Ah, the Holidays. Do they fill you with visions of sugar plums -- being charged on your already-near-the-limit credit cards?
For many people the joys of December are quickly lost in the bills of January. To help us all avoid being caught in the red this year, here are MoneyLife members' top 10 holiday-gift saving tips:
Little Ones Need Less
1. "I bought my daughter one gift and the rest she got from friends and our county's 'Christmas Cheer' program. She got over 15 items (she was 3 mos), mostly toys but also an outfit too. Some of the toys were beyond what I knew she could play with so I have them put away and I'm going to give them to her for her birthday in two months." -- iVillager smallsgirl
Buy 'Em One at a Time
2. "I usually start in October or November, buying one gift per pay period. This means that I do not have to spend a great deal of money at one time for any one gift. It is also good in that if I decide to spend a little more on a gift, it is not a big deal." -- iVillager roxylynn
Just Give Less
3. "I have cut down trememdously on my 'Santa' spending as the kids seem to enjoy it less. Case in point: When they have a floorful of toys to look at, it is exciting and overwhelming to them, but they don't really see or appreciate what they actually have. Also, they begin to expect this kind of abundance every year -- kids don't understand budgets. And they get so much from other people." -- iVillager Leslie
Christmas for $8.75? Shop Yard Sales!
4. "I bought all my toddler's Christmas presents at yard sales. A brand-new looking two-foot-tall Husky dog stuffed animal, a spelling board with batteries for $1.00 (it still works on the original batteries after a year-and-a-half). All in all, he had eight gifts to open, plus a stocking full of little toys, horses, etc. He loved it! He still plays with nearly everything he received from 'Santa,' while relatives' expensive toys are either broken or at the bottom of the toy box. Granted, I can't always find everything I want at yard sales, but I dropped the expensive attitude that there is anything wrong with clean, used items. I priced everything that I bought my son over the months at retail stores, and it came to a whopping $134.00!" -- iVillager momnews
"For my son's Christmas last year, I got everything secondhand. This way, I didn't stress out and see dollar signs every time something got broken. I also didn't feel like I wasted money if he didn't play with anything." -- iVillager CL-Mon71
Personalize It Yourself
5. "I have a girlfriend who is divorced and on a budget and she gave everyone she knows hand-painted ornaments. They were quite pretty. It was simple, though it did require planning ahead. She went out and bought plain gold balls (very cheap) and hand painted a message and decorative flower to everyone on her list. She said this was the best Christmas she ever had because she didn't have to face the bills in January." --iVillager raynee99
Give of Your Time
6. "One of the best gifts I ever received was a certificate from my nephew for free babysitting! It costs nothing but time, but was more precious than gold to me and my DH!" -- iVillager CL-dezra
Keep Your Recipient List to Minimum
7. "A major part of being able to plan like this was coming to the realization that everyone does not necessarily have to get a gift! Immediate family (mom, dad, kids, etc.) get gifts, and others get cards. I've found that a card with a handwritten personal message actually goes a long way in someone's heart, and that there should be no guilt in not having a 'Santa' budget to work with. For those you really wish you could have gotten gifts for, you can recognize them at other times of the year (like a birthday). The surprise factor is much higher then, as well." --iVillager CL-hbond
The Magic of Kids' Lists
8. "I let my kids makes lists and I buy a few of those things with lots of little 'goodies.' When relatives ask what the kids want, I tell them something from the list. If you only bought 2 things they would still end up with a pile if they have a grandma and a couple of aunts and uncles!"
9. "My daughter gets one or two CDs from the used section at the music warehouse. She found out that once the wrapper is off, her friends don't know. She receives the same titles as they do for one-third the cost, which gives her more money for gift certificates to her favorite stores." -- iVillager dgvk99
Shop for Christmas After Christmas
10. "I shop for Christmas after Christmas. Then I only buy the items that are marked down by 50 percent or more. I was going through my stash the other day and deciding what to give everybody. I have all of my gift buying finished for family that we mail to. I just need to break out the wrapping paper that I got at 70 percent off, box them up and send them off!" -- iVillager salmonpaddy