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Good Housekeeping expert's top 3 DIY holiday tips that can help you save money

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This holiday season, Americans plan to spend $1,048 on gifts, candy, decorations, and other purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. Between gift-buying, gift-wrapping, and hosting parties, it's easy to part with more money than you mean to.

If you're creative, though, you can cut back without sacrificing elegance or charm. Meaghan B Murphy, executive editor of Good Housekeeping, offers her top holiday DIY money-saving tips.

1. Create your own decorative gift-wrapping

"Learn to be a wrap star, and wrap your own packages in brown kraft paper, which you can get cheap, and garden twine." She recommends adding sprigs of fresh, festive greenery or holly from your yard, or the local florist: "It looks like I went to Papyrus and got it professionally done."

Designer paper can run past $20 for 100 feet, compared to the same amount of kraft paper for around $12. And while a pack of satin ribbons will run you $6 for 50 yards, you can buy 656 feet of garden twine for a mere $8. Plus your gift will have a personal touch. "It's, 'Whoa!" Murphy says. "Presentation is everything."

"You can spend more money on the gift this way because you're saving on paper," she adds. "And everyone is so impressed with a perfectly wrapped gift with twine and fresh greenery."

You'll need:

  • Brown kraft paper
  • Garden twine
  • Add a sprig of fresh greenery and you're all set!

2. Get creative with presents

"Last year for the holidays, my kids and I made DIY candy cane bath salts for all of their teachers rather than shelling out $20 for Starbucks gift cards," Murphy says. "It's more personal and fun, plus saves big bucks! Also great for the gymnastics instructor, flute teacher, UPS guy, et cetera."

You'll need:

  • 2 cups Epsom salts (under $8 for an 8-pound bag)
  • 1 cup coarse sea salt
  • 4 or 5 drops of peppermint essential oil
  • 4 or 5 drops of red food coloring
  • Mason jar

How to:

In a bowl, combine salts and oil. Spoon out half into another bowl; stir in food coloring until the salt turns red. Scoop a layer of white salt into the jar. Repeat alternating with red salt until the jar is full. You can tie on a scooper and a little note from the kids.

A custom-decorated towel can be both farmhouse-y and chic and can also make a sweet gift for, say, a grandmother. "Take a white flour sack and have the kids draw something special in fabric marker. We drew a Bundt cake and wrote Nana's famous recipe on the towel, and it was a hit!" she says.

You'll need:

Courtesy Meaghan B Murphy

3. Make big-batch holiday cocktails

Murphy recommends making a large bowl of holiday punch to save money and your sanity. "If you're the hostess, it allows you to mingle with your guests," she says. "You're not dealing with recycling or, 'Oh, we ran out of wine, beer.'"

A signature punch will be endlessly cheaper than most anything else you might serve, and it's easier, too: "You're not bartending 89 drinks. You have a signature cocktail, and it's going to be delicious." You can choose from an array of recipes. "Good Housekeeping" offers this Cranberry Cooler from Sugar & Soul.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 5 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cranberry juice concentrate thawed
  • 1 tbsp simple syrup
  • 2-3 drops peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 12 oz. club soda or sparkling water
  • sugared cranberries and rosemary for garnish

Instructions:

  • In a cocktail shaker, combine concentrate, simple syrup, extract, and ice and give it a couple shakes. Evenly separate between two 8-ounce glasses.
  • Top off with club soda.
  • Garnish with sugared cranberries and a sprig of rosemary.

Make sugar cranberries fast by placing three on a toothpick, dipping them in simple syrup, and rolling them in sugar. Add a shot of vodka or rum to each glass for an alcoholic version. Cheers!

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