a festive decoration by making a gingerbread house. You can bake the gingerbread yourself and use royal icing to construct the house and attach the candy. Another option is to use graham crackers and hot glue to make the house and frosting from a can to attach the decor. Great royal icing recipes and other gingerbread house tips are available on Cooks.com.
3. Save on your holiday treats. And if you're baking a lot, consider buying ingredients in bulk at stores like the Redwood City Costco, 2200 Middlefield Road at Woodside. Or, participate in a cookie exchange so you can sample different treats without having to bake them yourself. Try using fondant as icing, too. Try this recipe for fondant.
4. Cut your own Christmas tree from Santa's Tree Farm and Village in Half Moon Bay. Jennifer Miller, author of Where the Best Books Are!, a blog with reviews and recommendations of books for kids, says cutting your own tree saves money and creates a great holiday memory for your kids.
5. Make your own decorations and ornaments. You can try dough ornaments by using this recipe. Seattle artist, author and instructor Carla Sonheim says, “My favorite Christmas decoration is a drawing of Santa Claus done by my son Christer when he was 9 years old. I also have made 'holiday card/ornaments' with my own drawings or my kids' drawings. I'll scan the image into the computer and then print it out on sturdy card stock or other heavy paper. Then I'll cut around the image and punch a hole in the top and thread with yarn. On the back I write my holiday greeting and then send it out as a holiday card, which doubles as a paper ornament. I also have made ornaments from photographs of my kids at various ages." Try Maggie's Art & Drafting Supplies at 2611 Broadway in Redwood City for supplies. Also, check out our article on homemade gifts such as a jar of vanilla extract here.
6. Give the gifts of your time and skills. Make up a gift certificate for an afternoon of tech support for your friend who's about to toss his new computer out the window, an evening of babysitting so friends with little kids can have a date night, or a day of housework or yard work for an elderly relative.
7. Check out the free and low-cost holiday activities in your area. Local productions of holiday favorites can be just as magical as a big-city production for a fraction of the ticket price. School and community bands and orchestras often offer free holiday music concerts. Try the "Carols by Candlelight" holiday sing-along taking place at Redwood City's Messiah Lutheran Church tonight, Sunday Dec. 16, or the Celtic Holiday Show with Peter Daldry at Angelica's Bistro in Redwood City next Friday the 21st. Or, toss your kids in the car with some hot chocolate and holiday treats and tour your town’s neighborhoods for the best holiday light shows.
8. Classic toys such as wagons, riding toys, puzzles, board games and wooden blocks make great holiday gifts and are often available at your local consignment and thrift stores for a fraction of what you would pay at a big-box store. Try Saver's at 875 Main St. in Redwood City.
9. Skip the expensive Santa breakfast or holiday dinner out and spend time at your favorite service organization. Give back with your family by sorting donations or serving a meal. Learn more about local organizations with a need for volunteers this holiday season here.
10. Check out your favorite movies, holiday books and music from your local library and schedule some evenings to share childhood favorites such as It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Streetwith your kids. To see the locations and hours of local libraries in Redwood City and Woodside, visit the Patch directory.