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4 ways to not go broke this Christmas
Christmas time can be hard on the budget. Here are 4 ways to not go broke this year. - photo by Megan Shauri
Christmas time is such a magical time of year, but it can also be an expensive time of year.

Between buying gifts, decorations, food, and all the different Christmas related activities, it can really be hard on the budget.

Here are 4 ways to help you still have a magical Christmas, but not break the bank:

1. Trim the expensive tree out of your budget

Christmas trees can be spendy, but for most people they are a must-have for the holiday.

There is nothing that says Christmas more than sitting under the lights of the Christmas tree. It is where you put your presents and hang your beloved Christmas ornaments.

So what do you do when you cannot afford a tree?

A lot of people wait until after Christmas is over to buy an artificial tree. They are marked way down because the holiday is over, and you can get a great deal. You will have to wait until the next year to use your tree, but after that, you will then have a tree for several years to come.

Another option is to use a plant you already own. If you have a live or fake plant that is big enough to double as a Christmas tree, use it. Spruce it up with lights and ornaments and if you can, drape a Christmas tree skirt around the pot it is in. It may not be the real deal, but it can be a cost effective alternative.

One last idea to saving in the Christmas tree department is by making your own tree. Use decorative paper to cut out a Christmas tree and tape it to your wall. You can still place presents under it, and put a battery operated light at the top to represent the star.

For those with young kids, making a tree out of felt with felt ornaments that your children can move around throughout the season is a fun alternative.

The main idea is try to be creative; you do not have to get a real 6-foot tree just because that is the tradition. Do what works for your family and your budget.

2. Lighting up your home

Christmas lights are always a fun tradition, but it can cause a big increase to your electric bill.

Instead of having a big light display this year, replace the lights you already use with holiday colors. Change your outside porch lights to red and green. Inside your house string up holiday lights and use those instead of your regular lamps to light your home this month. It brings a nice festive glow to your home without using more electricity than you normally would.

If you really want to see some holiday lights, take a night to check out the lights in your neighborhood. You still get to enjoy Christmas lights without breaking the bank.

3. Give the gift of time

Gift giving is traditional and honestly expected this time of year. And with the amount of people on your list to give to, your budget can easily go out the window.

Instead of buying gifts this year, try giving of yourself instead. Here are some fun and easy ideas: shovel your neighbors walkway, serenade your co-workers with Christmas carols, handwrite a note of appreciation to someone, offer to babysit for free, clean your sisters house top to bottom, wash your brothers laundry for a month, teach your friend how to make your world famous cookies, or give them 10 free piano lessons.

All of these ideas will cost you next to nothing, but they are things that are unique and special.

You may be hesitant to give something free, but I know I would much rather have someone clean my house from top to bottom then get something I dont really need.

4. Dont spend a dime on your Christmas activities

There are so many wonderful events that go on during the Christmas season, including: concerts, parties, events with Santa Clause, and the list goes on. A lot of these activities can cost you a pretty penny, but there are also a lot of holiday activities that cost nothing at all.

There are several tree lighting ceremonies at local malls and outlet centers that have live performances, free cocoa, and even a visit from Santa that do not cost a thing.

If your kids really want to see Santa, take them to any mall with a Santa stop. It is free to see him; it just costs money to buy the photo. Skip the photo and let your kids spend time talking and visiting with Santa.

If you want to go to some holiday concerts, pay attention to your local schools schedule. High school choirs and bands always have a holiday concert around this time of year, and most (if not all) are free to attend. It is a great way to get your holiday music fix while supporting your local community.

The bottom line is; you can still have a magical Christmas season without going broke.

It is easy to get lost in the excitement of the season and ignore your budget, but most of us end up regretting that when the season is over. Plan ahead for what you really want to spend your money on, then use some of these budget friendly ideas for the rest of your holiday needs.