The holidays can be an overwhelming time of the year, especially for those of us struggling to make ends meet. It doesn't have to expensive though! It's not hard to make the best of it and to have a good holiday, even if it's a frugal one.
The important element is to stay calm and to have fun - don't sweat the small stuff. No matter what your religious beliefs are, the holidays are not all about presents and THINGS. It's more important to keep to the heart and to share what you have, whether that be time, a helping hand, cookies, a donation, or crafts.
Here are some tips to having a stress-free holiday on the cheap:
1. Explain to friends and whoever you usually exchange gifts with that you would prefer to not do it this year. Gift giving has become a social norm, one that compels people to spend money they don't have due to the pressure of following this "tradition". Instead of giving gifts, share cookies or a bottle of wine or homemade ornaments.
Presents are not symbolic of the value of a relationship. I repeat, presents do not in any way represent the worth of a relationship and anyone who believes that they do, that gift giving is crucial to friendship, is wrong. Real friendship is not a game of power or exchanging obligations and spending money. True kinship is feeling joy for those you love and expressing that joy. Sit down with your friends or family and have a potluck, play games, and sing songs. I'm not saying gift giving is wrong, it's not wrong by any stretch, but when money is scarce sometimes it's better to skip the gifts and to celebrate kinship with those you love.
2. If you have a child or someone you want to buy presents for, it might be wise to express that you don't want anything for yourself, and solely want to focus on this other person. Josh and I decided that we aren't buying each other anything and that any gifts for each other have to be homemade. We want Kai to have a fun holiday and so he's our focus.
3. Don't be afraid to have a homemade theme! Homemade gifts can be REALLY awesome and often times are more cherished because of this. ^.^ There are tons of DIY resources on Pinterest and on other blogs. For this Christmas Kai is getting a sock monkey I sewed him, a felt (no wool!) art kit for storing coloring papers and pencils, empty spice containers turned into creature maracas, and a magnetic chalkboard we made using a sheet of metal and chalkboard contact paper we already had (all we had to do was purchase chalk and magnets and mount the board with mirror holders.) We did buy him a few things, but let me get into that in a moment. I had a lot of ideas for Kai. I'll have to post them in the future, maybe it will inspire someone else for their toddler. Here's a few DIY gift ideas for grown ups: handmade ornaments, homemade lotion bars, sugar body scrubs, CD "mix tapes", jewelry, jewelry holder, infused oil, scented body wash with your own combination of essential oils, painted rocks glued to magnets for a unique magnet set, crocheted hats and scarves, hand stitched wallets, and rarely can you go wrong with cookies.
4. If you want to do something in addition to homemade gifts, there is no shame in buying second hand at a resale shop. Sometimes around the holidays, these shops run sweet deals too! I got Kai 4 sweaters, 1 hoodie, 4 sleepers, and 3 pairs of pants for under $30 because they were on sale and most were half off the ticket price. I love my local store, it's a children themed resale shop. (I've been trying to think of how to phrase that for minutes. If I say it's a children resale shop, it sounds super sketchy like it's part of a trafficking ring. Yikes, not quite the same thing.) I also found Kai a few board books and a puzzle. We get most of Kai's books used (or we check out books from the library, also good!) I feel like books are something he's going to wear out anyway, so why bother getting them new? He loves playing with his books and he surely doesn't mind if they are a little pre-loved.
5. Sweepstakes. You think I'm joking? I'm not! Around the holidays, many companies start offering giveaways and contests. I'll elaborate further on this in another post. For now, I highly recommend following a few of your favorite brands or stores on Facebook. I put a lot of effort into a giveaway last month and won myself a Tofurky feast and if we had a local Whole Foods, that would have served as the core of our meal. Since we can't afford a trip to Whole Foods just yet, we're going to make our own Christmas feast and maybe we'll have our free one over Easter.
6. Don't go crazy with fancy wrapping paper. Use newspaper, brown bags, or brown shipping paper. If you don't want to admit that you're skipping the expensive stuff because it's well, expensive, just tell people you're recycling for the environment. We had a hodgepodge of wrappings this year, most gifts were in newspapers that our friend was about to throw out, some in leftover scraps from last year, and a few were in brown packing paper from amazon orders. I reuse bows every year and save all the cute bags we get presents in and reuse them, so that saves money too!
I saw online that one family wraps theirs in fabrics! Voila, reusable wrapping paper. Maybe next year we'll try that.
I leave this post with these simple six tips for now; I'll update in the future when I remember anything I missed.
Happy Holidays, all! Remember to be joyous and to be thankful. :-)