Bea Johnson lives waste-free with her family since 2008 and is the author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home (Zéro Déchet en francais)
"Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle, our lives have changed for the better: We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff. My goal is to share its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits!"

Zero Waste can save and make you money this holiday season!

Long before I ever heard about the term, businesses adopted Zero Waste to make their processes more efficient and financially wise.
Graphics by Leo Johnson
In the home the same is true. I have mentioned the monetary benefits that this lifestyle has afforded my household before, but I want to go into specifics, on how it can save money, and even make a profit this holiday season! This time of the year can be a source of financial stress during these trying economic times, but ZeroWaste can afford relief. Here are concepts that I introduced in earlier posts and how they translate to holiday savings and potential revenue.

Zero Waste will save you money this holiday season by:
  • Curbing consumption: Using what you have is obvious, but I know how tempting the holidays can be! The best waste prevention is not spending at all, and not spending at all offers instant savings! Use a potted plant as a Christmas tree, and yard clippings or edibles as table decorations. You probably do not need new ornaments either…
  • Focusing on activities vs. stuff: You can offer your expertise or services (i.e., your time) as gifts. Usually older people need a hand, more than they need stuff. Hold on to your dollars and offer your creativity, cooking, manual skills, mobility or time instead. Offering repairs or beauty care will please the elderly, for example.
  • Buying used (if you must buy): Thrift stores, rummage sales and online secondhand markets (Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist) undeniably offer affordable gifts and decorations.
  • Buying groceries in bulk: Since bulk is generally cheaper, celebratory meals for company will cost you less.
  • Eliminating disposables (keep your money out of the landfill): Reusable gift bags and Furoshiki squares offer cumulative savings over the years. No need for wrapping paper or tape.
  • Turning your waste into useful gifts: You can make lemon bars, marmalade, lemoncello with excess lemon harvest, turn junk-mail or kids artwork into stationery, melt bits of old candles, soap or crayons into new shapes, use corks for a bath mat and sew rags (i.e., worn-out clothing) into gift bags. I will be making the latter for family and friends.
  • Reducing activities that support consumption: Avoiding the mall and decreasing media exposure (tv, and magazines) will ease the shopping temptations and spending binges as well.
  • Reducing your paper output: E-mailing your Holiday card or video you’ll be saving material, shipping, and printing costs. This year, our kids will be “elfing” themselves for a comic custom video.

Zero Waste can even make you a profit by:
  • Participating in collaborative consumption, i.e., sharing seldom used assets: You can rent your dwelling (through VRBO or Airbnb) and car (through Getaround or Relayrides) this holiday season and make a profit. We take full advantage of this aspect as mentioned here and on Twitter. The process is evidently easier once you have decluttered, but the potential revenue is HUGE!
  • Sharing unused resources with others (see post on decluttering): It offers an opportunity to not only re-gift (instead of buying new) but also, and preferably, sell these items for a profit. And the holiday season, is the best time to do so, since Ebay, Amazon and Craigslist can bring you many more buyers than the rest of the year. Green shoppers looking to buy used hope to find your unused items in the secondhand market!
  • Recycling and composting: The holiday season also usually means more consumable consumption, which increases recycling in the home. Why not save your recyclables, and take them to the recycling center for redemption after the holidays instead of throwing them in the curbside recycling bin? Instead of costing you money, recycling could make you money!
  • Controlling clutter: If you get a gift that does not fit your needs, relieve yourself from the gift guilt. Don’t let anything that you do not need or love, take root in your home, let others use it: Sell it!
ZeroWaste has taken the financial stress out of my holidays. It did not remedy my anxieties overnight, rather over a couple of years as we slowly implemented and understood the full advantages of the lifestyle, but today it engages my creativity and pays back! Now that’s one advantage we did not foresee when getting into this.Can you think of other ways that Zero Waste will save you money this holiday season?


