If the holiday season wears you out with regards to energy and finances, perhaps it’s time to take a peek at some of the ways you can enjoy this time while budgeting both time and money. Check out these affordably-elegant ideas for enjoying the winter holidays.

Serve hot beverages for stylish hospitality on a budget.

When searching for creative winter cocktails, consider serving warmer beverages for larger gatherings. Since people can’t toss back steamy drinks as rapidly as a cold beer or candy cane martini, offering a decadent hot toddy recipe like buttered rum or mulled wine incorporates loads of style while subtly keeping your entertainment budget intact. You can still serve some of the other affordable winter cocktails if you want, but if they are not hot beverages you may want to save them for smaller dinner parties of four-six persons. Christmas teas will be hitting the grocery shelves soon as well, in a full range of affordable winter flavors. Pick up a few to serve with those holiday cookies.

Choose frugal flavors for your holiday treats.                                                                       

Fruit cake and almond bark may be traditional, but for many family budgets they are far from thrifty. If you find yourself stressing over the pressure of pulling off a decadent dessert buffet for Christmas Eve, try a peppermint bark instead using crushed, dollar store peppermint candies and white chocolate bits. You’ll have the colors and flavors of Christmas in an elegant treat that even your toddler can pitch in to make. Two things we’re working in for the holidays this year are pumpkin recipes and gingerbread.

Yes, I was tempted with thoughts of cranberry-pistachio biscotti, but while it isn’t terribly expensive I would need to buy in bulk to get the price I want on those ingredients. Normally, that’s not a problem. But we are in the process of preparing to travel for a while and emptying out the pantry is a huge priority. Two things I have a great deal of from last year’s sales are canned pumpkin and molasses. That means gingerbread scones, pumpkin snack cake and other related recipes will be working their way to the top of our repertoire.

Natural, free decorations can still make a statement.

Those spectacular red twig wreaths aren’t the only grownup nature crafts you can work in for Christmas. Cutting pine and evergreen boughs to decorate your fireplace mantel is a great way to showcase heirloom figurines, jar candles and even pine cones. Other ideas include stuffing some around your mailbox, making holly rings for your formal candle sconces and tucking shorter branches into a basket and studding the display with candy canes. So if you’re on a tight budget, don’t be afraid to skip the store-bought decorations. Chances are, you have plenty of raw material kicking around your own back yard.

Stress-free alternatives to the holiday calendar do exist.

Whether you go the traditional advent route or simply incorporate a holiday countdown calendar, there’s absolutely no need to make  every night’s treat or activity high stress. Here are 70 holiday calendar ideas that keep things simple. We have been skipping the calendar thing lately and going with a pretty bowl of miniature gift cards from the craft or dollar store. I write a simple activity inside each one, such as make a pot of gingerbread-flavored tea, or trim the tree.

Too often, we tend to get caught up in the stress of getting all of the decorating done so we can move on to enjoying the actual holiday and planning additional activities. So we’re tweaking our focus and making the decorating and gift-wrapping events activities instead of chores. This reduces our stress and gets us motivated to tackle them early, leaving more time for enjoying the tree and making chocolate-peppermint martinis. Who doesn’t love those?

Practice thrifty tree trimming.

There are plenty of affordable decorating and ornament ideas that look stylish. Using high-end fabric remnants and other unexpected tree skirt sources is one of my favorites. Iridescent, jewel-toned beaded curtains from the clearance shelves, tapestry scraps and even good-condition damask tablecloths have all served as tree skirts at our house. If there’s a small tear or rip somewhere, simply tuck it away and creatively “scrunch” around it. Wired fabric ribbon makes a great garland, and is available in a wide range of styles and colors. You can even fashion an elaborate fabric bow to use as a thrifty tree topper. Need to keep the kids busy? Consider some beaded ornament crafts for an evening family activity before decorating the tree. Pick cut glass or ceramic beads to keep the wow factor high, particularly with teens. They’re usually thrilled to help if it means their handiwork will be on display.

The winter holidays don’t have to wear you down financially. Try some of these affordably-elegant ideas on for size this season.

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.