Every year when the holidays roll around I think of the first few years we were married, and the first year or so we had our first child and remember how hard it was during the holidays to have little or no money. I know, Christmas is not about the gifts, but there is an aura of frenzy and presents and it’s hard not to enjoy being involved in it. If you’ve ever been short on money during the holidays – you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard not to get a little depressed and during these hard years I steered clear of stores at all costs. Here are 10 ideas to help you and/or your family make it through the holidays:
1. Stay out of the stores.
Having little to no budget for Christmas gifts makes it even more depressing to walk into the stores and see all of the holiday shoppers, fun decorations and endless aisles of gifts. Steer clear of holiday ads, TV commercials, and stores as much as possible. Instead find other things or places to do like go to a park, holiday event where you don’t have to buy anything, etc. You can’t make Christmas go away but you can try to minimize your exposure to commercialism.
2. Save $5-$10 a month all year long.
If you have an ongoing tight budget and know ahead of time that the holidays are a hard time of year you MUST learn to save for it. Whether you are saving for one nice holiday dinner or for gifts commit to saving $5-$10 a month for the entire year. This was when December rolls around you’ll have $60-$120 which can cover small gifts or a lavish dinner for any size family.
3. Buy food gifts at the grocery store.
This was my favorite gift on our worst year financially around the holidays. We couldn’t afford to buy gifts for each other OR for our new baby, but my husband and I went grocery shopping together, and picked out some of our favorite foods that we might not normally buy because they are more expensive and chose to eat it on Christmas day. We bought a nice ham, a small bag of shrimp, our favorite chips and dips, even some wine, etc. It was time to buy groceries anyways and we had a slightly higher bill but we felt like we were on top of the hill that year because we didn’t have to go “cheap” on our groceries. I think we even splurged on a cheeseball that year!
4. Donate to someone else who needs it more.
I know this may sound counterproductive if you have no money to buy your own Christmas gifts but find some way to donate something to someone who needs it more. It’s even more of a gifting lessons if you have kids involved as well. It can be donating your time to volunteer at a shelter, volunteering to take a family out to see Christmas lights, making a pie for a family who can’t afford much for the holidays, or even writing cards and sending them to the troops overseas. Round up your kids old toys and find a family with kids that needs them. There are a lot of ways to give to others which will help you appreciate what you do have.
5. Remember what you do have.
I always hate when people say this because let’s face it, if we’re feeling sorry for ourselves we really don’t want to think of this! But put a poster board or piece of paper up in your living room and begin to write things that you do have or even write down your happy memories. Just leave it blank for a while if you don’t feel like adding anything to it – pretty soon you’ll be wanting to write something on that big empty blank spot. It could be something as simple as having a roof over your head or your favorite pet at home. Maybe you are enjoying the cool or warm weather, or have a plant in your house that makes you smile.
6. Declare a family night.
Family nights always cheer me up, and they don’t have to cost a penny! Whether you decide to spend the night building a fort with your kids, or snuggling up with blankets and popcorn to watch a movie on the couch, spending time with my family always ends up boosting my spirits by the end of the night.
7. Do it the handmade way.
I am not very good at handmade gifts but some people have an amazing talent for it. And there are something gifts you can create that need no talent at all! How about making cookies or soups in a jar and gifting it? Or perhaps just baking a batch of cookies. If you’re handy at something you’re in luck! Maybe you can create a necklace, build a box or wooden gift, knit/crochet something, needlepoint, etc.
8. Watch for deals online.
From your favorite blogger of course! Actually during the holidays I try to keep my eye on a lots of blogs to be honest to find the best deals. This one tip has kept our Christmases going for the past couple of years for gifts for my family as well as gifting to others. Some years you’ll find deals for completely FREE toys or items, sometimes it’s just a shipping charge of a couple bucks, etc. Sometimes it’s someone else’s awesome idea of a handmade gift. We have purchase so many gifts online for under $5 when the deals are good and it has made a huge difference for us when we are trying to stretch our budget. And NICE gifts too!
9. Find a buddy and team up.
This may sound a little odd but on our hardest Christmases it always made us happier to be or talk with someone else who was in the same boat as us. We enjoyed and could relate talking to other couples or families who also couldn’t afford Christmas. Have an “un-holiday” party where you don’t spend anything but just get together and have fun. Or just send them a Facebook message or call to see how they are doing. Talk about other things than gifts! This is not a pity party, it’s just a good time to have support from someone else going through the same situation – because I can promise you that there are plenty of people who have a hard time making it through Christmas too! They may just be a little harder to find.
10. Start a new tradition.
Starting a new tradition helps take the focus off “stuff” and gives you a good memory to carry you through the holidays. Maybe it’s a more original tradition like making cookies or hiding a pickle ornament on your tree, or maybe you can come up with your very own family tradition!