  1. Excellent list! I'd like to add some specifics to the idea of buying "experiences" and "services" instead of cheap stuff:

    -Home made gift certificates for chores, breakfast in bed, doing a extra set of dishes, baby-sitting, etc.
    -What about Mom? When is the last time she had time off for a salon day or a massage? Give her the double gift of a certificate and free baby-sitting.
    -Cleaning lady services: maybe you know someone who'd dearly love to have a regular house keeper but simply can't afford it- maybe you can by them one, two or three free cleanings form a cleaning service. Or carpet cleaner-whatever! Believe me, the gift-ee will appreciate it and so will the person who hire!
    -Would that we could all drive electric cars or lived in car-free communities, but gas cars need regular maintenance to run efficiently-thus greenly What about buying someone an oil change service? How about a car detailing?
    -What about a bus pass? Or a bike shop certificate? This will keep things moving!
    -Rake someone's leaves for them for free. They'll love you forever and feed you pumpkin pie (I know I would!)
    -Ditto hanging holiday holiday lights- we all love our roof lines lit up (with LED's of course) but hate getting them up there- especially older people. Offer to help out as a gift.
    -Gift card (hopefully not plastic) to the local organic food co-op, flower stand, bakery, etc.
    -Gym membership-that would go a long way encourage being in shape and keeping the gym folks employed.
    -Eco friendly yard service for the summertime- maybe if and when your friend or family member who currently uses gasoline powered tools hears how quiet and odor-free an electric mower is, they'll switch.
    -On-line subscriptions: NetFlix, iTunes, an on-line magazine of their choice. And no, you don't have to buy the plastic gift card- you can make your own home-made one and then just set-up the account for them from your own computer.
    -Anyone need computer maintenance? I'll bet there's a young, under-employed college kid who'd love to be hired to fix Grandpa's old Mac, which also keep said Mac out of the e-waste stream.
    -Garden seeds! Gift someone the gift of Spring in the winter- fill a used Good Will basket with seed packets of flowers and vegetables.
    -Hire-A-Homeless Person: here in Seattle, we have an organization called the Millionaires Club that screens homeless persons and sets them up for four-hour stints to do yard work and other chores. Maybe there is a similar organization in your town. Get your gutters cleaned while helping someone else out.

    This list could go on and on-as Bea encourages, we need community and contact, *not* more *stuff*. Please add your two cents worth- I *know* you, all of Bea's readers, are super smart and creative people and I'll bet there are some excellent, non-stuff ideas out there!

  2. Anonymous11/22/2011

    I'm really struggling to come up with both zero waste and low cost ideas - for kids (not gift cards/cash). None I buy for are local, so personally taking them someplace doesn't work. Often memberships to zoos, lessons, etc run well over $100 - and I have lots of kids/pre-teens to gift. I'm hoping some can share some of their ideas for kids.

  3. Christmases in our house over the past two years have been very, very frugal. Thing is, with frugality often comes creativity! We gave hampers to our loved ones full of homemade goodies (chutney! sloe gin! candied oranges!) and spent time making them look pretty. Jars were recycled and I made coasters from circles of fabric that doubled as cute decorative lids.

    Last year, when money wasn't such an issue we bought more and made less, and there was palpable disappointment!

    I must confess we have a tree (which gets composted afterward, which in turn makes our allotment a very happy one), but we go all Scandinavian on the decorations and bake ginger cookies. This then works as a snack bar throughout December ;)

    Thanks for the ideas! I'm looking forward to hearing more!

  4. One of the things that has emerged for me as a result of deciding to make a commitment to a zero waste lifestyle is just how much of one's anxiety is wrapped up in unnecessary consumption. We often become trapped in an anxiety/retail therapy/guilt/clutter cycle. This seems to get worse at Christmas when the pressure is on to "do the right thing" which means consume like mad and give gifts for the sake of consuming. I am really enjoying the benefits of starting to distance myself more and more from spurious consumption. We have cut down significantly on gifts and decided to cut out plastic toys for our daughters about three years ago. This Christmas we will save a lot of money for the simple reason that we are not spending for the sake of spending. We are planning a homemade Christmas where the challenge is to stay away from the mall and make gifts instead. Being busy with one's hands and getting creative with home made gift ideas satisfies the soul in a way that a shopping session at the mall never can or will as it is an empty experience. I am very pleased that my work colleagues have all agreed that we will not be exchanging our usual token gifts this year. Instead of a gift, we are all bringing food and having a big, long lunch at someone's house. One of the biggest problems with Christmas is that the sales follow soon after. This year we are not visiting the sales as we do not need anything. Sale season is another danger zone, a reason to get into the retail therapy/clutter cycle. I am happy to say that I now see the red sale signs as a red flag to stop, think and say no.

