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10 Secrets to Holiday Savings

Don't break the bank when shopping for gifts or having fun

  • Istock

    Spending Limits

    En español  |  Set a spending limit per person or draw names of family members so everyone buys just one gift. You can also keep costs down by making your gift, whether it be a scarf or some Christmas cookies.

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  • Istockphoto

    Gift Cards

    Start your holiday shopping by looking around the house for unused gift cards you might have forgotten about. If you have unused or partially used gift cards, consider regifting them to someone on your shopping list who would appreciate them (with most merchants, you can usually add more to the remaining balance if you'd like to be more generous). Or, simply use them up yourself with some of your holiday shopping for others.

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  • Getty Images

    Is That a Fruitcake?

    If you get a fruitcake as a gift — or if you find a cheap one — coat it several times with spray polyurethane and use it as a colorful (and durable) holiday decoration. Fruitcakes make great paperweights, or mount them on simple metal bookends and use them to add holiday flair to your bookshelves. Of course, once coated in polyurethane, fruitcakes are no longer edible — assuming they were good to eat in the first place!

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  • Corbis

    Family Photographs

    Family photographs always make memorable — and inexpensive — gifts. Search your closets and attic for an old photo that has long since been forgotten. It will brighten a loved one's day not just when you give it to them, but every day throughout the year.

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  • Istockphoto

    Save Wrapping Paper

    Am I the only person who still saves wrapping paper and ribbon and reuses it? You can also use Sunday newspaper comics or wrap travel-related gifts in an outdated road map. You can use your stencils or stamps to add some color to brown paper bags and use them to wrap items.

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    AARP Offer: Protect your money, grow your nest egg

    Take advantage of great information and tools and subscribe to AARP's Money Newsletter to help build your future and prevent your money from going down the drain. Join AARP and start saving for your dreams today.

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  • Getty Images

    Thrift Stores

    Buy lightly used holiday decorating materials, as well as gifts at thrift stores or consignment shops. Many thrift stores offer their own gift cards or gift certificates, which allow those on your shopping list to select their own secondhand treasures. Don't forget to drop off unwanted items of your own at a local thrift store this holiday season to help keep the shelves stocked.

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  • Istock

    O Christmas Tree

    If you're shopping for a Christmas tree, consider buying sooner rather than later. Many tree retailers only get one shipment of trees at the beginning of the season, so selection diminishes and the trees aren't getting any fresher. Consider buying the biggest tree you can find for the price and if it's too big for your house you can cut down the trunk and make wreaths, roping and other holiday decorations with unwanted branches.

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  • Muriel de Seze

    Repurposing Decorations

    Try decorating for the holidays by repurposing items you already have around the house — or even things you normally throw away! Stringing together foam packing peanuts and then decorating them with spray paint and glitter not only keeps them out of the landfill but is fun for the whole family. Or make decorative stars out of aluminum cans.

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    Volunteering is needed — and therapeutic — during the holiday season. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves, and maybe open up your checkbooks, and lend a helping hand. Volunteering as a family during the holiday season can help make you come closer together, count your blessings and maybe spend a little less on yourselves this year.

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  • Getty Images

    Save Your Calendar

    For your last frugal act of the year, come New Year's Eve whatever you do, don't throw away your calendar. Some calendars have pretty pictures worth framing or even laminating and using as everyday table mats. But real cheapskates know if you save your calendars long enough, eventually they'll be current once again. Your current calendar will be accurate again in 28 years. You'll be glad you hung on to it. Now that's cheap!

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