Christmas time is right around the corner. Are you ready?
If I’m honest, I’m a Scrooge. I don’t like Christmas. I know your jaw probably dropped open at this statement, but it’s true.
I don’t like how retailers have hijacked Christmas. Now, it’s a time of pressure and strife for families instead of simply getting together and enjoying one another’s company.
But I still participate in Christmas. I’ve merely learned how to celebrate on my own frugal terms. Don’t let Christmas stress you out this year.
Instead, follow these few tips for this year and years to come. Here’s how you can do Christmas stress-free even when you’re flat broke:
1. Reach Out
We all know Christmas isn’t about receiving but what you can give to others. We should all try to help each other throughout the entire year, but especially at Christmas time.
It can be hard for people who don’t have the extra cash to spend on expensive gifts. If you’re actually in need and have no way to provide any sort of Christmas for your children, consider reaching out for help in your community.
Keep in mind, some of these organizations may have income requirements, and you must meet their deadline to apply for help.
2. Less Is More
If you’re like me and flat out refuse to go into debt for months because society tells you to shower those around you with gifts for a day, you may prefer some of these other approaches to gift-buying.
My first tip is to realize less is more. Adults may have more appreciation for random gifts, but in reality, children unwrap a bunch of toys, pick out their favorite, and the rest end up in the donation pile when you make room for the next year’s Christmas.
If you know your child wants a specific toy, purchase the one toy. Why spend a ton of money on extra items they won’t even play with?
I won’t forget when my youngest was about two years old. We were struggling financially, and all he wanted was this $7 shopping cart from the toy department of our local big box store. I bought him the one toy and filled a Christmas stocking shopping at our local dollar store.
He had the best Christmas! It wasn’t about how much he received; it was about getting what he wanted.
You could also try the approach of purchasing something to wear, something to read, something you want, and something you need.
This will cut down on gifts tremendously as well.
3. Get Your DIY On
Well, put it to use around Christmas time. There’s nothing wrong with making gifts. It shows you care enough to spend time making something you know those around you would love.
Plus, making gifts yourself will attach a certain amount of sentiment to them. It’ll also mean each gift will be unique.
Therefore, if you’ve been graced with a talent, use this holiday season to share it with others. My mother-in-law made homemade Christmas gifts every year.
They were gorgeous and useful, but since she’s passed away, I cherish those gifts all the more. Share your talents with your loved ones this Christmas by making them DIY gifts.
4. Take the Experience Route
This is the route we’ll be taking this year. We downsized almost two years ago. Therefore, we don’t have a ton of room for unused items in our home.
We only keep what we like or use. To keep from adding clutter to our home, we’re learning to try different experiences.
You know what? We’re also learning we like trying new and fun things.
Therefore, for Christmas this year, we’ll be buying our kids different experiences. The great news is experiences don’t have to be expensive.
For instance, I check around frequently to see what different classes are offered in our community by our local art council, playhouse, or YMCA.
I’ve found I can purchase a month of art classes for approximately $30. Considering my youngest wants to be an artist, this is a fantastic gift he’ll love.
Plus, it won’t add clutter to my home, and it’s incredibly affordable.
My middle son wants to take a gym class. It’s offered through our homeschool group for approximately $10/week.
Again, this is affordable and doesn’t add clutter to our home, but it’s certainly something he’ll enjoy.
When you gift experiences, it can be as simple as putting a note in a card, or you can go ahead and purchase a gift card.
If you don’t have the money during December, you can technically pay for the experiences as you go.
However, be sure you follow through with the experiences you promise.
5. Hand-Me-Downs Mean Something
Sometimes we snub our noses at second-hand gifts, but it’s practical if you choose a gift someone would enjoy.
For instance, my stepdad will give my husband and me something from his large cast iron collection each year. It isn’t new, but he no longer needs it, and the items are quality. I cook with cast iron which makes this gift a perfect choice for us, and it’s appreciated!
Last year, he gave us meat saws since we raise our own meats. He no longer needs them, but he knew we would enjoy them.
If you have a child who enjoys hunting or fishing, give them some of your hunting and fishing equipment.
Look around your home; I’m sure you have items you no longer use which those around you would love to have.
6. Prepare Over Time
This tip won’t help you if you’ve waited until the last minute to address Christmas, but it will help you to not be in the same jam next Christmas.
