Niagara Gazette

December 4, 2008

EXTRA: Save money by making some surprises this holiday


For The Associated Press

Save money this holiday season by trying some unexpected tactics:

— Ask family members if they have ornaments or other decorations around that they aren't using, says Carmen Natschke, who runs a blog called The Decorating Diva. And if you do still find you need to buy something, make sure to check back closets and attics first in case you already have it

— Skip the expensive open house or dinner party and host a classic Christmas cartoon party instead, says Kris Melcher author of "Chick Living: Frugal and Fabulous." Invite guests to decorate cookies while "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," ''Frosty the Snowman," ''How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" play on the TV.

— Go simple for the decorations. Stock up on dollar-store ornaments and display them in glass bowls. Collect pine cones from outside and let them dry. Spray paint silver or gold and pile in jars or vases. Or use them as place-card holders for a dinner party.

— For a thoughtful and inexpensive gift for someone you know well, such as a sibling, take a stroll down memory lane, says Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, a thrifty-living expert known as "The Frugal Duchess." Track down the recipient's favorite childhood book on eBay or at a local store.

— Do not be afraid of "re-gifting" a present that you don't want or need, says etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.

But follow some rules: Make sure the recycled gift is in good condition and in its original box. Be certain the person getting the gift is in a different social circle than the person who originally gave it to you. Double-check that you've removed any evidence - such as a gift card - from the original gift. Know when to retire the real clunkers - old fruitcake, a tired bottle of cologne or an out-of-style sweater.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.