Health Team

Use what you have to create holiday savings

Some quick ideas for saving cash this holiday season:

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HEATHER LALLEY (For The Associated Press)

Some quick ideas for saving cash this holiday season:

- Don't forget to check out thrift shops for gifts during your holiday rush. Michael Gold of Vero Beach, Fla. Gold runs, a national directory of charity thrift stores, recommends shopping thrift stores early on sale days to snag the best deals. "The good stuff can be gone within the first hours that the store is open," Gold says.

You may also find baskets and wrapping supplies there too. And make sure to stop by the "boutique" area to find a worn-once party dress.

- If you're looking for a specific big-tag gift, say a Nintendo Wii system, you can have the best price sent directly to you by signing up for an online or mobile alert. Check out, or

- Don't spend money on takeout or dinner out after a big shopping day. Drag your slow-cooker out of the cupboard, says Stephanie O'Dea, who writes the "A Year of CrockPotting" blog ( Before heading out to shop, toss an inexpensive roast or whole discounted chicken in the cooker and add a bottle of barbecue sauce or a jar of salsa. Cook on low all day, shred meat and serve with rice and salad.

- Need an inexpensive, thoughtful gift for the extended family? Put together a family photo calendar. Choose photos from the past year to decorate each month and be sure to include birthdays and special dates on the calendar. Make a photo calendar for about $10 at (if you are a member) or try out your favorite photo-sharing site.

- Make your own Christmas ornaments out of stuff you have in your attic, says Kate Holmes, a Sarasota, Fla.-based resale and consignment expert who writes at First place to look? That box of baby things filled with small toys and mobiles. "Those darling figures are just the thing for memory-laden Christmas ornaments," Holmes says. (And it can be a fun family project, too.)

- It can be tricky to come up with something creative, thoughtful and inexpensive for a child's teacher. This year, enlist your child in creating a "memory book" for that special teacher. Ask your young child to fill in statements such as "I like my teacher because -----." And "My favorite school memory this year is ---------." And "I'm so happy I've learned ------." Put the answers on nice paper and decorate with drawings or photos. Embellish the creation any way you like. Use a three-hole punch and tie with ribbon to bind it.

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