It’s difficult to save especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Yet, there are ways if you remain dedicated to saving.
One option is to open a Christmas Club account. These may seem outdated, but they still work. Have a set amount of money you’d like to save automatically deposited into this account. This will force you to keep the money in the account until you’re allowed to withdraw it.
Usually, the withdraw date isn't until November 1st. If you withdraw earlier, you must pay a penalty which helps deter you from pulling the money out early.
You could also consider using layaway for specific gifts. This will give you some time to pay for Christmas over a couple of months.
Finally, consider signing up for Acorns. We’ve been using it for almost six months. You link your debit and credit cards to the app.
Every time you spend, the purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar. It’s an electronic way to save your change, and it’s a great way to save effortlessly. Do this for an entire year, and you may surprise yourself at how much money you could have to spend on Christmas.
7. Sentimental is the Way to Go
I read about this idea on the blog Leave Nothing Unsaid. The parents didn’t have much money to spend on Christmas gifts.
Instead, they wrote each of their children a note explaining what made each child special. They gave a small gift to symbolize one of the reasons listed.
What put it over the top, was the special ceremony they held on Christmas Eve to give these gifts. It was a special time for this family.
You could do the same with your family. It would undoubtedly create special memories!
8. Don’t Stress Over Décor
I’ve discussed mainly how to go about purchasing gifts because they seem to be the biggest cause of stress over the holidays.
However, Christmas décor can be equally as stressful but don't fret. You can DIY the décor and create more special memories in the process.
We’ll be doing this around our home this year with our Christmas tree. Our artificial tree finally died last year.
In all fairness, we’ve had it since we married (making it over ten years old.) We received our money’s worth out of it.
But I’m not willing to spend a ton of money on another artificial tree. Therefore, we’re going to purchase a live tree locally (which usually costs about $25) and make our own decorations.
I’m planning on making DIY dried fruit ornaments; we’re going to make a homemade garland from paper chains and popcorn, and even make our own tree topper and skirt.
It will be a different experience for us, but it’ll also be one with special memories and doesn't involve a ton of money wasted.
9. Raise Your Own Meal
Having enough food at Christmas can be an issue for many people. If you plan ahead, there are many ways you can save money on your Christmas meal.
One way would be to grow and preserve your own food when it’s in season. It’s a healthier option, costs less money at one time, and you’ll have it when you need it.
If you can’t grow your own food, consider shopping sales or purchasing items in bulk to can or preserve using other methods.
With enough room, you could consider raising your own meat for the holidays and processing them yourself.
You could also hunt for your own meat such as venison or wild turkey. Even if you have to purchase your meat, you could consider splitting the cost with another family or shopping sales.
Around Thanksgiving, many stores will give away free turkeys if you purchase enough groceries over a certain period, or if you are buying select items you can get turkeys for a hugely discounted price.
With enough planning, food doesn’t have to be a hindrance around the holidays.
10. Reach Out to the Farmers in Your Community
Let’s say you’ve had a rough year. You haven’t had the time to brainstorm in advance about how you were going to handle the holidays, and you’re sincerely struggling for food.
Can I offer you a tip? Locate the homesteaders in your community. There are many communities which have homestead groups where they come together to share tips and enjoy being around like-minded people.
These are the groups you should contact. I’ve yet to meet anyone who raises their own food who wouldn’t share with another person.
Homesteaders are some of the most giving people I’ve ever met, and it’s the shared work-ethic among us all which builds such a bond.
We all know we fall on hard times. We all know you can work yourself into the ground for mother nature to still wipe out your crop. We all understand the struggles of life because you experience them head-on when you’re raising livestock or crops.
It’s a part of life. Therefore, I doubt, if you went to a group of homesteaders (who most likely have plenty because they preserve their own food, in most cases) they’d allow you to leave empty-handed.
You may even get advice on how to avoid the same situation in the upcoming year. If your area doesn’t have any group locally, get on social media and find homesteading sites around you.
If you reach out to them and are honest about your situation, you’d be surprised how many good people would be willing to share their harvest with you.
Hopefully, these tips will help you make it through the holiday season this year gracefully. I understand the stress of the holidays is real, but you don’t have to fall into the trap set before you.
Instead, learn to march to your own drum. Do things differently, and if you get a few strange looks along the way, it’s okay because your family will be provided for and have the opportunity to make new memories. That is what matters especially during Christmas.