Shameless Hacks: Holiday Edition

Okay guys, we’re almost through the Holiday Season! And what’s not to love? Sure, we don’t exactly have snow here in Los Angeles, but we do have an outdoor rink or two, and a whole lot of Holiday Spirit!

You can’t swing a cat without hitting something cinnamon-scented or twinkly, and I don’t know about you, but I like to get in on the action with Holiday movie binges and a lot of kitschy (but totally inappropriate for LA) winter activities. So, for my fellow frugal-yet-festive friends, here are some hacks to stay budget-conscious during the holidays:

Plan (and Make/Purchase) Gifts Year-Round

Don’t fall into the trap of going into Christmas debt just to show your friends that you care about them. I know this is useless advice now, but for next year, keep an eye out for things that will blow your family and friends’ minds.

I go so far as to literally keep a list of people I want to smother with Christmas goodies in my handy Moleskine planner, and check off names as I find the right gift. Labor Day or Memorial Day sales are pretty much as good as Black Friday – but without the crazy rush of people. By the time November and December roll around, I have just a small handful of people left on my list.

And for everyone that doesn’t quite make your list but still deserves a bit of love, look on Pinterest for a weekend DIY crowd pleaser, like jars of cookie dough or hot cocoa mix. My personal favorite is a bottle of cheap wine with mulling spices!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Regifting that fruitcake (what?) is obviously a no-go, and I’m not saying regift things that don’t make sense for the recipient because you suck at planning. What I am saying is whenever you receive a gift, save the adorable wrapping paper or gift bag, and keep it. How much pretty (and largely unscathed) wrapping paper, gift boxes, tissue paper, and bags do you think go to the dump every year the week after Christmas? Save. That. Shit.

And while you’re at it, save (and/or automatically gift) the things you’ve picked up but didn’t necessarily want for yourself. I’m definitely guilty of doing this whenever a company gives me free high-end cosmetics or skincare that, frankly, I’m never going to use. I know about 4 women who will be elated to get that Hourglass highlighter. Add it to their gift as a fun gimme, and you’ll make their day. Maybe it’s not cosmetics for you, but a great, high-quality scarf or a sweet mug that just fits their taste better. Pass it on as a gift add-on!

Tree Alternatives

What does everyone immediately think of when the holiday season rolls around? Big, evergreen, pine-scented indoor trees.

That said, Christmas trees are expensive and can be a true pain in the ass to set up at home. Even worse, they’re not exactly environmentally conscious. Not only are we chopping down fully functional, oxygen-creating, greenhouse-gas-fighting trees in bulk every December, but we’re shipping them in mass. And then come December 26th, our dumpsters are full of them.

Plus, frankly, I don’t like that they shed pine needles like it’s their day job.

So, while these might not be for everyone, it’s worth it to consider our options:

  1. Artificial Trees – no mess, and if you have a bit of storage space, you can reuse this for years to come!
  2. House Plants – this is my favorite! I’m taking care of my favorite indoor plants year-round, and they look pretty darn cute all dolled up with lights and baubles. Some people swear by a good Norfolk Island Pine, which you can keep potted and growing well beyond just the holiday season. My decked out halls also include a money tree (these bad boys grow like crazy with minimal supervision), a dwarf lemon tree, and a dwarf lime tree. Bonus – fruits look like ornaments. Roll with it.
  3. Replantable Living Trees – If you really must have the true scent of a real tree, consider going with a company that replants them after use. Companies like Living Christmas offer tree rentals, and make it easy to order the right tree – and picks them up once you’re done with them. All trees are repotted once they return to the company, and are rentable for years to come. Plus, once they’re too big for most homes, they’re planted in local forests where they can live and contribute to our atmosphere and ecology for, well, ever. What’s more, the cost is comparable to my local Christmas tree lots!

Decorate Creatively

Full disclosure: my family didn’t really celebrate Christmas consistently when I was growing up. December in Los Angeles may involve trees and cinnamon scented candles in retail stores and coffee shops, but it wasn’t the norm at home.

So, no, I don’t tend to go overboard with my holiday decorations, personally, but if you are going full Santa, do it smart. I found great, inexpensive (but nice!) string lights from Big Lots that seem cheery enough for the holidays and cute enough to keep on my balcony year-round without feeling specifically festive. It doesn’t hurt to try discount stores and dollar stores first while looking for the things that will only be out once a year.

I also have a few items at home that I display year-round but put front and center during the holidays. Right now these include these copper fairy lights, which usually are pinned to my headboard, but are perfect around a Christmas plant of your choice, and a brass Chanukiah that I used to light every year with my family. Hell, I’m even using cute teas and mugs as decor for my kitchen right now, along with a handwritten latke recipe from my Aunt – anything that feels a bit seasonal and festive is out in full glory.

And when it comes to the baubles, it pays to get creative. A bit of acrylic paint, plain glass ornaments, and ribbon can give you a tree that puts Martha Stewart to shame. You can also take cherished family memories, like art, photographs, toys, or even costume jewelry, and add to your tree creatively. It’s your tree – do what makes you happy!


So there you have it – easy ways to get the most out of the season, without letting the season get the most out of your wallet.

I’ll admit, most of these tips are geared towards Christmasy-celebrations. As someone who is outside of the club, I still like to partake in the Pinterest joys and holiday spirit that Home Alone 3 sold me on – but I do apologize for not having more inclusive specifics.

I’d love to hear everyone else’s clever hacks on getting into the holiday spirit, whatever that means to you! In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

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