    Love the idea of homemade gift certificates.

  5. Anonymous11/22/2011

    My parents accumulated enough "stuff" long ago. Now we do a donation in their name to a major charity - like Habitat for Humanity and they love it.

  6. We start the conversation with extended family members months ahead. Not everyone shares our belief around 'not consuming' and can feel 'cheated' out of a traditional gift. I don't go around defending myself but I do make it clear what we feel Christmas and giving is about.

  7. With my married children and their families I give one gift for the family usually a membership to places they visit a lot like the Zoo or Aquarium or one year a night at a water resort. For my unmarried son a cybercard to ITunes (much appreciated) or some years a gift card to Starbucks. A lot of my grandchildren like Lego and that can be passed on and on and should nt get thrown away and eventually can be donated to shelters etc.
    All my children give me gourmet fair-trade organic coffee beans - I have a lot of children so never have to buy good coffee and is a really luxury for me ! I do tell them to try and get it in paper bags or in bulk and explain why. The beans and the packing go on the compost
    Just take a little extra effort and thought to make a difference.
    I give elderly people who dont pay their bills on line and still like to write a letter a roll of stamps.
    Food gifts are great. The granola on Alexandra s Kitchen is the BEST - I buy coconut for it and grate, dry and toast it myself.

  8. Anonymous11/22/2011

    I've been very lucky this year to find two American Girl dolls slightly used for my two daughters ages 7 and 8. I also found a women who makes clothes for the dolls from recycled materials. Two acoustic guitars (again used) and guitar lessons from our amazing music teacher at school.
    My girls also have birthdays in December. This year the party will be decorating gingerbread cookies. It's the craft, the dessert, and the goodie bag gift all in one!!!
    It's been a challenge to get my parents and in-laws on board about buying "stuff" I would love any suggestions on how to make them understand we don't want a plastic Christmas.

  9. Anonymous11/22/2011

    I married into a family that does the "gift" thing, so I joined in, but in my own way. We gift tickets to local play productions, massages with massage-therapist friends, house-cleaning gift certificates and other fun things. Everyone loves it and so do I for not having to be the boat-rocker in the new family.

  10. Anonymous11/22/2011

    Reading this post has inspired me: I've been trying to think of what to get my parents this year. They don't need any more "stuff", and I'm trying to stay away from giving "stuff" this year. I thought about getting them a gift certificate for a nice dinner out, but my Dad is now on a special diet. Instead, I'm going to deliver several nice dinners to their house. I'll make sure the dishes that fit with my Dad's new diet, but are more special than they'd be likely to bother with making for themselves. I'm going to print up a menu and put in a home-made card (including proposed delivery dates) for presentation.

  11. I'm pretty crafty and am blessed with a family that enjoys homemade gifts. I knit big cushy cowls from unraveled thrifted sweaters and crochet beach bags from plastic grocery bags.

    Thanks for your list! It is easy to feel like a scrooge when I am surrounded by Christmas madness, your blog helps me feel normal. :)

  12. I have had mixed feelings as the holidays have come around. I am tired of gifts and Santa being such a big part. The whole reason we have Christmas was because of Christ and the retailers have done their part to change the focus from Him to gifts. It is easy to get caught up in it. I have been decluttering our home and I don't want a lot of stuff added to it. We have cut back on Christmas this year, and are spending much less. I felt a little guilty at first, but I don't any more. I plan on finding things in our community that we can do together and focus on giving instead of getting. I keep asking myself how I would feel the day after Christmas if I bought a certain item, and most of the time that is enough to just leave it on the shelf. I think the kids will enjoy what they have more when they don't get as many things. If 3 gifts from the wise men were good enough for Jesus, shouldn't they be good enough for us? As long as they get a couple of things they really want, that is plenty. I can skip all the fillers and skip black Friday shopping. I look forward to just spending time with family this Friday and not shopping. I don't need to go overboard with candy and make sure that stocking stuffers are practical and not just cheap junk. It will save me money and time and I will be so much happier when the holidays are over. Memories are more important than material items. I look forward to making cookies as a family and dropping them off to friends. I also found this to be true as I have switched from plastic bags to containers, etc. I save myself money and it is better for the environment. It is really nice that it is a win-win situation.

