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Viewers weigh in on making the most of the holidays

  • Story Highlights
  • Some are skipping malls in favor of craft parties, book and music exchanges
  • Those who will be shopping are setting strict spending limits
  • Others are donating to charities instead of giving gifts to family and friends
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By Josh Levs
CNN
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(CNN) -- Angel parties, church bazaar shopping, promise-coupons and ... Dumpster-diving? On the CNN Newsroom, we invited viewers to send in ideas for saving money on gifts this holiday season. Some of the responses just may inspire you and help you save some crucial crash in the credit crunch this Christmas.

The turbulent economy has some CNN viewers thinking outside the box to save money on holiday gifts.

The turbulent economy has some CNN viewers thinking outside the box to save money on holiday gifts.

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

GIFTS THAT DON'T REQUIRE SHOPPING

Host an "Angel Party"
We invite young children to a two-hour creative arts party where they have an opportunity to make at least four angels that they can take home and give as gifts. We also asked each family to bring one toy for children in a less fortunate family that we adopted.
The Delbert Ortiz and Portillo families

Exchange, don't buy
Our family has agreed to exchange books as holiday gifts. To encourage imagination, these books can be new or used, homemade, magazines, on tape or CD, photo albums, notebooks, diaries, etc.
Carol; Minnesota

Music is especially meaningful at Christmas. This year we are exchanging one CD per person.
Babs McKnight; Toronto, Ontario

Create homemade coupons
We used to make our own coupons, and I plan on reinstating this. Coupons can be for: I'll wash you car, wash dishes, evening of baby sitting, fishing trip, etc.
Jewell

Sweet treats
Quick breads (like banana, pumpkin, cranberry, etc.), cookies or mason jar mixes are a great way to give something inexpensive and personal. They can also be frozen so that someone can take them out over time and enjoy even after Christmas.
Jodie Ross

IF YOU'RE GOING TO SHOP...

Skip the obvious places
Our big family is being creative: Instead of heading to the mall, we're going shopping at used bookstores, church bazaars and antique stores for little nostalgic things.
Jackie Jernigan; Norris, Tennessee
Video Watch how Americans are using layaway to afford gifts »

Ditch the credit cards ...
If I don't have cash for it, I am not buying it.
A.C.; North Carolina

... or make those credit cards work for you
I have accumulated quite a few "rewards points" on my credit cards. I will use them to purchase gifts for younger family members and gift cards for some of the older ones. My only caution is to check various watchdog Web sites for companies going out of business that may still offer gift cards.
Deanna K.; Cypress, Texas

Set a strict spending limit
This year, I will not be spending more than $500. I have been explaining to the kids that this is going to be an unfortunate Christmas as per gifts, and they must be grateful, because some people will not be able to purchase their children any gifts.
F.L. Gadson

Don't keep the change
We started a "change jar" in September for Christmas. Any leftover change from our pockets went into the jar. We should have enough to get a few gifts, and that will be it! It is far more important to be together than to spend a whole lot of money on things we don't need.
Beckie

Shop clearance ... and pool
I bought a brand new pair of jeans on clearance for my son for only $7 online that usually run $50 or more at big-name department stores. Also, even if you don't have savings to buy a big-ticket item alone, maybe your extended family can pool funds for a gift for the grandparents.
Becky Lee Center; New York

THE GIFT OF CHARITY

Think of who needs it more
This Christmas is philanthropic. In lieu of gifts for family, I am donating in each person's name to a charity that helps children or the homeless. Where will I be Black Friday? Instead of hitting stores at midnight, I am heading to Mexico City to transport 150 teddy bears to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, an orphanage outside Cuernavaca.
Michelle Payer; Miami, Florida

Even though we can afford to spend more, we are not going to, because we want to put emphasis on the true meaning of Christmas, our faith, spending time with family and, most important, letting those who are hurting know that we care and think about them too. It just doesn't seem right to spend lots of money when so many are hurting. We are involved with the Goodfellows organization, which helps families at Christmas. That will be our big emphasis.
Mary Barnes; Brenham, Texas

SAVE EVERY PENNY

Keep what you have
I don't plan to spend a single dollar unless I absolutely must. The uncertainty of having a job and income next year is too severe to warrant celebrating the holidays with non-essential travel or gifts; just having a roof over your head, a hot meal and the company of family and friends is more than enough blessing this year.
Charles W.

We plan to not spend on anything that's not going to sustain us during these hard times. We are focusing on building up our survivals kits.
Shaunta

Just a day spent with family, friends, good food and conversation. It eliminates a lot of wasteful packaging and wrapping, too.
Tim; San Diego, California

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WAIT -- PLEASE SHOP!

Shopping can mean doing good
I'd just like to say to those who are pinching pennies this year and don't need to, that you are actually doing more harm than good. Our economy runs on consumption. It's already taking a taking a hit from those who can't afford to consume like they normally do at this time, but for those who can, please do.
Jonathan Cobb

P.S. THE IDEA YOU'RE LEAST LIKELY TO USE ...

Hit the Dumpster!
People throw away brand new things like appliances, furniture and things you wouldn't believe. Every Sunday, my husband goes Dumpster-diving and comes home with the most beautiful things. We clean them up and give them as gifts. It's free and doesn't cost us a dime.
Viola; San Diego

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