6 Ways to Save Money on Entertainment and Gifts This Holiday

Save money on your holiday shopping this year.

The holiday season is upon us -- and so is a pretty painful economy. Whether it's family entertainment, gifts for the kids, or gifts for relatives and friends, the costs of video games, DVDs, and presents can quickly add up. But if you know where to look, you can find some pretty sweet deals. Check out these ideas:

Family Entertainment

Skip the night out at the movies. With so many options for watching movies online, whether downloading or streaming, you can still enjoy first-run flicks (or seasons of your favorite TV series), for less than the cost of a night out at the theater. Netflix, Blockbuster, YouTube, VUDU, iTunes, Amazon, and Hulu all offer videos to enjoy without leaving home. Some of these sites offer a flat rental fee for a few dollars, some offer a monthly subscription rate, and some even offer the ultimate bargain -- free rentals!

Check out your library. Libraries aren't just for books! Most public libraries have a great selection of DVDs, audio books, audio CDs, and even video games and e-books to borrow -- all free!

Go for board games -- digital and old school. If you have an iPad, adding classic board game apps -- Scrabble, Yahtzee, Monopoly, The Game of Life, Boggle, and more -- can be even less expensive than buying the real thing. But the original "old school" versions (like Connect 4, Boggle, and Yahtzee) are lots of fun -- and generally inexpensive, too.

Gift Giving

Make your own gifts. Creative websites and apps let kids make cool projects as they learn new technology. At One True Media, kids can create videos for free and send links to relatives for the holidays. Kids can design their own scrapbooks, comic books, and more with apps like Pictello, Strip Designer, and Skrappy; some allow you to add audio, video, or animation. The creations can often be shared online or printed as PDFs to share at little to no cost. Budding authors can give their very own literary creations thanks to websites like Story Jumper, We Make Stories, and Tikatok. Kids can also use pictures they've taken to create low-price gifts like calendars or cool photo books at sites like Snapfish, MyPublisher, and Shutterfly.

Get games cheap. Take a tip from serious gamers: Never pay retail! Stores like GameStop are in most major shopping malls and allow gamers to purchase and sell used titles for all of the major systems, from Nintendo Wii to Xbox 360. New gamers aren't always looking for the hottest, newest games -- what's old to one gamer is new to the kid who just got a gaming console for the first time. Blockbuster and Gamefly also offer video game rentals and can be a good alternative to buying new games; if you've got a major gamer on your list, consider getting him (or her!) a monthly subscription to an online game-rental service like these.

Give them downloads! Music, games, apps, e-books -- most are less expensive than their shrink-wrapped counterparts. Most download sites offer gift cards you can email, and they come in a range of denominations -- even $5 buys a lot of downloads. It's like a digital stocking stuffer!