Embrace what money can't buy. "There are so many things you can't put a price on," says Holden. When you expend your time and energy on things like family, friendships, creativity, spirituality, and laughter, he says, you enhance your life while saving money. Last year, rather than exchange presents when her extended family gathered in her mother's hometown of Brookfield, Ohio, Sherry Richert Belul and her 11-year-old son, who had flown in from San Francisco, dreamed up a "Holiday Hoopla" carnival. The event included such offerings for the dozen attendees as a variety show, a dress-up photo booth, and—hokey but well received, she says—a "validation booth" where each visitor received personalized positive comments. It was such a success that she and her son plan to offer an experiential holiday gift again this year.
Similarly, a "wabi-sabi" philosophy of home improvement would emphasize finding joy in silence and serenity rather than in a renovated kitchen, Griggs Lawrence says. If you're interested in considering a different sort of upgrade, she suggests putting a bench in the backyard, a comfortable reading chair in a corner of your bedroom or, if possible, claiming a room of your own. Griggs Lawrence recently converted a bedroom in her townhouse to an area where she can meditate and write. The space, she says, feeds her soul at least as much as a luxury vacation would.