  13. Thanks for posting this collection of zero waste holiday solutions! I have been re-reading your posts, hoping to glean inspiration as I commit to a completely zero waste holiday season. We have always done home made gifts, but this year we are totally committing to hand made or second hand gifts. Even my husband is on board! I am looking forward to helping children with projects and taking them to the second hand shops. I am MOST excited about NO TRASH left over from gifts! Its a little strange, being "holiday guilt & stress" free :)

  14. Anonymous11/22/2011

    Great to hear some ideas for christmas. I would love more ideas from people who have young or school age kids as to what you are gifting them. especially those of you who still do christmas stockings. My family are pretty on board with homemade christmas, but I have to say, I gave mostly handmade items last year, and it was pretty stressful getting everything done! So now I am focusing on useful/practical/consumable items eg fair trade choc or itunes vouchers for family, but for my kids (3 and 5) it is still hard!

  15. Anonymous: This year's post is about how ZW saves money but last year's gives concrete ideas (esp. experiences).

  16. I just wanted to vent for a moment, and this is a forum of people who will probably understand best this challenge: Our local co-op sells bulk organic apples at a per-item price from $0.69 per apple to $0.99 per each. Last week I bought the pre-bagged apples for $5.99 and got 11 apples. This week I bought 11 apples bulk in order to avoid getting the plastic bag and paid more for those loose ones. Very frustrating.

    But- Bea- great post! We're already working very hard to change our Christmas shopping, and I'm getting so much more satisfaction already from knowing that it will be different this year. Thank you for the inspiration.

  17. Susan d11/22/2011

    Hi Bea:
    Thanks again for another wonderful post. This week is my birthday and I asked my husband to renew my pass to my favorite yoga studio ( I can't be without my yoga!) however, for Christmas I would love to have a new mat. The one that I have been using for the past year is getting very thin and will soon need replacing. I don't think it is an item I will find used so I'm wondering if you have any opinion or recommendations on the most Eco-friendly option. I just can't practice without a mat. My knees are too old!

  18. Here's an idea for other people's kids: give them photos and stories about their parents. There's a chance that you know their parents well (which is the reason you're getting the kids gifts in the first place). If you give the child a story about his or her parent at the same age, that could become a welcome tradition. The story could be written, or recorded, and it might or might not come with a photo.

    When my daughter turned 11, my sister gave her the photo album from my marriage to her dad. Because we were now divorced, I'd put my own away -- maybe even tossed it? But it meant a lot to my daughter, more than it did to my sister or me.

  19. Anonymous11/23/2011

    I plan on skipping the shopping this Friday.

  20. I really enjoyed reading your posts and comments. We are definitely in a high consumption age, and these ideas really made me think. I was raised on a modest farm where we had very little, and often shared one Christmas gift among 6 siblings.
    One major problem is changing our mindsets about what is true giving, and this site really helped me.
    Keep up the good work.

