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5 Ways to Stay Out of the Red by Going Green this Holiday Season

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The Christmas season is generally marked by over-spending and over-indulgence, from gifts to travel, food and drink. Adding an element of sustainability into your Christmas decisions can make your holiday not only greener for the planet, but greener for your wallet as well.

1. Oh’ Christmas Tree

Ah, the great debate between real and artificial trees. Folks on either side battle fiercely and always bring cost into the picture. An artificial tree will last for years and it’s a one-time purchase.

However, if you love the smell and environmental benefits of a real tree, there’s a third option, says Angela Fisher, trust administrator at Ellwood H. May Environmental Park: buy a living tree in a pot from a local nursery.

Buying a potted pine or fur can be an exciting way to celebrate the holiday. Also, fragrant bushes like rosemary or juniper can act as potted Christmas trees. They will need care and watering, and the evergreens will grow and need to be transplanted in the spring, but the smaller bushes can be used year after year if pruned well.

If you decide on a living tree, Fisher recommends doing a little research first. “Living trees in a pot are a great option, but you want to be careful and make sure it can live where you live,” she says.

2. All is Bright

When it comes to lights, the traditional incandescent light bulbs on your tree aren’t doing your wallet any favors. Instead, track down strings of lights with LED bulbs.

“With the LED options, it costs pennies to operate versus incandescent,” says Fisher. She suggests watching your local utility’s website or flyers that come with your utility statements for offers of either free lights or rebates. She said that at her local utility this year, if you took in an old string of incandescent lights, they would give you a free string of lights with LEDs.

Also, because LED lights are cool to the touch, they help to lessen the chance of house fires, especially if you have a live tree, during the holiday season.

3. Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings

If presents are one of your favorite things, you know that the cost of wrapping paper is somewhat ridiculous: $5 for a roll of something that will be torn to pieces and thrown away.

For her holidays, Fisher has wrapped her gifts in brown paper–either paper grocery bags or packaging paper–and it cost her nothing. Decorating the paper packages can be done with dollar store ribbons or get the kids involved and make some origami flowers.

“You can stamp on it, draw on it, paint it,” says Fisher.

4. Now Give Me Some Figgy Pudding

Nothing says you care like a homemade item. Fisher also says homemade is a great way to keep trash out of the landfill and money in your wallet. Make your friends a holiday dinner, or make a decadent (and spiked) chocolate sauce and put it in small canning jars with ribbons. There are tons of recipes for jarred mixes that can be found online. This year, Fisher is decorating her tree with edible items and inviting friends over for a dinner with dessert–off the tree.

Fisher also suggests a craft that absolutely anybody can make and it can be easily personalized for the recipient: magnet boards. Pick up old cookie sheets or metal trays–anything that will hold a magnet–at a thrift store or dollar store, then spray paint and decorate it. For the magnets, you can find strips of magnets for about a dollar at hardware stores, and then you can glue them into bottle caps or whatever you want your magnet to be. “You can make 10 gifts for under $20, and just personalize it to the person,” says Fisher.

5. As the Shoppers Rush Home with Their Treasures

If you’re truly untalented (hey, it happens to the best of us!), just do the next best thing: turn to your community. “Find craft people, local artisans, or anything that supports the local economy,” Fisher says. For every dollar spent at a local business, 60 cents stays in the community compared with 40 cents spent at a big box store.

Or instead of giving a physical item, make a donation in the person’s name or a membership to an organization.

No matter what the gift or decoration, finding a way to make the season green can not only be better for your checkbook, but adding those personal touches will make the holiday more memorable and special.

Image: Andrew Wales, Flickr

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