Long on Christmas lists but short on cash this year?  What you need are tips, tricks, and Gift Guides to help you save money, right?

“Save money?!” you sneer. “What if we don’t have any money?” 

That, my friend, is a reliable signal that it’s time to get creative. Often the most meaningful gifts and most difficult ones to give are those that cost no money at all.

A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent. It’s going to require some (all?) of your free time over the next couple of weeks or so, but it sure beats going into debt to buy a bunch of gifts for others—or missing out altogether because you refuse to show up empty-handed.

No one was more creative than my mother-in-law one Christmas years ago. I’d always admired her beautiful crystal, a wedding gift from her parents in 1942. Imagine how stunned I was when she gave it—all of it—to me. My favorite pieces are the water pitcher and cordials. Her gift, which cost nothing in terms of money, was and continues to be priceless to me.

Are you getting the picture? Great. Ahead, 17 thoughtful ways to show someone you care that won’t require spending any cash at all.

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Family traditions are the rituals and practices a family shares that strengthen that family’s bonds and create lasting memories.

Multi Generation-Family-Praying-Before-Christmas-Meal

Traditions, those things we do much the same way over and over again, provide a source of identity,  comfort, and security. They reinforce family values. Kids love traditions!

Traditions can be elaborate and complex or simple but meaningful.

According to this study cited in this article from The Atlantic, the time we spend focusing on anticipation, experiences, and simply being together can have a profound impact on how much we enjoy life.

Traditions give families assurance that even in an uncertain and changing world, there are some things they can count on to always be the same.

The way I see it, anything you do in the same way at the same time, year after year becomes a tradition. Whatever it is, if you’ve done it once but plan to do it again, it counts as a tradition. 

Make a list of your family’s best traditions. Talk about them, treat them with a sense of respect and joy. Explore ideas for intentionally spending meaningful time together and then repeat often.

In time, your family traditions—especially those related to Christmas—will become trusted anchors in your children’s lives.

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Whether it’s something from your kitchen, craft room, woodworking shop, or computer, there’s nothing like a homemade gift. A tree ornament, plate of cookies, box of fudge, note cards—these are just some of the homemade gifts with universal appeal.

I love homemade gifts both to give and receive. No wonder I have so many favorites!

Homemade-christmas-gift-of-cookies

Hand and Body Lotion

A jar of your own signature luxury hand and body lotion will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good. Not particularly crafty? No worries.

If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening.

 

And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

I have created a photo tutorial at A Homemade Gift You’d Actually Love to Receive with all of the step-by-step instructions and specifics on the ingredients and where to get them.

Believe me when I say this is the gift your recipient(s) will rave about. It’s that awesome!

Shaving Cream

Seriously. Quite similar in process to the lotion above, you can make a big batch in one evening.

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Sometime during the fall of 2010 (who am I kidding here, it was exactly Oct. 2, 2010, at 4:32 pm), I wandered into (actually I was sucked in against my will by the seductive aroma) Popcornopolis in South Deerfield, Mass., (curiously, located inside the Yankee Candle Village Store) and walked out with the most amazing gourmet caramel popcorn.

yankee-candle-south-deerfield-massachusetts

As an admitted lover of good caramel corn, I have to say a few things about this gourmet popcorn. These people know how to make caramel corn!

With its rich depth of flavor, Popcornopolis Caramel Corn is about as close to perfection as I have ever tasted. But as wonderful as it is, it is also very expensive.

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In the crush of holiday wish lists, gadgets, toys and media hype, it’s easy to overlook the four things experts tell us that children really want for Christmas. 

Modern family of four reading Christmas stories

  1. Relaxed time with family 
  2. Realistic expectations about gifts
  3. An evenly paced holiday season
  4. Reliable family traditions

Today I have a recommendation for you—a way that you and your family can accomplish all four things, even at this late date.  Read more

There was a time that I felt compelled to rise early on Christmas morning to bake Cinnamon Rolls—my family’s breakfast item of choice on that very special day of the year.

When I say early, I mean 3:30am. It takes hours for sweet bread dough to rise multiple times. And let’s just say that over the years, some attempts have been more successful than others.

Those days are gone. I’m done with that routine and not because I don’t love my family.

Now I sleep in until exactly 43 minutes before I want everyone to wake up to the smell of fresh, hot, decadent, perfect-every-time Cinnamon Rolls.

I may regret letting the cat out of the bag on this because they still think I’m a world-class Cinnamon Roll baker, but for right now, I’m excited to show and tell the most outrageously awesome food hack I’ve ever discovered. Read more

If you could use an injection of fresh ideas for how to make this Holiday Season meaningful for the children in your life, take a lesson from my friend, Connie Copeland. 

happy-family-at-christmas-opening-gifts-together-on-the-couch

Connie’s clever creativity allowed her and her husband to give their four kids and now her 13 grandchildren the four things kids really want for Christmas, even when money was tight:

  • Relaxed and loving time with family
  • Realistic gift expectations
  • Evenly paced holiday season
  • Reliable family traditions

When her kids were little, Connie would spread the excitement of Christmas throughout the month. She did that with little notes—one tiny note per child, per day.

Most days the notes were similar, such as:  Read more

As tempting as a pricey, artificial, pre-lit Christmas tree may be, few things about the holidays are as satisfying as a fresh, real Christmas tree. 

Christmas tree farm couple

1. Why real?

If the nostalgia of a fresh, fragrant tree is not reason enough to go natural, consider these facts:

  • Artificial trees will last for six years in your home (got storage space?), but for centuries in a landfill.
  • One to three seedlings are planted in the U.S. for every harvested Christmas tree—a total of 41 million were planted in winter/spring 2013, alone.
  • Ninety-three percent of real Christmas trees harvested are recycled in community programs providing mulch for landscape and replenishing the earth’s soil. 

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