  21. Am I the only one who thinks the graphics are ADORABLE-- the first thing I noticed.

  22. Thanks for the great ideas! And, congrats for your budding artist.

    When my kids were growing up, we had annual cookie decorating parties which were a major hit. Cookie dough and frosting were from scratch. We also had parties where the "price of admission" was a handmade Christmas tree ornament. We still have most of those and use annually. Between those, handmade gifts from family members, and ones we made ourselves, we have no "store bought" ornaments or decorations. We scavenge pine tree branches and discards and make boughs decorated with ornaments, now, instead of a tree.
    The biggest purchase, ironically, has been wrapping paper. When the kids were little, ripping the paper was part of the excitement. We did hand make bows and gift cards, which again have been saved, but early on, paper was just trashed. As they have grown older, we have fallen back on our parents' Depression Era habits and even save paper from year to year.
    Limiting gifts is an ongoing struggle, and we weren’t that successful. I *wish* we had talked more to family and requested experiences or “Education Fund” gifts for the kids. Unfortunately, we grew to love the pile under the tree and the happy, surprised expressions when opening a package -hence the ripped paper. Visiting Grandparents revolved around opening presents. Taking turns, opening one at a time, time honored tradition for two generations. Creative wrapping, clever poems or hints, did stretch the fun, though. Retrospectively, I realize that limiting gifts has to start early, or there’s a painful transition period for all concerned.

    Favorite gifted experiences that were tradition, though, have been cookie and home decorating, “The Nutcracker”, watching various movie classics, and visiting local zoos with their reindeer, etc.

    AS everyone has grown older,, we’ve moved to going out and enjoying a wonderful buffet, followed by a long walk with family members who no longer live at “home”. Nice, calm, much easier on the cook!

    Aside from ratcheting down the consumerism, one final thought as to how to tame the gifting monster, is to volunteer. Give the gift of time to strangers. As a family, that is probably my greatest “regret”: not instilling the concept of volunteering locally during this time of year. Dual jobs, crazy schedules, traveling to see far away family have been our excuse, but I do regret this not being part of our traditions...

  23. Lovely pictures - nice work, Leo!

    And inspiring words....I particularly like your tip 'focusing on activities rather than stuff' - I think that will be my early new years resolution (forevermore!)...

  24. Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I have found so much inspiration on this blog! I admire the zero-waste lifestyle, and I am very slowly beginning to inch toward it. It’s hard to go through all my stuff and figure out what to keep and what to get rid of—there’s so much of it, it’s overwhelming, and everything brings back a memory I’ve otherwise forgotten. Nevertheless, I’m starting, slowly, with the goal of getting rid of all my useless clutter and replacing it with scrapbooks, to keep the memories.

    Here is my holiday gift-giving anecdote:
    Two years ago, my mother’s extended family started doing a white elephant gift exchange, with things we already owned. Specifically, we each had to give “a useless piece of crap.” We had so much fun! My uncle got a pair of old cleats, which my aunt mercifully took back when it was her turn, my mom got a cheap gaudy tiara, and another uncle would up with my old Mary-Kate and Ashley CD! Last year, we decided to set a $10 limit, and each person would buy something nice and useful. It was a generous idea in theory, but we didn’t laugh nearly as much. This year, I am giving a gag gift again.

    What I love about this new tradition is that not only does it encourage you to clean out your possessions, but you can get rid of the gift you receive with zero guilt. The real gift is the time spent playing the game, the laughter, and the plotting and anticipation. The most fun part could really be deciding what to give!

    A few more:

    My dad wants someone to rake the leaves for Christmas, so I will do that and take a picture of myself posing with the bags of leaves. (Yeah, maybe he’s tricking me into doing chores, but it’s free.) My sister-in-law will bake him a homemade cherry pie, his favorite.

    I will give my brother a gift certificate to buy concert tickets. (One year he gave me a hug for Christmas. He’s a pretty grumpy guy, and hugs are rare.) Another year my parents’ big gift to him was taking his trumpet to be professionally cleaned.

    I myself mostly want gift cards to the local health food store, vegan restaurant, natural beauty products store, and iTunes—all intangible or temporary things (except the cards) that won’t add to my clutter.

    Another uncle usually gives us a gift certificate to the local dinner theater. One year six of us went to see “The Sound of Music” with his gift. It was great!

    I treated two friends and myself to a concert over the summer, and that was a birthday/graduation/Christmas gift rolled in one for both of them. Now I just have to remember not to buy them anything this season!

    Another friend of mine is giving everyone on her list homemade infused vodka.

    Happy holidays, everyone! Thanks for the inspiration!

  25. I know newspapers are a rare item, but my parents use to save the funny pages to wrap gifts in -- they were our favorites because it was a double gift. The present inside and the comics to read. If you have friends that still read the paper you might have them save them for you. The rest neatly goes into the compost pile.

