When did festive get so expensive?

Just flip through any catalog or walk into a department store and it seems that the holidays have become an over-the-top affair.

It comes at a time when we're already feeling the pinch with parties and gifts, and now the style police seem to be telling us that we're just not in the holiday spirit if we don't have light-up Nutcrackers on our front lawns.

Enough is enough, and it's time to stop the madness.

Who said that a $150 wreath was better than one you made yourself? Go old school with a few homemade and crafty ideas and your holidays will be both festive and financially responsible.

Our Top 10 Ways to Bring The Festive On:

1. String. Cats love it for a reason. String is like duct tape it's the ultimate multitasker. Get yourself a nice ball of red string and you can do everything from tying bows on the tree and hanging holiday cards to making tree-free mistletoe.

2. Pinecones. Grab the kids and make them hunt for pinecones. It's a great way to keep them occupied while you get something else done (wrap gifts, bake cookies, catch up with a friend).

And the best part: In the end, you've found yourself a free way to decorate the indoors. Fill a bowl, make a wreath pinecones can do it all.

3. Trim the Tree for Less. You don't need to break out Grandma's sterling-silver ornaments to have a nice tree.

Pop up some popcorn or get some cranberries and string them for a handmade approach to tree trimming. You could even go preschool-style with construction-paper circle chains the kids love making them, and so will you.

4. Candles. It's something real-estate agents tell their clients all the time make your house smell homey. Pour some apple juice in a pot and throw in some cinnamon sticks and voila! you have that comforting scent.

Candles, potpourri, even those spicy-scented pinecones are all great ways to make the house smell fantastic and put you in a spirited mood. But be sure to properly monitor all burning candles.

5. Music sets the Mood. Don't worry if you don't have a collection of holiday CDs, since you can always find holiday music on the radio. Many cable providers include music channels in their packages, and you can always stream it from the Internet.

No matter how you find it, nothing says Christmas quite like a little Bing Crosby.

6. Trees. Christmas trees are definitely one of the most expensive aspects of holiday decorating.

If you didn't pick up an artificial tree at the after-Christmas sale or you prefer the look and feel of a real tree, try shopping later for the best deal, since stores are more willing to cut a deal the closer it is to Christmas.

7. Get Some Sparkle. You might not be getting diamonds under the tree this year, but put a little sparkle in your life by giving your house a deep clean.

You're probably having people over at some point during the holidays, so giving your house that extra "spring cleaning" will make you feel on top of the game. Besides, you'll never know what you might find (last year's unopened gifts in a top closet maybe?) that could be put to use.

8. Branches. They're not just for peace offerings. Cut a branch and hang it on your front door instead of an expensive wreath, or fill a vase with some pine tree or holly clippings instead of an expensive centerpiece.

They're not only inexpensive, but smell heavenly.

9. Tie a Ribbon Around ... Whatever you Want. From doorknobs to the front oak tree, a red ribbon is the perfect way to say "Merry Christmas"!

10. Holiday Tables. If you haven't been collecting holiday china since your 16th birthday, don't fret. You don't need plates with Santas, snowmen or Christmas trees to have a beautiful and festive table.

Most people have white and silver pieces in their cabinets, so dress those up with doilies, ribbons or other cute touches.

(The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to yourlife@getbuttonedup.com.)