Give inexpensive yet caring gifts. Since gifts are messengers meant to convey your love to the people you give them to, you should avoid giving cheap presents to people. But you don’t have to go into debt in order to provide good gifts to the people on your Christmas list. Prepare to choose the right kinds of gifts by getting to know what matters to the people to whom you want to give presents this year. Observe and listen for clues about what each person enjoys. If you’re not sure what someone would enjoy, don’t hesitate to ask. Keep in mind that you don’t have to purchase every gift; instead, you can make gifts by hand or give your time and talents to someone (everything from cooking or cleaning for them to fixing their car or computer). It could be very meaningful for you to honor people by supporting the causes that they support. If you know someone who’s passionate about helping the environment or animals, plant a tree or adopt a pet in his or her honor. If you want to honor someone who cares deeply about helping sick people become well, become a living donor of blood, a kidney, or bone marrow to people in need. When considering giving to charities, research each one carefully so you know exactly how they will use the money or goods you plan to give.

Give gifts from your kitchen or garden. Most people love to eat, so they’d appreciate a delicious yet inexpensive gift of something you’ve either made in your kitchen or grown in your garden. You can present such gifts elegantly in gift jars or baskets.

Find bargains when you’re shopping. Look for sales, use coupons and other discounts, and consider alternatives to your local mall, such as art supply stores, office supply stores, and hardware stores. Use caution at outlets, since products there may defective. When purchasing gift cards, avoid those that charge service fees or don’t give people change back in cash when they use them.

Give family gifts rather than individual ones. Consider giving one gift to an entire family instead of individual gifts to each person in that family. Some family gift ideas include: a calendar, a cookbook, or a gift basket.

Cut back on decorating expenses. Use what you have around the house to make your own wrapping paper and decorate your door, table, and mantel. Buy an inexpensive, real Christmas tree, decorate it simply yet elegantly, and recycle or replant it after Christmas.

Entertain guests without stress. When hosting family and friends at your home during the Christmas season, keep in mind that they’re more interested in spending time with you than they are in having you impress them. Relax, be yourself, and enjoy your time with them.

Adapted from Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating the Holidays without Breaking the Bank, copyright 2012 by Mary Hunt. Published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.revellbooks.com

Mary Hunt is an award-winning and bestselling author, syndicated columnist and sought-after motivational speaker who created a global platform that is making strides to help men and women battle the epidemic impact of consumer debt. She is founder and publisher of the interactive website Debt-Proof Living, which features financial tools, resources, and information for her online members. Her books have sold more than a million copies and her daily newspaper column is nationally syndicated through Creators Syndicate, and is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Everyday Cheapskate readers. Hunt speaks widely on personal finance and has appeared on shows such as Good Morning America, Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Focus on the Family. She and her husband live in California.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer

Publication date: November 28, 2012