Tips From A Recessionista: Celebrating The Holidays On A Budget

On Monday it was finally made official: the U.S. is definitely in a recession. While most of us have been feeling the pinch for a while, the holidays bring an added challenge to stretch our dollars as far as we can. The good news is that from gift giving to decorating and dressing for parties, there are definitely stylish ways to celebrate this time of year on a tight budget. Learn a few tips after the jump.Gift Giving
Perhaps the most stressful part of the holidays (besides dinner with your dysfunctional family, the extended version), gift giving gets even more complicated when you’re pinching pennies, but it doesn’t have to be a total buzzkill. If you’re one of those characters who has a million people on her holiday list, consider scaling down the number. Suggest a kids-only rule among your family members, or have everyone draw a name for one adult to shop for. Give gifts in bulk: a gift basket to an entire family instead of separate gifts to each individual, a nice bottle of wine to people who live together with a set of glasses or some cool coasters.

Set a budget per person or household and stick to it. You can give great gifts for $25, $10, even $5, as long as the presentation is beautiful and the intention is genuine and thoughtful. For example, an inexpensive scarf from Forever21 is going to make a greater impact in a box, wrapped with matte purple paper and metallic silver ribbon than it would wrapped in plain paper with no bow at all. Tie a mini candy cane to a small gift tag, attach it to the wrapped box, and voila, a $10 scarf is a perfectly chic and thoughtful gift for a stylista. In addition to Forever21, some other shops and sites I like for inexpensive gifts with recessionista flair: Etsy, CB2, Patina, and good ol’ Target. Be sure to check The Frisky’s guide to gifts under $25 for some more budget-friendly ideas.

Inexpensive homemade gifts like baked goods, mixed CDs, jewelry, and other crafty items are always cool if they’re presented creatively. Use Christmas greens and pine cones from a floral shop (or outside!) and some pretty ribbon to dress up gift baskets full of baked goods. Make collages from old magazines for the mixed CD covers, and wrap gifts with unexpected materials like gold tulle from a fabric shop and mini jingle bells or small ornaments tied to the ribbon.

The classiest way to decorate on a budget is to pick a color scheme and not feel boxed in by the traditional red and green combo. In fact, red and green can look kind of cheep and cheesy together. A more chic choice is sticking with one main color: various shades of green, all red, gold, silver, white, or even purple. If you put up a tree, make sure all the ornaments coordinate with your color scheme. To create a pulled-together, purposeful look, group items together: a few pine cones with greenery, some old school Christmas light bulbs, or small glass balls in a bowl.

Use produce — it’s cheap! If you’ve got a green theme, fill a clear cylinder vase with some limes and tie a ribbon around the base. For a red theme, fill a bowl with some pomegranates (they’re in season this time of year), or put a few cranberries in a clean, empty mason jar with a scented candle inside (fig is a great holiday scent that doesn’t overpower). Another inexpensive way to create a subtle seasonal fragrance is by sticking some cloves in a few clementines and placing them in a small bowl.

Dressing for Parties
Get a new dress, a sexy pair of jeans, or some hot heels with the gifts cards you got last Christmas that have been sitting in the bottom of your drawer, forgotten about, all this time. Hit discount shops like Marshalls, Loehmann’s, and TJ Maxx for big bargains on designer duds. Update an older outfit with some alterations. I recently found a dress in the back of my closet that I haven’t worn in ten years. It’s ankle-length now, but I plan to alter it into a mini and belt it for a more modern look.

If you’ve only got one party outfit to wear, and you have three parties to go to, create different looks with various accessories. Jewelry, shoes, coats, handbags, belts, brooches, and scarves all help jazz up an outfit and change its look. With the right mix and match, you can wear the same black dress to every party you go to this season and everyone will think you’ve got an endless closet.

If you don’t have your holiday plans ironed out by now, try or for last-minute deals. Or, stay home, drink some eggnog, curl up next to a fire or your twinkling Christmas lights, and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” on TV. Packing’s such a chore, anyway.