Personalized packaging

Use old photos atop your traditional wrapping. Find an old photo (the kids with Santa, your parents kissing under the mistletoe), scan it and enlarge it to fit the package. (If you don't have a scanner, use the original photo.)

Wrap your present, glue the photo onto the wrapping paper and trim the photo with ribbon.

"I did this last year, and it was a huge hit," said Sue Hunter of Minnetonka. "It was great to see people take the time to enjoy the package before opening and carefully remove the photo as part of their gift."

Complimentary presents

"When my husband and daughters (now 18 and 21) and I open our Christmas gifts from each other, we take turns. And with the first two gifts, we pause to receive a compliment from each of the other three family members," said Janet Hovde of Roseville.

"This tradition has resulted in surprising insights about what we value about one another. ... It's free and priceless."

Five-minute centerpiece

"Need a quick, inexpensive centerpiece for a holiday dinner? Get creative with what you have on hand.

"Maybe it's holiday ornaments that didn't make it onto the tree (the ones missing hooks). Maybe it's apples, pears or pomegranates.

"Just arrange them in an attractive bowl, then snip a few evergreens from your yard to add as accents," said Kim Palmer, staff writer for Home + Garden.

New-to-you discs

Everyone has CDs and DVDs that we've listened to or watched too many times, said Andrea Bolger of Minneapolis. She suggests arranging a disc exchange with friends. That way "everyone can get new music and movies without spending a cent!"

Reusable wrap

"Coming from a family of environmentalists, wrapping paper often gets re-used (from presents received earlier in the year/season) or replaced altogether with newspaper or fabric," said Julia Curran of Minneapolis. "The prettiest wrapping paper is smoothed out for a tree skirt that changes from year to year. My mother is the only one who regularly uses wrapping paper and she buys at the end of the season and stores it."

Singing Santa

Instead of just buying a gift, consider making a gift of a heartfelt performance. Jana Hayden-Sofio's 9-year-old daughter "played a cute song for her granny and sang, 'Grandmother, won't you tell me what to buy? ... then we'll bake a cherry pie.' " She also baked her grandmother a pie that the whole family got to enjoy.

Seasonal swap

"After the holidays, but before you pack up your decor, host a swap party. Invite pals or family to your home, with an 'admission fee' of a box of their decorations. Everybody goes home with some new ideas and borrowed items for next year," said Kim Yeager, Home + Garden coordinator.

"Don't forget to appoint a recording secretary, though, in case you forget in the next 12 months what belongs to whom. Before everyone leaves, pick the host for next year's swap."

For more holiday tips, go to the Star Tribune's holiday helper at