‘Tis the season – graduation season, that is! If you are a parent with a graduating senior, you know how expensive even the small things like graduation announcements can be. According to the Josten's website, the average cost for graduation announcements is about $53 for 35 invites — and that doesn't include tax, shipping and handling, or postage! Rather than taking out student loans for a few announcements, here are six penny-pinching tips to help save on grad invites:

1. Create your own announcements

Why pay for announcements when you can design and print your own at home? You can use Microsoft Word project software to create your very own announcements, or use free templates from websites like Blue Mountain and About.com. Print Free also has a large selection of graduation announcements. You can pick your favorite font, color, design and message before sending them off to your printer. Final cost: $30 for ink and paper (or less if you can score a deal with coupons) — that's a savings of $23!

2. Send an ecard

Ditch the paper and send graduation announcements via ecards. Find pre-made announcements on sites like 123Greetings and American Greetings. You can design your own ecard on SmileBox, customizing your own pictures, fonts and wording. Although sending ecards is usually free, you may have to pay for a monthly membership. For example, American Greetings requires that you pay $19.99 per month — but that gives you access to hundreds of ecards as well as printable cards. Final cost: usually free!

3. Send a CD

Creating a CD is not only an affordable way to send out a graduation announcement, it’s interactive and entertaining! Create a slideshow of your graduate throughout their school years, add a playlist of graduation songs, and include slides listing all of the graduation details (date, time, place, etc.). How much can this creative and memorable announcement save you? Well, just consider that you can buy 10 CD-Rs at Walmart for about $5. That's 50 cents an announcement. Store-bought invitations can cost as much as $4 an invite! And shipping? It's about the same cost as sending out a paper announcement — around $1 each.

4. Create a telephone message

Wanting to keep the graduation announcement casual? Send a free recorded greeting to all of the guests! Create and open an account on a free site like PhoneVite, DialMyCalls or GoogleVoice. After you register your phone number (you can even register your cell phone if you need to — no landlines required!), follow the recorded message you will receive to activate your account. Log in and record your graduation announcement greeting. Be aware that you might be limited to just 30 seconds, so be direct and to the point! Select the phone numbers that you want to forward your message to and send away! All aspects of this service are free with the exception of long distance charges, if they are not covered by your phone plan.

5. Use an app

Design a graduation announcement with an app like Evite (for iPhone and Android). With Evite, you can design (using your own images or the app's library of images) and send the announcements right from your cell phone! After you sign up, click on "Create an Invitation." The app will walk you through the entire process from start to finish. After you are happy with the invitation, just click on "Finish and Send" and the app will email your invitation directly from your telephone. You can even manage your guest list and check RSVPs with Evite. Final cost: free (with the exception of phone data charges).

6. Don't be square

Did you know that the U.S. Postal Service charges an additional 13 cents a piece for square envelopes? This is because they don't typically fit through postal machines and must be hand stamped. Although 13 cents might not sound like a lot, it can add up if you are sending out graduation announcements to a lot of people. Instead of sending out square or odd-sized graduation announcements, opt for a rectangular shape with standard dimensions. Still need help? Use the handy Postage Price Calculator on the U.S. Postal Service website to make sure you are getting the best rate.