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I know you will see a million articles and blogs on how to do things for the holidays in frugal ways. Here are the ones I’ve found to work without making all your gifts out of used potholders.

Holiday Meals: If you have a large gathering, or even a small one, ask each of your guests to bring their favorite or “specialty” dish. It’s not wrong to ask what they’re bringing or suggest a dish. “Aunt Mabel, everyone loves your pecan pie, would you consider one for this year?” That way you don’t have four string bean casseroles. Planning ahead is also important. Look at the store specials and buy what you can on sale. Frozen turkey, thawed in the fridge three days beforehand is way cheaper than a fresh one. If you’re not a traditionalist or having just the family, consider a chicken or just the turkey breast, or not a turkey at all. If you are really strapped, and invited somewhere else, accept the invitation and ask what you can bring.

Christmahanakwanzika: Okay it’s Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza put together, but it is gift giving season no matter what. Among our friends I’ve told them we are just giving to the children this year. Most parents do appreciate this and are happy to save a bit of money too. You can still give a card addressed to the family.

If someone’s having a party, it’s customary to come with a hostess gift. These are easy, a few pretty soaps, dollar store ones are nice enough wrapped with rolled wash cloths and a ribbon are a nice gift. Use a pretty leaf or twine for festive additions to the wrapping. Baby gifts like bibs or a plush toy or rattle are easy to find in most places. For small children 3 to 6 year olds, a couple of match box cars, or dress up toys are great from the dollar store.  7 to 12 year olds: playing cards like uno or old fashioned gifts like yo yo’s, paddle balls or a small box of legos can be found cheaply. Over 12 is a bit tougher. If you’re not absolutely sure, stay away from the latest trends. Chances are the trend is old by the time you know about it. This age group is picky. I hit the office supply store:  a new set of earphones, a usb drive in a fun shape or color, cool pens, pads, journals etc. The dollar section at Target is a good place for this but you have to have some discipline to stay away from the rest of the store.

Office exchange: While your at the office supply store, get a good deal on some nice pen sets. If you are really broke, a mug from the dollar store with some tea or hot chocolate pack with a ribbon is always your best bet.

Don’t forget the thrift shop. There are always nice candle holders, dishes and mugs for super cheap. Buy a few pretty china dishes and then bring cookies, brownies or other food gifts. It’s a great place for baskets too. I’ve found so many name brand dishes from noritake to crate and barrel. You will be surprised.