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25 Tips for a Magically Minimalist Christmas

Try the Three Gift Rule.

Elaborate gifts, trees swimming in a sea of wrapping paper, and maxing out credit cards seem to be all the rage, but that’s not what Christmas is meant to be about. Instead of going overboard with the presents, follow the Three Gift Rule. Each person gets one thing they need, one thing they want, and a surprise. This shifts the focus from material things to true necessity and family.

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Stick to a limited-yet-delicious menu.

Delectable food is one of the best parts of the holidays, but there is such a thing as too much. It’s normal to crave every pie imaginable, but your family of six does not need 10 different types of heaven’s dessert. Be realistic about how much food your family will eat on Christmas, narrow down to the dishes you absolutely must have, and cook accordingly.

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Keep the tree simple.

The flamboyant Christmas trees taking over storefronts around the country are beautiful, but they’re not even close to minimal. To keep things simple and manageable, go back to the Christmas trees of your youth with traditional ornaments and lights. If you can’t see any of the actual tree, then you’re doing too much.

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Skip all of that bonus stuff.

Elf on a Shelf is cool and all, but it’s also a lot of work. Sure, having house lights set to Christmas pop music is fun to watch (for all of five minutes), but goodness is it a pain to set up and take down. You don’t need to do all of the extraneous, trendy Christmas activities. Christmas is magical enough on its own. Forget the pointless bells and whistles, and stick to the timeless basics this holiday season.

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Go lean on the decorations.

You shouldn’t totally abandon Christmas decorations, but you should keep your house from resembling an overstuffed Christmas store. Elaborate, fancy light shows outside your house look cool, but they zap your electric bill like nobody’s business. Decorate your home for the holiday, but make sure it doesn’t become annoying or confining.

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Give friends homemade gifts instead of buying presents.

Christmas is a time to show your loved ones you care, but you shouldn’t spend hundreds of dollars to buy special gifts for them. Save yourself some money and stress by making homemade gifts, such as cookies, pies, and hand-knitted scarves. There’s more heart in these types of gifts.

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Don’t overdo the stockings.

Stockings are a Christmas classic and were the original way people received gifts, but times have changed. Now that we wrap all of our gifts and keep them under the tree, don’t stress over what you're stashing in your stockings. Use it to hold smaller things, like candy, chapstick, and socks, and don’t stuff it so full that it can’t hang from the mantel.

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Cut your own tree.

Plastic trees might be a better investment, but those price tags sure do hurt. Buying a pre-cut, live tree is easier on your wallet, but you can save even more money by finding and cutting a tree from your own land or that of a local friend or family member. You’ll enjoy the fresh, piney scent mingling around your house just as much as the savings.

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Set a budget for gifts.

It doesn’t matter if you implement the Three Gift Rule or not. If you want to have a minimalist Christmas, then you need to set a budget for presents and stick to it. Determine how much you can afford to spend on Christmas presents, divide that evenly among your loved ones, and plan gifts accordingly.

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Send hand-written Christmas cards.

These days it may seem like everyone has a professional photoshoot for a perfect picture send out for Christmas. But these Christmas “cards” are expensive and aren’t specialized for the recipients, meaning they may be thrown out in the new year. Go back to the classic method of purchasing actual cards and writing personal notes inside for the recipients. They’ll appreciate this token of holiday spirit much more.

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Try Secret Santa.

If the Three Gift Rule doesn’t suit your fancy, Secret Santa is another great way to save money. Put everyone’s name in a hat and have someone pull a name out. That means everyone only needs to get one gift instead of something for everyone.

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Wrap in butcher paper, newspaper, or cloth.

The best way to save money on wrapping paper is to use butcher paper, newspaper, or cloth. Chances are, most of us have a ton of old newspapers sitting around, anyway. For a little decorative touch, you can add a sprig of green for a pop of color.

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Gift experiences instead of things.

At the end of Christmas, people end up with a ton of items that they’ll probably never use again. Instead of giving an actual item, gift an experience—a gift card for a restaurant, theater tickets, or “coupons” that offer massages or babysitting.

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Only decorate family rooms.

Most people spend the majority of their time in family rooms like the dining and living rooms. There’s no reason to decorate your entire house if you’ll only enjoy those decorates for an hour or so a day. Spend most of your time, money, and effort on areas you’ll spend a lot of time in. 

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Create a Christmas smell.

One of the best parts about Christmas is all the smells. A minimalist way of bringing in the Christmas spirit with little effort is to switch out everyday scents around your home like your hand soap or kitchen soap. Swap those out with cranberry, pine, and other holiday scents. You can also use wax melts or essential oils to perfume your family rooms. 

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Showcase your Christmas cards.

Whether a lot of thought goes into the cards or not, most Christmas cards are pretty and cute enough to display. Not to mention, you take something that’s throw-away and turn it into something that’s long-term. Now that’s the epitome of minimalism!

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Consider giving plants.

Plants are wonderful gifts because they provide continuous joy and beauty. If the person you’re shopping for has a hard time keeping a plant alive, you can always get them Devil’s Ivy or a succulent. Both of these plants are pretty tough to kill.

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Theme your tree.

Look at your decorations and see if there isn’t a theme. Most of the time, there will be something familiar that you can use to decorate your tree, such as the colors silver and blue. Many people find decorating their tree with a theme is a great way to go minimalist.

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Make your own advent calendar.

Advent calendars are either really expensive or offer low-quality stuff inside like chocolate that legally can’t even be called chocolate. You can make your own advent calendar with paper boxes. Plus, you can put whatever you want inside. We suggest making an advent calendar with someone else so that they can be exchanged. Then, opening each day will be a real surprise. You can even add sweet messages inside instead of stuff!

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Add nature to decorations.

Everyone has access to nature, and it adds a nice little touch to any Christmas. Rather than tacky tinsel or over-the-top bulbs, sneak in nature. You can put a branch and hang stockings on it or string pinecones along a fireplace.

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Make your own wreath.

Wreaths are traditional parts of Christmas, and it just isn’t the holiday season without one. Rather than buying one from the craft store, you can make your own. It also gives you the chance to personalize the wreath by adding berries, flowers, or herbs to add a little scent. 

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Toss old decorations that aren’t used.

After you’ve decorated your home, take a look at anything that you didn’t use for the year. That’s a good sign that these items won’t be used. If it’s sentimental, consider making a shadowbox. Otherwise, donate it or get rid of it so you can create more space for items that you will use in the future.

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Hang twinkle lights.

Christmas is one of the few times of year that makes twinkle lights acceptable for people of any age. It gives a festive little element without taking up much space. Not to mention most twinkle lights are relatively cheap.

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Add one Christmas decoration to each wall.

To make it seem like you have more Christmas decorations than you really have, make sure you can see at least one thing Christmas-y. This fills a home with the holiday spirit without requiring a ton of decorations.

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Decorate with paper.

Paper and cardboard trees are incredibly cheap and just about as cheery as any other Christmas decoration. Most of the time, you can even decorate your paper and cardboard trees in a way that fits the rest of your décor.

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