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Jane HarrisWhat if I told you that ‘cutting corners’ can transform Christmas from a hectic, stressful money drain into a joyous, energizing experience? I understand if you are skeptical, but let me show you how it is possible to save money at the same time you enjoy a sumptuous, all the trimmings holiday season.

The secret to a Christmas that’s easy on your wallet isn’t about depriving yourself of fun or holiday glitter. It begins with bringing things you love to look at and do back into your life – and eliminating time and money drains that don’t bring you or your family enough joy to justify the cost. Chances are you’ll find what you need to make your Christmas glittering and fun at a dollar type or even a second hand shop.

Let me start with a story of my own. A couple of years ago, in the mad rush to make more money and cut unproductive time from my life, I relegated something I love to do — painting — to the list of expensive hobbies that I couldn’t afford to ‘waste’ time on. That started to change last August when I popped into a dollar store to find a writing journal. The journals were stacked beside piles of enticing art supplies with price tags marked down to a fraction of the cost I used to pay. On a whim, I decided I could afford to paint just one picture.

For less than $10.00 I went home with paints, brushes, and a new canvas. At first, I allowed myself 15 minutes a day to paint, no more. Gradually the time crept up to half an hour. To my surprise I didn’t fall behind in my work. Tough decisions got made and writing quandaries seem to solve themselves with every brush stroke. My life suddenly seemed a whole lot less stressful.

One painting led to another and before long I realized that my supply of paintings had grown large enough to dramatically reduce my need to do any Christmas shopping this year. And the cost for presents will be a fraction of what I spent last year.

You may not want to make all your Christmas gifts, but chances are that you can find gifts and ideas to put the fun back into your holidays at a dollar type store, a liquidation shop, or even a second-hand shop.

The secret to getting the perfect gift for less is not settling for less when you spend less. Instead, make sure that every present you buy or make is perfect for the person you are giving to. Focus your thoughts on each person you are buying for before you head to the store. What makes them special? What isn’t they don’t have and would love to receive? Write that down and take your notes shopping.

That elderly person on your list might love a warm pair of socks or a framed photograph more than another trinket for the coffee table. You spouse may like and use a warm pair of gloves more than an expensive piece of jewellery. They definitely won’t feel much joy reading a credit card bill in January that tells them they are still paying for their Christmas gift. A brightly coloured throw can transform a teenager’s room. Mugs, plates and cereal bowls can make a student or single’s person’s meals brighter.

These gifts are all available for less than $5 at dollar type stores. However, if cash is very tight, pick up a $2 card, write a thoughtful note, and include an at-home date night coupon for your spouse. (Don’t forget to honour the coupon.)

If you do want to try your hand at making gifts, why not pick up an unpainted jewellery box or coat rack in the craft aisle. Are you more ambitious? Head to a thrift shock to find a bookcase, vintage, or coffee table you can refinish.

No need to forego the glitz and glamour, either. A strand of $4 Led lights, some thrift door decorations, and a few ribbons to make bows can turn the most frugal Christmas into a bright one. Even a bare bones Christmas dinner will look prettier with a $3 tablecloth and $2 napkins. Pick up baking supplies to make budget friendly favourites like maple fudge or ginger snaps. You’ll also find sandwich fillings, shortbread, deserts, and nuts at dollar type stores.

Buy a few adult and kids colouring books, puzzles, games, and craft supplies to fill long winter nights with budget friendly memories. Add in low cost out of the house events – church services, Christmas concerts, and snowy nature walks – to make Christmas truly magical.

Whether tough times force your hand or you just want to start January without a credit card bill, enjoy a glittering, happy holiday season. Not only will January be a lot less bleak, you’ll turn your holiday celebrations into a joyous labour of love for you and your family.

Troy Media columnist Jane Harris-Zsovan’s Cutting Corners column offers her readers practical money advice for the real world.


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