    1. Anonymous1/30/2012

      I do this and I get my funny papers from the recycling center.

  26. I'd love to read more details about how you rent your house for just a few days, here and there through the school year. Do you go away during week ends on purpose, just so you can rent it? Or do you plan ahead so that everyday you are not there you rent it? Do you stay with family, friends, rent another place?

  27. Staying away from the mall has helped our Christmas to be less stressful, as well as less wasteful!

  28. We used to rake leaves for my G-ma for a Christmas gift, but now that she's in a condo, we offer her dried fruit that we foraged, or home-canned produce. She really, truly appreciates that we recognize she does not need any more decorative baubles. We are showing her love by NOT buying stuff for her.

  29. Since I live in a place that is basically winter 8-9 months a year I can a lot of our food - pickles, peaches, apples, tomatoes, jams.... These make wonderful gifts for the holidays as well. This year my husband and I bought our daughter and her family tickets to Disney on Ice. This is something they could never do on their own. My daughter does not like clutter and my two grandkids receive enough toys from extended family -- (she re-gifts and also has her children select toys they no longer want to give to the local thrift store). On my blog I listed 10 ideas that people can do over the holidays to help others. They cost nothing but time. I also gather used yarn from thrift stores and make scarves, mittens and blankets (much needed around here!). I also love to bake and baked goods - like a fresh pumpkin pie or cranberry muffins make wonderful gifts. Thank you Bea for your great ideas! We've rented our home in the summer during the motorcycle rally but during the winter would also be a great idea, especially for those who love winter sports. This would allow me to visit family with no cost.

  30. Bea,

    How do you handle all the dishes meal after meal after meal with guests? I almost cracked and bought paper plates, but I didn't. I don't want to spend so much time in the kitchen and doing dishes, even if we do them together. Any thoughts?

  31. Anonymous11/29/2011

    Bea, I am working towards zero waste and even decided to focus my Masters degree on zero waste communities. The biggest challenge I have had so far is food. I not only want recipes from food I can buy in bulk and from the farmers market but I like it to be whole food recipes (nothing processed). Could you start posting some of the recipes you use or perhaps you have some suggestions of cookbooks or blogs?? Thanks! Rebecca Sanders

  32. This summer I had an incredibly easy time finding clothes at a Kid's consignment shop for my 4 year-old girl but this fall it has been very difficult to find clothes for her. Since your post I have been making a diligent effort to find used toys for X-mas but still a little frustrated. I am thinking I will use my frustration as motivation to help me part with some very nice & expensive items around the house that don't get used. It's usually very easy for me to part w/ things but when they are super nice but not as useful as I thought when I purchased them (or very expensive gifts from my Mother in-law) it gets more difficult to pass them along. Thanks again for passing along your lifestyle. I have many friends that have also begun to make positive changes from me sharing your story with them.

  33. Kirsten11/30/2011

    Anonymous, I know you wanted recommendations from Bea, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents. These are vegan blogs(so they don't really help with meat/cheese ideas) and they don't necessarily focus on zero waste but they use a lot of whole foods in their cooking and these items are generally available in bulk or farmers markets (at least in the Portland area), so they are easy to convert to zero waste.
    This blog isn't vegan and it is more preserving, but it still is helpful.
    Just don't read these late at night, you'll get the midnight munchies:-)

    Thanks for your great blog Bea!

  34. Anonymous11/30/2011

    Bea I truly appreciate you sharing your experiences. I was wondering where you stay when you rent out your home. Are you only doing this during your family vacations or on a more regular basis now?

  35. This sentence strikes me:
    "Sharing unused resources with others (see post on decluttering): It offers an opportunity to not only re-gift (instead of buying new) but also, and preferably, sell these items for a profit."

    I don't understand why selling unused resources is better than re-gifting them?

  36. Thanks for the great comments! Thanks for sharing!
    NatalieInCA and Anonymous: there is a lot to write about short-term rental and cannot cover it all here, but maybe in a future post...

