For years my husband was self-employed, which meant paying himself came in dead last on the “who got paid” list. Which also meant things like Christmas had to be done in a creative and inexpensive way. I’m a master at Christmas on a budget.

And budget is the key word there. The best way to save for Christmas gifts is, well, to save. Keep out a portion of your paycheck every month and set it aside specifically for Christmas (also works for your vacation, new appliances when needed, etc). Even $20 a month is $240 after a year. And maybe it’s not the biggest Christmas on record, but you have the ability to get something under the tree for your amazing family.

But here we are in December, and maybe budgeting will work for next year, but how about this year? Here are a few tips for creating great Christmas gifts without breaking the bank.

• Get creative! Make gifts for each other. If you have children, odds are you have paints, glitter, stickers and a variety of odds and ends. A few years ago, my kids took washed-out milk jugs, and we cut and painted them and made some very creative bird feeders to give to grandparents. Last year, I used old construction paper with stickers and markers and turned them into a matching card game for my preschooler.

• Coupon books aren’t just for kids to give to mom. Parents can make coupon books for their kids, too. Can’t afford an annual pass to the zoo? Make a coupon promising a trip to the zoo for a later date. Instead of a gift card to their favorite restaurant, make a coupon for a parent-child date night they can redeem later in the year. These give parents a chance to defer the cost, and it’s a gift that lasts all year.

• Buying items second hand does not mean they’re not as good as something new. If your daughter has been wanting a dollhouse or your son has been wanting a new iPhone, looking on second hand sales websites is a great way to save money on something that could be very pricey brand new. A fresh coat of paint or new phone case can really spruce things up.

• The key is to stick to your budget and not to overdo it to where you’re still paying for that dollhouse in 2021. For us, that means only giving our children three gifts each. That allows us to do a few things — spend more on a bigger item, to stick to our budget without overspending, and it helps reduce cluttering up the house.

Of course, what ends up under the tree Christmas morning isn’t as important as the people around and the idea of sharing a special day with the ones you love. Even if the gifts are all from the dollar store, giving and receiving gifts in love is much more important than what’s under the gift wrap. Merry Christmas, from my home to yours! And all the best wishes for a happy and healthy 2018.

More:Get ready: Here comes the great holiday juggle

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