Making Christmas Merry and Bright When Money is Tight
Everywhere I go, it seems like the economy is on everyone’s mind. People I know, people I love are out of work, struggling, and doing the best they can to keep a smile on their faces while the season of good cheer is upon us.
I can relate to them. I know who they are and I am them. I’ve revised my spending budget for Christmas and made it smaller to reflect our situation so many times that I’m pretty sure it’s shrunk like a wool sweater on High in the dryer. And I know I’m not the only one. I’ve had friends tell me they are working with holiday spending budgets that are about the size of a car payment.
That’s small. Ours is about the same size.
It’s hard to look at what your kids want for Christmas and have to mentally tell them no and then tell them consciously that Santa doesn’t always bring everything they want.
This year I looked at our family budget for Christmas and asked the older three kids to choose one thing on the list that they wanted the most. I’m lucky that I have kind hearted kids and they all understood what I was asking without making a fuss.
Now you and I both know that Christmas isn’t all about presents but it’s called the Season of Giving for a reason. We want to give to one another. I believe it’s in our nature to give to the ones we love and cherish most. It’s not always the grandest way to show how we care but to give gifts is an expression of love and it’s what we do.
Since I can’t give them everything they want this year (or most years for that matter), I’ve learned to get creative in my gift giving. Here are a few of the things I do try to do for my family and children that I hope speaks more than a store bought gift ever could.
Handmade – I love a handmade gift and I love giving them. I’m not the craftiest person but I can do a few things. I’ve given sachets filled with potpourri before, and this year I’m working on learning how to knit. Hopefully the things I’ve planned will be done in time for Christmas morning. My daughter is the crafty one and so she always comes up with handmade ideas for someone on our list.
Goodies from the oven – Oh yes. Food totally counts. I’m really not a master of anything but I can bake a few things rather well (buckeyes anyone?) and so I focus on those. A tin of candies and cookies for my step-father and he’s a happy man.
Enlist Help – I will be honest. I divide and conquer Christmas lists whenever I can. When grandparents ask me what the kids want, I give them a few ideas that might build off of one or two things that I’m giving. This works well for stuff that’s “collectible”, though it seems everything is collectible today, the process still works, even when you’re shopping for teenagers.
I encourage and get the kids involved in making homemade gifts and baking too. It’s a family process. I’ve asked them what they think their brother or sister might like from them and then see where I can help. Sometimes it’s downloading music and making a CD or wrapping up something that once belonged to them that they know their sibling would like to have (my kids do this for each other all the time as they outgrow something. They pass it down to the one below them or a cousin).
I work hard to make sure the kids understand that it’s not all about the number of presents under the tree. it's the thought that goes into the gifts we receive and the love expressed through those gifts.
This year I’ve set our DVR to record every Christmas special known to man so that we can spend Christmas weekend watching specials and lounging on the couch. I want us to focus less on what we didn’t get and more on what we do have. That involves lots of cookies, curling up on the couch and being together. I'm focused on keeping my holiday simple. Spending time with my family is what makes my holiday merry and bright.
How do you handle the holidays when money is tight?