  37. Anonymous12/02/2011

    Gifts for 3 & 5 yr olds/multiple kids/neices/grandskids/etc - my 2 cents. Plan ahead with the parents, then each child gets another child they need to gift to (parents help). Also this way, the adult with no kids (that was me for the longest time) is under no obligation to purchase for all the kids. You can do the same with all the adults - or someone mentioned White Elephant, or the adults can all agree to support a local charity.
    Babies, 1 -3 yr olds don't even understand the concept so much, great time to start teaching them the 'zero-waste' ways.
    I have a 3 yr old, she's getting soccer classes, I found a 'groupon', great price. That is all she's getting. Her stocking will have clementines, a few small chocolates and one of her own stuffed animals which I kidnap a few days ahead,when we can't find it, we ask for Santa's help - then it is such a surprise to find him in the stocking!
    I use the consignment shop for toys for other kids and my own, b/c they tend to be in better shape and all pieces included (I've purchased broken/incomplete toy items at the Goodwill).
    Hope that helps someone.

  38. Anonymous12/02/2011

    As a family every year we put on a cookie party for friends and neighbors. We make 150-200 cookies and people come and decorate them. It gives a great focus to the holidays (after school every day we roll out cookie dough and talk about the day). We also ask party guests to bring their own container to take the cookies home. It's a great tradition and is a gift to and from our family. Also, my kids' (4-9) stockings/advent calendars have handwritten Christmas jokes, small chocolates, adventure coupons like a trip to the fancy yogurt shop, possibly an ornament/trinket from a trip we take or homemade, and gently used items I pick up throughout the year. We do usually have one medium-sized special gift that, gulp, may be new. For family we do a lot of photo calendars which can be recycled. Still working on it all.

  39. @Nya who said "I don't understand why selling unused resources is better than re-gifting them?" Great question. I should have been more clear in my post.
    Regifting is very tricky because in most cases in can end up in the hands of someone who did not really want/need that item, regardless of the gifter's best intentions. For ex. Because I have everything I need, there is not one thing I want or need. Therefore, if someone gives me something, I will not appreciate the item and have to give it away (talking from experience here).
    Selling on the other hand, ends up in the hands of someone who was looking for that item specifically.

  40. Thank you for your saving idea. Everyone needs to save these days especially for the holidays:-)

  41. I use CMMS Systems for my computer maintenance

  42. meredith12/24/2011

    it's a bit late, i know, but had a few some good kids gift ideas

    make a digital recording of you or a grandparent reading a favorite book to a child. we are asking some of our grandparents to do this for the kids this year- they'll have them forever!

    a sock puppet kit...
    a few old socks, some worn out fabrics cut into eye shapes, yarn, or recycled ribbons for hair

    make a doorway puppet theater out of any fabric, an old sheet, etc...puppets can be existing, homemade, stuffed animals, etc.

    a quilt for a doll made from old clothing scraps

    i love flea market and etsy finds- yes, it's stuff, but used. both my kids are getting old lucky horseshoes this year

    used books


    give an experience like teaching a child to sew or knit or make homemade pickles or jam or your secret recipe for a family favorite.

  43. Anonymous12/30/2011

    The year I bought my house I literally had NO money ... for gifts or anything else. I moved in in April, and by July I realised I wouldn't be able to afford gifts for family, so went to charity shop, and paid $2 (only $2!) for a large man's woollen jersey, hardly used but pulled out of shape. I unravelled the wool (brown), washed it, and turned it into several pairs of gloves, a child's cardigan and matching doll's cardigan (birthday and Christmas for her were two weeks apart), and a couple of woolly hats! Two pretty teatowels (unused) I made into aprons, and I also made several batches of shortbread, parcelled into decorated yoghurt pottles. By starting knitting and sewing in July, I had time to make everything I needed, and used the last scraps of wool to make finger puppets for the children on Christmas day! Total cost: $2 plus groceries for shortbread.

  44. Great post.

    The best gift you can give when you're on a thight budget is homemade gift certificates.

    They're free, They're easy and quick to make and they're very fun to recieve.

    I think they make a wonderful gift on almost any ocassion

  45. Great to hear some ideas for Christmas gifts. I would love more ideas from people who have young or school age kids as to what you are gifting them.